Architecture pros choose best of year’s best M. Arch student work

Kevin Alter

Josh Nason

Sophia Razzaque

Michael Rey

David Zatopek

Overcoming tough competition from her peers, a Texas A&M Master of Architecture student’s biologically inspired Japanese subway station design wowed a distinguished panel of jurors to earn best-of-the-best honors at the Department of Architecture’s 2017 Celebration of Excellence held May 11 at the Hilton Hotel in College Station.

As part of the department’s sixth annual, year-culminating juried competition and awards presentation, visiting jurors heard presentations from five students whose work was previously selected by architecture faculty as the academic year’s best graduate work.

Winning student Nathanielle Sybico, a spring 2017 graduate, said her design for a sprawling five-story Kaizuka Subway Station (6.1 MB PDF) in Fukuoka, Japan, explores how a train station can be a gateway that facilitates the free flow of travelers into the city, much like a semipermeable membrane expedites the movement of molecules in the biological and chemical process known as osmosis.

“Architecture helps move people through spaces,” Sybico said. In this design, she added, architecture can be considered as semipermeable.

“I’m definitely getting the idea of osmosis and passing through a membrane,” said juror Josh Nason, [assistant professor of architecture] ( at the University of Texas at Arlington, whose fellow jurors included Kevin Alter, founding partner of [alterstudio] ( ; Sophia Razzaque, project architect, [Lake|Flato] ( ; Michael Rey, principal and vice president of operations at [Overland Partners] ( , and David Zatopek, vice president at [Corgan Associates, Inc.] (

Sybico’s characterizing the subway station as a porous intervention into an urban fabric was very compelling, noted Zatopek, echoing other juror’s appreciation for her osmosis concept.

Her 150,000 square-foot Kaizuka Subway Station master plan includes a pedestrian skywalk and commercial promenade, community gathering places, parks, greenways and subway platforms within a multi-floor complex. Large angled light shafts cut through the building allowing natural light to stream into building and down to the lowest level where the trains are boarded.

Jurors also praised Sybico’s forethought into how the subway station and surrounding center could be repurposed and how her drawings clearly illustrated her high-level concepts.

“We were very compelled by the argument of it not being about the architecture of the container, but what that container brings to the human experience, Razzaque told Sybico, “it was a beautiful way of articulating your position.”

In addition to earning the night’s top honor, Sybico also received the Alpha Rho Chi Medal for leadership, accomplishment, service and promise of professional merit.

The other Celebration of Excellence semifinalists all garnered high praise from the jurors. They were Garrett Barker, who presented “” Andrew Gazda with “;” Meredith Hayford, who presented “;” and Jaechang Ko, who discussed “.”

Additional Accolades

After the design competition, Texas A&M Department of Architecture honors for the 2016-17 academic year were presented in a variety of categories.

Special acknowledgement went to select students from the Department of Architecture’s Integrated Studios -- capstone studios for the Bachelor of Environmental Design degree that combine architecture, structures and systems curricula with a multidisciplinary approach. The two-student integrated studio teams recognized at the ceremony were Colin Buckley and Madelyn Walker, Stephanie Almendares and Roxy Trevino, Landon Brown and Aaron Rosas, Luke Franks and Annarae Winters, and Laura O’Loughlin and Edith Gomez.

For consistently delivering the most remarkable work throughout her graduate studies, Callie Wendlandt received the American Institute of Architects’ [Henry Adams Medal and Certificate] ( , and a Henry Adams Certificate was also presented to Garrett Barker, one of the competition presenters.

Undergraduates recognized for graduating with honors at the May 11 ceremony were Micaela Allen, Madison Bennett and Hawraa Charara.

Gabriel Esquivel, associate professor of architecture, and James Haliburton, lecturer, were selected by students to receive Undergraduate Faculty Teaching Awards. Additionally, Michael O’Brian, professor of architecture, garnered students’ votes to earn the Graduate Faculty Teaching Award.

The Celebration of Excellence is a project of the Department of Architecture’s [Council of Excellence] ( , an elite group of department friends and former students who are committed to supporting and enhancing architecture program excellence, building relationships with students, and bridging gaps between the academic and professional worlds.

Sarah Wilson

posted May 16, 2017