Steel housing tower design earns honor for graduate arch student

Kengo Kawagashira

Ahmed Ali

A concept for an affordable housing tower structured with steel and flexible enough to adapt to residents’ changing needs earned its designer, Kengo Kawagahira, a Texas A&M [Master of Architecture] ( student, honorable mention in a nationwide steel design student competition.

The 2017-18 contest was sponsored by the [Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture] ( and the [American Institute of Steel Construction] ( .

A jury of educators and professional designers said Kawagahira’s entry was an outstanding example of the creative use of structural steel as well as a mastery of formal design concepts and aesthetic values.

Kawagahira said his design for a 126,800 square-foot structure along Lady Bird Lake in Austin was influenced by the iconic [Farnsworth House] ( , a Mies van der Rohe-designed residence featuring implied, but not expressly dictated, zones for everyday activities.

Kawagashira said he kept the amount of fixed walls in his building’s residential and public spaces to a minimum so that its users can determine areas for sleeping, reading, or exercising or socializing based on their own preferences, the number of occupants, and other factors.

Contest jurors lauded his choice of galvanized steel for the building’s interior, and weathering steel, which changes color over time, for the building’s exterior.

“Steel is an ideal material for affordable, multi-story housing because it offers the greatest strength-to-weight ratio and can be designed systematically as a kit of parts or prefabricated to allow for quicker construction times and less labor, thus reducing the cost of construction,” said Allison Smith, ACSA programs manager.

Kawagahira developed his concept in a spring 2018 graduate studio led by Ahmed Ali, assistant professor of architecture, who has mentored six additional students whose designs have earned competition honors.

Richard Nira

posted September 20, 2018