Dezeen Magazine

Render of a paved outdoor space with surrounding buildings by a student at Drexel University

Drexel University presents 14 architecture and design projects

Dezeen School Shows: a sacred space that aims to inspire faith without using religious symbolism and a venue that combines film and architectural design to provoke emotions in visitors are included in Dezeen's latest school show by students at Drexel University.

Also included is a prison design that experiments with spatial flexibility, natural light and material textures to improve the quality of life for inmates.

Drexel University

Institution: Drexel University
School: Westphal College of Media Arts and Design
Courses: BArch, BS Interior Design, MS Interior Architecture and MS Design Research
Tutors: William Mangold, Diana Nicholas, Rachel Schade and Frances Temple-West

School statement:

"Drexel University offers the nation's top programmes for experiential learning with dedicated co-op work experiences and a mission of civic engagement.

"The Department of Architecture, Design and Urbanism includes undergraduate programmes in architecture and interior design and graduate programmes in interior architecture, design research, and urban strategy.

"Work from our programmes explores qualities of place and considers that our lives are constantly shaped by the spaces we inhabit.

"At all scales, we respond to the form, light and materials of the world around us, and we actively engage our social and natural environments.

"Through research and design interventions, our work enhances our lives and promotes community."

A pitched roof building on stilts over water

De-pave a Parking Lot to Put Up Paradise, Revitalising Urban Sprawl on the Delaware by Natalie Cross

"Since the 1950s, disruptive highway infrastructure, suburban big box stores and oversized parking lots severed a vibrant South Philadelphia from the Delaware River Waterfront.

"This project seeks to revitalise a sprawling commercial corridor, reconnect the neighbourhood to the waterfront and build resilient strategies along the Delaware River surrounding Pier 68 for a sustainable future.

"Through a series of interventions, the new plan creates a new community hub with mixed-use housing, a recreation facility, and at the centre, a food hall with a year-round outdoor performance space and an amphitheatre for the community to enjoy.

"We'll need big-picture thinking to prepare for and enjoy a more livable, walkable, sustainable and resilient future."

Student: Natalie Cross
Course: B Architecture
Tutor: Don Jones

Interior space with glass walls illuminated by yellow light by student at Drexel University

Pier of Grief: Spatial Exploration of Cinematic Techniques Through the Lens of Loss by Pooja Kalavagunta

"Good films do a fantastic job of building a world that gives us enough information to connect to, while allowing us to fill in the gaps with our individual world views, making it a highly personal and fulfilling experience.

"This project explores the collision of two universal cultural phenomena, film and architecture, focusing on the phenomenological experience.

"The primary subject of this narrative is loss. Through transposing cinematic techniques into the interiors, these spaces heighten and dramatise user experience physically and emotionally, suggesting a novel approach to memorial design.

"Pier of Grief is a safe haven for grieving individuals and a symbol of resilience for those who have overcome their testing times.

"With the inundation of violence, insensitivity and hostility, it is crucial to encourage people to get in touch with their feelings, foster connections through shared vulnerabilities and take a pause and reflect upon what has gone by and what we have left."

Student: Pooja Kalavagunta
Course: MS Interior Architecture
Tutor: Sarah Lippmann

Interior of a public dining space with an upper balcony level by student at Drexel University

Design in Rural Communities: A Holistic Human Connection to Place by Jennifer Sandora

"Discovering the emotional connections people have to places can assist in creating habitats that people are drawn to and experience in a holistic way.

"Through research into rural community hardships, understanding how these issues may be mediated through place attachment, and emphasising the specific experiential connection people have to natural surroundings, this thesis aims to enhance local commerce opportunities, bring awareness and positive experiences to the area, and incorporate a connection to the land and surroundings.

"Utilising local materials and resources helps realise the design intent to revitalise local architecture and highlight the beauty of historic structures."

Student: Jennifer Sandora
Course: MS Interior Architecture
Tutor: Telsa Love

Interior space with a conversation pit by student at Drexel University

Students Sentenced: Architecture and Design for Imprisoned Rights by Kate Bormann

"The US correctional system is the largest and most pervasive social control system in the world. Its cyclical nature displaces millions of lives each year.

"This thesis project confronts mass incarceration in America by using architecture and design to improve the incarcerated experience.

"The design promotes a more rehabilitative environment and enables human connections through architectural fluidity, spatial flexibility, natural light and material texture to provide relief from inmates' relentless world of confinement and cultivate an environment that instils hope for a productive life after prison."

Student: Kate Bormann
Course: MS Interior Architecture
Tutor: Mike Stanczak

Sketch perspective drawing of an interior religious space with a large window at the altar

Not Your Father's Sunday Best: Designing Sacred Space by Gi Giannone

"Religious landscapes in the US are changing. As generations progress, more people are leaving organised religion, specifically Christianity, but they are not leaving faith. There is hope to preserve faith and community by providing space to mark life cycle ceremonies.

"This project is a study in designing unaffiliated sacred space washed of major religious symbolisms for those who consider themselves spiritual but not religious. Several studies were performed to investigate light, movement and material and their contribution to creating ineffable space. This assisted in the ability to study what can replace symbolism and the ornate to make a space feel sacred.

"The worship spaces are to be flexible and imperfect. They range from intimate to large scale to accommodate a single person's sacred journey, a small family gathering, or a large ceremony. The remaining programme includes a mausoleum, immersion pools, library or meeting space, offices, and reiki house.

"In being located along Fairmount Park's East Reservoir in Philadelphia, a connection to nature is provided. Visitors can temporarily detach from the urban experience and hopefully feel at peace to celebrate life."

Student: Gi Giannone
Course: B Architecture
Tutor: Katie Broh

Interior sketch of a lobby space by student at Drexel University

Atelier – An Art Retreat for Young Adults by Hayley Cross

"In this thesis, an art therapy retreat acts as a safe and comforting atmosphere for young adults struggling with stress and anxiety.

"In addition to art therapy sessions, the design of the retreat will provide the guests with guidance and connectivity in their lives.

"An inspiring environment will be achieved by combining references to art, simple materials, natural lighting and a connection with nature."

Student: Hayley Cross
Course: BS Interior Design
Tutor: Karen Pelzer

Render of an interior space with a spiral green ramp by student at Drexel University

Solace – A Recreation and Wellness Centre for Children and their Families by Ellie Hamilton

"Solace is a recreation and wellness centre for children currently undergoing treatment within the healthcare realm. This centre will foster connections between children and their families, allowing them to flourish physically and mentally.

"The community formed at the centre will serve to unite families enduring the same hardships through comfort, hope and access for all."

Student: Ellie Hamilton
Course: BS Interior Design
Tutor: Sarah Lippmann

Interior render of a timber dining area by student at Drexel University

The Oasis – Healing Wellness Getaway by YeRin Cheong

"This thesis proposes a wellness getaway and retreat that promotes and enhances people's emotional and mental wellness through its nature-friendly environment, as well as holistic educational and therapeutic services."

Student: YeRin Cheong
Course: BS Interior Design
Tutor: Jihyun Song

Diagram of a student research project from Drexel University

Healthier Materials Guidance: A Multi-Hazard Approach to Resilient Design in Refugee Camps by Ashley Roman Burgos

"This research identifies best practices in refugee camps, showing that using healthier alternatives within the camp will reduce waste and cost and improve quality of life.

"Even though refugee camps are intended for temporary use, a circular approach needs to be implemented in order to be effective and engage stakeholders. The RROSE Framework provides key principles for integrating a circular approach in the refugee camps and provides practical examples that can be implemented to create a healthier environment in temporary settlements.

"One prototype explored how to provide privacy utilising recyclable materials and technology. Aesthetics, cost, sustainability and privacy were the primary considerations in design and making.

"The circular model offers an alternative approach to creating a healthier and more resilient refugee camp design. It reduces the environmental impact and promotes reuse and repurposing, using fewer resources. A circular approach creates a lower cost for the government and the environment.

"The proposed framework in this project offers a healthier alternative to achieve more optimistic, nurturing and beautiful environments for future settlements. The multi-modal approach of the thesis demonstrates the feasibility of both process and materiality of the proposed framework."

Student: Ashley Roman Burgos
Course: MS Design Research
Tutor: Nicole Koltick

Diagram of a student research project from Drexel University

A Daily Mental and Physical Health Resource Kit for Adults by Sarah Johnson

"This project is driven by the research question: 'how do we educate about and support the connection between mental health and physical health to our well-being in an accessible, sustainable way?'

"The developing mental and physical health resource kit is not a diet or exercise programme but instead focuses on education and accomplishment to build healthy habits and a sustainable lifestyle.

"It allows an individual to take what they learn and make it a part of normal life as a habit or routine, rather than forcing ourselves to follow a program that doesn't fit into our lives and will inevitably be temporary.

"It was shown to be effective in increasing confidence in self and health knowledge, improving one's relationship with self, fostering a more positive experience with health, and helping to set clearly defined reasonable goals."

Student: Sarah Johnson
Course: MS Design Research
Tutor: Alexandra Schmidt-Ullrich

Diagram of a wheel chair design from a student research project at Drexel University

Investigating Challenges Wheelchair Users Face in an Ableist Travel Environment by Asavari Scarff

"This compartment design ensures wheelchair users can bring their personal wheelchair on board aeroplane flights without fear that the wheelchair will get damaged.

"Wheelchair passengers would be able to sit in their wheelchair and securely travel to their destination. This wheelchair compartment would be situated at the front of the aeroplane near the passenger door for an easy boarding process.

"There is a privacy screen that remains slightly open, buckles and hooks that ground the wheelchair, and a seat belt for the passenger in the wheelchair.

"Users would enter the plane, immediately turn into their compartment, lock and secure the wheelchair, and be able to enjoy the flight from the comfort of their personal wheelchair."

Student: Asavari Scarff
Course: MS Design Research
Tutor: Diana Nicholas

Diagram of a student research project from Drexel University

A Journey of Inquiry: Planning and Reflecting Upon the Design Research Experience by Susan Nyberg

"The initial purpose of this study was to explore various project constraints that designers face while researching and how those constraints manifest themselves in the classroom, specifically at the university level.

"The intention was to create a graphic framework that encourages thoughtful planning and reflection on the design research process by allowing students to plot variables of their project on a graphic element, allowing them to see where they were making choices based on the constraints of their project.

"However, as the research progressed, the thesis report became more of a reflection upon Nyberg's own learning experience in the design research journey and an examination into how they could have been more intentional in their own research planning."

Student: Susan Nyberg
Course: MS Design Research
Tutor: Raja Schaar

Colourful interior with a wall finished with floral wallpaper by student at Drexel University

Sprout – The Centre for Boundless Expression by Elise Robinson

"Utilising the individualised beauty and resilience of flowers as a concept generator for her thesis, Robinson developed a well-research design proposal focusing on issues of sensory processing disorders in adolescents.

"Through the strategic use of colour, lighting, materiality, scale and volume, these imaginative spaces provide the users with a means to problem solve, overcome challenges and accommodate their unique sensory needs."

Student: Elise Robinson
Course: BS Interior Design
Tutor: Frances Temple-West

Render of a paved outdoor space with surrounding buildings by a student at Drexel University

Reimagining School with ADHD in Mind by Jonathan Porat

"For this project, Porat designed a school for kids like himself who have ADHD and in doing so, created a school that is better for everyone. The goal of the elementary school is to help kids feel more mindful and give each student a sense of purpose.

"Spaces are made as interactive as possible. Similar to a fidget spinner, the architecture and landscape are designed to give enough stimulus for kids to feel grounded and present, but not too much to be distracted. The school is easy to navigate and still has many places to explore.

"Allowing each student to find their purpose requires a flexible design that can serve many types of interests and learning styles. By designing the school day to be on a loop system, all activities share the same importance, and transition spaces between programmes help kids adjust to new activities.

"The school creates a symbiotic connection between neighbourhood, nature, and sustainability, which further helps students gain a sense of purpose."

Student: Jonathan Porat
Course: B Architecture
Tutor: Kelly Vresilovic

Partnership content

This school show is a partnership between Dezeen and Drexel University. Find out more about Dezeen partnership content here.