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Students participate in CMU architecture program, re-envision Millvale

| Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
As part of the Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture’s Saturday Sequence program, area middle- and high-schoolers created architecture designs addressing Millvale’s current challenges.
As part of the Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture’s Saturday Sequence program, area middle- and high-schoolers created architecture designs addressing Millvale’s current challenges.

Twenty students recently exemplified the message behind Millvale's IMAGINE, The Age of Aquarius Project sculpture – a mural adjacent to the Millvale Community Library encouraging people to imagine positive change within the community.

As part of the Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture's Saturday Sequence program, area middle- and high-schoolers created architecture designs addressing Millvale's current challenges. They used Rhinoceros 3D computer-aided design software to render plans for updated sites and presented their findings Nov. 18 at New Sun Rising's headquarters within the Millvale Moose: Center for Community Vibrancy.

“This is a really great way for the students to have an active, hands-on learning, project-based experience that is based on architecture and built environment but what students also learn from this is building empathy and relating to people that you are building for,” said Samantha Weaver, outreach director, CMU School of Architecture.

CMU architecture graduate students Sai Prateek Narayan Ramachandran and Sujan Das Shrestha gave a tour of possible sites the students could redesign, including the Lincoln Ave. Family Dollar and Butler St. Gardens of Millvale.

“It was kind of hard, just figuring out what to do at first, but they were really good teachers, with explaining the processes, said Trinity Machajewski, a Shaler Area High School freshman. “It was a really good experience because you could choose from so many different places to pick your ideas and so many different ideas to help the community.”

Prateek Narayan Ramachandran said the projects were less in-depth versions of those the graduate students are completing for school.

Many of the designs addressed flooding.

Johnny Gehringer said that he and teammates Ben Henson and Gawin Hsu chose their cat café site because of its sloped location, which would prove ideal in case of heavy rains.

Jacob Taylor, Trinity Machajewski and Alyssa Lorenz chose to elevate their redeveloped Family Dollar complex.

“We added that in case another flood were to occur, so that the water would go under and not ruin the buildings and everything there. Because if you want bread, soggy bread is not fun,” said Jacob Taylor.

The art gallery that Tate Shannon and Owen Petrucci designed contained a space for artists to store their work so that it is not damaged by rain. Additionally, Kacie Lombard and Phillip Leong's doughnut-shaped entertainment complex had windows and garage doors that opened to release water.

The students also considered sustainability features. Many designs had solar panels. Sydney Lough and Colin Valentino's setting added a rooftop garden and weekly farmers market. Alyssa Lorenz, Jacob Taylor and Trinity Machajewski envisioned a water detention area and filtration system that would collect, filtrate and reuse water. Natalie Ondo and Siming Tang rain garden powered a park fountain.

“We hope that you feel empowered. We hope that your voice is heard because the work that you do means a lot,” said Zaheen Hussain, New Sun Rising sustainability director and Millvale sustainability coordinator. “And again, this is an opportunity for you to use these ideas and think about how you can grow up and make them happen.”

Shaler Area High School freshman Alyssa Lorenz said that she is more interested in architecture after participating in this program.

“They let their imagination run wild and that's something we honestly need,” said Prateek Narayan Ramachandran. “A lot of adults are always bound by practicality and logic and things like that, so just like having kids who have absolute freedom to do whatever they want is good because that gives us ideas as well.”

Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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