The Clifton Forge Masonic Amphitheatre, designed by the Virginia Tech College of Architecture and Urban Studies design/buildLAB, was recently named American-Architects Building of the Year 2012.
The amphitheatre was selected by popular vote from 50 featured buildings on american-architects.com throughout the entire year of 2012.
What makes this achievement so impressive is the fact that design/buildLAB was comprised of a group of 16 third-year architects who, as the class title implies, designed and built the Clifton Forge Amphitheatre throughout the course of an entire school year.
Design/buildLAB is the only class of its kind in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. Award winning co-founders Keith and Marie Zawistowski, husband and wife, head the studio, which is geared towardconnecting the students with real-world projects.
“Our pedagogical approach is that the students lead the project, and so it’s not our project, we didn’t design it, we just framed the opportunity for them to have a project,,” said Keith Zawistowski.
Design/buildLAB, officially listed as Architecture 3015 and 3016, is still a brand new option in the architectural curriculum. The Clifton Forge Amphitheatre was only its second project, following the construction of a farmers market in Covington the prior year; both were designed with the help of the community.
The course spans an entire school year, and to the Zawistowskis, it is extremely important that the same students see the entire project all the way through.
“The students see the process of making architecture in its entirety,” said Marie Zawistowski. “They start by interviewing communities, establishing needs
then they collaborate on design, and then finally translate those designs into a real project, and the community receives these projects.”
It is also the hope of the Zawistowskis that the students gain a sense of social consciousness by participation in the project.
The small Allegheny County town of Clifton Forge was chosen for a prospective site