When approached by U President David Pershing to work with the Tibetan Community Center, architecture professor Lisa Benham had no question in her mind that this was the project her community architecture students would tackle. “It is rare that you get a project so focused and so crystallized,” Benham said.
The project, initiated by Pema Chagzoestang, a member of the local Tibetan community, as well as a driving force behind the project, was looking to transform the Tibetan warehouse space into a religious space. The primary student contributors for the project were Matt Green, Matthew VanWagner and Tales Martinez Brito, all senior architecture majors. They wanted to find a way to reflect the Tibetan community through the space.
“We approached the design from a very traditional angle, analyzing a wide array of Tibetan architectural precedents in search of architectural consistencies and common spatial circumstances,” VanWagner said.
After the students researched Tibetan culture, including its religion, clothing and architecture, the design process began.
“No matter how much you know about construction and design, great architecture can only be conceived through successfully engaging your client and attuning yourself to their culture and needs,” Brito said.
The students produced and implemented a beautiful design for the warehouse. The center includes a worship space, a shrine, a small shop, a library, a conference room and more.
“The more students engage as individuals within the community, what they learn, whether it’s empathy, whether it’s the process they went through or the experience they had, they bring that back to campus,” Benham said. “I want to allow students to see architecture through a different lens.”