PhilaU Architecture Student Wins First Place in Stewardson Competition

Ryan Thompson's design for a school for young women refugees from Syria.

Ryan Thompson’s design for a school for young women refugees from Syria.

Fifth-year architecture student Ryan Thompson has won first place in the prestigious John Stewardson Competition in Architecture.

Thompson was awarded a $10,000 scholarship to travel abroad for his first-place win in the 116th annual competition.

“The Stewardson competition is the most prestigious student competition in Pennsylvania,” said James Doerfler, director of PhilaU’s architecture program. “Ryan’s design embodied the competition brief extremely well, providing all the necessary components with a high degree of quality.”

The 39 participants were challenged to design a Syrian refugee school for young women displaced by the large exodus of refugees from that war-torn country.

Ryan Thompson with his winning design.

Ryan Thompson with his winning design.

Thompson’s winning project, “Through the Veil,” integrated a women’s school along a main market corridor in the largest refugee camp in Jordan, Al Zaatari. The adaptable structure would provide shade for vendors and convert easily to a classroom, religious space or small house. The design considered the cultural influences of Islam and the role of women in that society by creating private space for women along the street using screens to shield the women from view. Learning spaces were set along the street and prayer and spiritual spaces were aligned towards Mecca. An inner courtyard would provide private outdoor space for the women.

“It’s a great honor to be selected to win such a prestigious award,” said Thompson, who is considering using the award to travel to Scandinavia, Macchu Picchu in Peru or Southeast Asia. “I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity and completely overwhelmed with the possibilities.  I can’t wait to travel and see the world.”

The three-member jury included Dr. Geeta Mehta, who teaches architecture at Columbia University and is co-founder of URBZ: User Generated Cities; Denise Barry-Thompson, associate at Francis Cauffman and president of AIA Philadelphia; and Karen Blanchard, senior associate architect at WRT.

Philadelphia University architecture students have been very successful in the Stewardson competition. In 2014, PhilaU architecture student Dan Silberman won first place and Melanie Whedon was a finalist. It was the third consecutive year PhilaU architecture students won awards in the annual competition, which is open to graduating students and recent alumni from Pennsylvania’s six accredited architecture programs.

In addition to PhilaU, students and alumni from the University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania State University, Drexel University and Temple University participated in the competition.

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