Image about Member of Kirksey's Design Team Honored at Opening Reception for Texas Student Biennial Exhibition
21 SEP 2016

Member of Kirksey's Design Team Honored at Opening Reception for Texas Student Biennial Exhibition

Kirksey’s very own Giovanni Peña, a member of Kirksey’s Design Team, was honored at the Biennial Opening Reception for the 2016 Texas Student Biennial Exhibition, an exhibit featuring the work of architecture students from all eight architecture schools across Texas. His design thesis, focusing on a conceptual recycling center in his home country of Puerto Rico, was selected to be featured. We sat down with Giovanni to learn more about the exhibit and his work.

What is the Texas Student Biennial Opening Reception?
The reception marks the beginning of the 2016 Texas Student Biennial exhibition, an event where many students and professionals are able to see a great variety of projects by architecture students across Texas.

How were you selected?
While I was completing my thesis project at the University of Houston’s Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, one of my professor’s encouraged me to submit my project for the 2016 Texas Student Biennial. This year’s theme was “sequence,” a concept I believed my project represented. I submitted my project for consideration and within a few weeks, I received an email from the event organizer notifying me that my project had been selected.

What are the eligibility requirements?
The exhibition features projects from all eight architecture schools in Texas. As far as the content of the project, the committee wanted to see an exploration of sequence and its potential in students’ work.

How long does the exhibit last?
The drawings and models will be displayed until December 16.

What motivates you as a designer? Where do you find inspiration?
I am fascinated by anything that involves problem-solving through design. More specifically, the often overlooked typologies such as public housing and community projects. Before I studied architecture, I wanted to be an artist, and while studying architecture, I rarely referenced works of art in any of my projects.

The more I learned about architecture, the more I realized it wasn’t art. Art doesn’t have to serve any purpose, and with a few exceptions, it doesn’t have to solve any problems. Therefore, I find inspiration in projects where the architects — due to all the constraints — had to transform the ordinary into an extraordinary work of architecture. The design process is never linear, so I enjoy everything that happens between point A and point B.

For this project, what was your concept / what is the story behind it?
The title of my thesis project is: “Unveiling the Hidden Stratum: A Recycling Center In Puerto Rico.” Puerto Rico is currently facing a solid waste management crisis. The low recycling rates, the poor solid waste management infrastructure, and most importantly, the lack of education have all contributed to create this problem.

Recycling is an industrial process that is not visible or at least not visible enough. By exposing the process in the heart of San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, the process then becomes a part of people’s everyday lives which addresses the lack of education.

The project is surrounded by museums, parks, businesses, event spaces, residential areas, and universities. This meant that the scope of the project had to go beyond addressing the lack of education, and the building had to become an asset to the city.

The only way to accomplish this was by reinventing the typology of the recycling center. The resulting typology was derived from combining a park, a gallery, a learning center, and a small recycling factory. I wanted people to experience various degrees of interaction with the materials being recycled in the facility. The gallery portion of the program showcases art made from recycled materials while the walls of the learning center are made of the plastic processed in the factory component of the program. The project is a celebration of circulation; the circulation of materials in the factory, pedestrian circulation in the park and the circulation of the recycling trucks and school buses.

A question that professors often asked was, “Why out of all possible topics, did I choose recycling?” The truth is that I wanted to attempt to solve a national problem through architecture.

I remember I was in 5th grade when I won my first design competition: to design a poster for the new recycling campaign for the municipality of Fajardo, Puerto Rico. After the competition my teacher took me and my classmates to collect trash along the beach. Even though we were very young, we felt responsible for our beach so we didn’t mind being there for a whole day, and we all left with a sense of fulfillment. My hope was that if this project where to ever get built, children would leave with that same feeling.

What else should everyone know?
Lastly, I would like to say that this project is by no means the solution to Puerto Rico’s solid waste management crisis, but a prototype and a potential catalyst for change. Just as my picking up trash on the beach that day was not enough when looking at the big picture. I think that education has to transcend the classroom, and children have to not only read about the problems in their community, but also be physically exposed to them. I personally respond better to an active learning method rather than a passive one. The projects will be on display through December 16, so if you are interested, there is plenty of time to see them.

The What, Where and When
WHAT: Biennial Opening Reception & Annual Back to School Bash
WHEN: Friday, September 16 – Friday, December 16, 2016
WHERE: Architecture Center Houston

2.jpg   Giovanni at the opening reception with Sharon Chapman, one of his graduate professors at the University of Houston.

6.JPG  Giovanni presenting his final graduate thesis, titled "Unveiling the Hidden Stratum: A Recycling Center in Puerto Rico."

   Guests enjoying the 2016 Texas Student Biennial Exhibition at the Architecture Center Houston.

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