ACE Chicago wins national architecture competition

By Annie Zorn

Old cardboard models and posters adorned with award ribbons are the only remnants of the well regarded architecture program at Lane. Even without the program, students still find ways to express their love of design and construction outside of school.

Lisette Velasquez, Div. 583, and Xochilt Castel, Div. 584, found their outlet in the ACE mentor program, which randomly pairs students interested in architecture, construction, and engineering with working professionals.

Velasquez and Castel won first place with their team in the annual CIRT (Construction Industry Round Table) competition, which is run through ACE, for their design of a community park.

ACE is a Chicago based national program that is found in major cities such as Los Angeles and St. Louis.

The Chicago division of ACE is split up into six teams, with 10 total Lane students in them. Miette Rivera, Div. 672, is also a member of Velasquez’s and Castel’s team. The teams meet once a week to work on their projects.

The activities that they participate in at the start of the program serve as a way for the students and mentors to get acquainted. As they program continues, the activities become more focused on the project according to Castel.

The park they designed features five different areas such as a recreation center — designed by Velasquez — a dog park, and a skate park.

The process of figuring out what they wanted to design and how they wanted it to look started through brainstorming according to Castel.

“We all came together and started throwing words on a whiteboard, anything and everything was a valid idea. Words like fireworks, greenhouse, and peaceful,” Castel said.

After other idea generating activities, such as finding inspiration in magazine images, the team divided the space and the students into groups.

“Once that is figured out, we begin designing then constructively criticizing each others’ ideas then improving then it goes back to designing. Just like the design process,” Castel said.

The mentors gave the teams three different options for where the park would be placed and it was decided through a vote. The winning location, on Wells between Harrison and Polk, was then scouted.

“We did a site analysis which is when we look for noise levels and the landscape,” Velasquez said.

As the project manager of the recreational center, Velasquez was also in charge of working with the budget and timeline coordinators to make sure the team had an accurate count of how much money it would cost to make the park.

The students took full responsibility for the design of the park, and the mentors helped with the structural aspect.

Velasquez traveled to Washington DC on April 27 to present the design, which they created with Google Sketchup, Auto CAD, and Adobe Photoshop, in front of the CIRT presidents. On her trip they went on a Capitol Hill Architecture Tour and visited the Lincoln Memorial.

At the banquet they were awarded first place for their design, beating ACE Florida and ACE Maryland. This is the first time that ACE Chicago has won this national competition.

“We jumped up and down from the excitement and quickly went up to receive the trophy. We took lots of pictures and received a $5,000 reward to add to ACE scholarships for next year. I was so happy when they called our team,” Velasquez said.

Velasquez attributes the ACE Mentorship pro- gram as the biggest influence she has had regarding architecture. She joined her junior year after it was referred to her by architecture teacher Mr.Berlanga.

He said that if I wanted to be an architect, this was the place to be, so I gave it a try,” Velasquez said.

Velasquez’s mentor is Kevin Schreiber, a structural engineer from Sargent & Lundy, a power plant consultant group based downtown.

“The mentors are what make this program so special. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for my mentor. He was always there to help me and always stayed extra time with me when I needed it,” Velasquez said.

Castel’s mentor is Jason Pugh from Gensler Architects. The help she has received from him has been in the form of college advice.

“If I will be attending the meeting each week, he will give me any advice he has about school, life, and the program,” Casel said. “Jason has made a huge impact on me and my future, and for that, I am eternally grateful for him and the program.”

Both Velasquez and Castel praise the program for its scholarship opportunities and networking possibilities.

“I have made so many connections that I do not doubt I will get far in life, during college and after,” Castel said.

Velasquez plans to continue studying architec- ture next fall at Judson University in Elgin, IL and Castel will be studying Illinois Institute of Technology.

“I am beyond prepared for architecture school after being in ACE for two years,” Velazquez said. “Being in this program has allowed me to make connections and gain knowledge that I will use all my life.”