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Gwyn Evans ('21): Architecture

Examining the role of architecture in place-making, space, and community

Student Bio

My name is Gwyn Evans, and I am a Psychology major at William & Mary graduating in 2021. Because of my strong interests in art and architecture, I have been taking numerous art classes at William & Mary, while also interning at an architectural firm during summer and winter breaks.

Standard FileWorking at the architecture firm, I was exposed to the more tedious and real-world construction components of architecture. Through the Catron Grant, I was able to fund an experience that introduced me to the creative and theoretical side of the architecture field. This summer I enrolled in the Introduction to Architecture program at Columbia University, which included an intensive studio class where I developed skills in the architectural program Rhino, as well as photogrammetry software and Adobe Creative Cloud. I also attended adjacent classes and lectures provided by the graduate school.

I completed a series of assignments exploring different design and research techniques, which ultimately culminated in a redesign of the platform that runs over Amsterdam Avenue in New York City. This difference in access levels is exclusionary and reminiscent of historical injustices between the Columbia elite and the surrounding Harlem community. The project allowed me to learn more about the architect’s role in the concepts of placemaking, the production of space, and the creation of community.

Through this introduction program, I was able to solidify my interest in the architecture field. The program was an integral step in the development of my career path.  In a couple of years I am excited to apply to a master’s degree program in architecture. Here I display some of my final digital drawings, as well as photos of a wearable art piece. The wearable art piece and the historical analysis section were design exercises that ultimately inspired my final architectural design.

Student Work

Below is a selection of four of Gwyn's digital architectural drawings and photographs of a wearable art piece, with titles, supplemental information, and descriptions provided by Gwyn.


Amsterdam Ave. Design Collage

1. Amsterdam Ave. Design Collage

This design represents the re-imagining of a wake. It explores the idea that Columbia University metaphorically leaves a wake behind it, inadvertently impacting the surrounding communities. This includes the university’s general expansion leading to increases in property values, displacement of small businesses, or, in regards to this site, basic design elements that exclude nearby pedestrians. While the space underneath is a walkway in the middle, wooden “ribbons” representing the physicality of a wake also create new spaces for sitting and lounging. The design then travels up the facade of cultural center Casa Italiana, creating a new street entrance for Casa Italiana.



Amsterdam Ave. Design Diagram

2. Amsterdam Ave. Design Diagram

This diagram illustrates the functionality and pedestrian experience of the Amsterdam Ave. design.



Amsterdam Ave. Design Section

3. Amsterdam Ave. Design Section

This section view cuts through the middle of the design, displaying the levels associated with the structure. 



Amsterdam Ave. Historical Analysis Section 

4. Amsterdam Ave. Historical Analysis Section

Before embarking on a redesign of Amsterdam Ave., I conducted a historical analysis through a section collage. The collage addresses the history of the racial and class crises between Columbia University and Harlem. Images of the Columbia University protests of 1968 and the racially divided Morningside Park gymnasium design reflect the issues that are still prevalent in Columbia University's segregated campus design.



Model Making: An Embodied Experience Machine 

5. Model Making: An Embodied Experience Machine

This wearable art piece is attached at the shoulders with long denim scraps intended to be infinitely long, so when you walk, not only are you leaving a trail, but you are disturbing anything that is behind you. In this way, the prosthetic leaves a “wake” behind you which metaphorically represents the wake Columbia University leaves on the surrounding community. The garment still allows for movement, but with a heavy reminder of a culture that is both explicitly and implicitly affected by the elite institution nearby. This piece was the inspiration behind the final design.