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Architecture Project Wins a Citation from the American Institute of Architects, East Bay

Five Academy of Art University Architecture students built more than confidence when they won a citation from the American Institute of Architects , East Bay (AIAEB). Students Justin Ackerman, Mary Telling, Justin Hanan, Shaum Mehra and Shanay Moghbel put their design skills and ingenuity to work creating a free-standing office space for a client.

Design Build Project Plan 
Design Build Project Plan
The students worked on the project in a graduate architecture class at Academy of Art University. The class came out of a long-term vision of instructors Greg Upwall and Jennifer Asselstine. When one of Asselstine’s clients wanted to buy a pre-fabricated structure to create an office space in their backyard, the instructors seized the opportunity to involve students in a design build project.
Far from creating a standard pre-fabricated building, the students took the lessons learned in their previous courses to heart, building a structure that was beautiful, practical and sustainable.

The completed project, a two-level structure built of reclaimed redwood, took the clients’ lives into account. With a customized desk, storage and shelving system, it not only met the need for office space, it went beyond, creating a secondary space that offered a lounge area for the family.  

Design Build Project – Side View
Design Build Project – Side View
Green design is woven into everything Academy of Art University’s School of Architecture teaches, and this project was no different. “Sustainability was the focus because Greg Upwall does not teach anything that does not consider this approach,” Asselstine said. “Sustainability starts with questioning what we do and how we do it.”

Through those questions, students chose the best construction, insulation, lighting and more to suit the site. Using the precision environment of their workshop to build the structure, the students reduced waste to approximately an inch for every 12 feet of materials used.

“The entire project was an exercise in sustainability, from the use of recycled denim insulation to reclaimed redwood siding and mahogany doors,” said Ackerman. Students sourced materials themselves, finding them on Craigslist and other sites.

Design Build Project – 2 Views
Design Build Project – 2 Views

Showing their dedication to the project, the students went above and beyond the call of duty. Mary Telling found out about the AIAEB’s awards the day before the deadline for entry but believed that their project could win. Working furiously, instructors and students put the competition package together in a matter of hours.

On the day of the awards ceremony, Justin Ackerman was the only member of the team available to attend. “Justin was extremely sick that week,” said Asselstine. “He dragged himself there and then called, texted and emailed  all of us after it was announced.”

Reflecting on the project, Asselstine believes the students felt an enormous sense of satisfaction and confidence at the completion of the project. Student Justin Ackerman agreed, saying, “Instructors and fellow students at the Academy have definitely encouraged me to be more confident in my abilities and have opened me up to new ways of designing and thinking about the process of design.”


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