May 18-24, 2001
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Waters' mission runs deep
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Student aids the homeless

Mellon winner redefines "Jim Crow" era

Pre-med student shares his passion for music
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Student leads effort to install Braille on Lawn room doors
Creative recycling: Students convert crate into studio
Lawson lives richly
Can you go home again? Issues facing international students
Education delayed but not denied
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Quilter gets A+
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Weddle will research Peruvian women
Graduate rich in lessons learned
Anthony defender of public good
Affinnih plays her cards strategically
After earning degree in two years, graduate going for two more
Student develops new sign language system
Student trio pushes for late-night joe
Evelyn Tickle
Architecture lecturer Evelyn Tickle.

Creative recycling: Students convert crate into studio

By Rebecca Arrington

A discarded shipping container, one of many tractor-trailer-sized units now logging U.S. harbors, became material for Architecture School lecturer Evelyn Tickle’s “design-build” course this semester. Her fourth-year students’ assignment: transform the container into a living space.

By early May, their mission was accomplished. Tickle’s 12 architecture students had converted the 40 foot-by-8 foot-by-912 foot steel and wood box into a mobile studio, meeting her challenge — to take ordinary objects and reinvent them in new and creative ways.

Now in her seventh year of teaching at the University, Tickle is the first Architecture instructor here to teach a design-build class.

“My courses teach students that there’s a big difference between drawing drill holes on paper and physically drilling them into a surface,” she said. They also “show students that there is an [alternative] path to the typical corporate one taken beyond Architecture School,” she said.

Mike Marsh, left, and Adam Donovan use the studio’s cable-supported work surface to finalize their plans.

Describing this year’s completed project as an “ephemeral living space,” Tickle said the mobile atelier would be a great space for anyone. The container’s sections are separated by custom room dividers made of flattened, riveted orange traffic cones, donated by Virginia Department of Transportation. Skylights in the ceiling let in natural light and hand-sized vents above the hanging counter tops provide fresh air as well as more light.

One section of the mobile studio is a communal area by day and bedroom by night. The cots can be raised and lowered to convert the space as needed, Tickle said. In the back of the studio is a water storage unit, a shower and a composting toilet, which used the bulk of the project’s $500 budget. The studio also features a wood-burning fireplace, custom-built by students.

Tickle paired her students into six, two-member teams responsible for designing specific elements of the studio, all of whom did extensive research on their given tasks, she said. The cable-suspended fireplace, for example, is based on a design developed in the 18th century by Count Rumford, explained Jeffrey Marcus and Rebecca Edson, the students assigned to this aspect of the project. The fireplace will be a water heater, as well as a heat source, they noted.

Jeffrey Marcus and Rebecca Edson
Photos by Rebecca Arrington
Jeffrey Marcus and Rebecca Edson designed the studio’s heat source, fashioned after an 18th- century Count Rumford fireplace.

Perhaps the most unique feature of the studio will be its insulation. Students use recycled blue jeans, instead of the more conventional but more costly pink fiberglass. Once they’ve collected enough pairs of jeans, they’ll layer them in a mesh frame to provide insulation, Tickle explained.

“My students have been so professional. They’ve had to fund-raise with businesses, locally and globally,” Tickle said. Students also scavenged junk yards for scrap wood, metal and plexiglass, used in the design conversion.

Items that have been donated for the project include 25 gallons of epoxy resin, concrete and welding services, as well as the container, itself. Donated by Virginia International Terminals of Hampton Roads, the container was delivered to U.Va. by tractor-trailer and put on a temporary foundation next to the Architecture School by crane at the start of the semester.

Last fall, several of Tickle’s design-build students took her field work course, where they apprenticed with local companies and trades- and crafts people throughout Charlottesville to learn about welding, concrete, stucco, etc.

The 12 fourth-year Architecture students in U.Va. Lecturer Evelyn Tickle’s class who converted a shipping container into a mobile studio, were: Sharon Adarlo, Stephanie Giles, Mike Marsh, Adam Donovan, Kara Hanson, Kris Conner, Rebecca Edson, Jeff Marcus, Karen Koenig, Rives Rash, Antonio Dominguez and Lauren Zuzack.

“Allied Concrete and Quality Welding have been especially supportive,” she said.

Plans are now in the works for the finished project to be shipped to destinations nation- and perhaps worldwide. “I hope the atelier provides opportunities for students, as well as inspiration,” Tickle said.

Tickle may use shipping containers in future design-build courses, but the purpose of the redesigned container would be different, she said. Tickle won’t be teaching this course at U.Va. next year, however. She and her husband, local architect and U.Va. alumnus Alexander Kitchin, recently won a 105th annual Rome Prize Competition and will spend next year at the American Academy in Rome.

shipping container
The nearly transformed shipping container-turned-mobile studio.

Clogging up the coasts

Shipping containers, such as the one at right, are being left in U.S. harbors because it is cheaper for steamship lines to leave empty containers at American ports that charge nominal fees than to pay the freight to ship them back to their ports of origin, mostly in Asia, Tickle said.

Due to a growing trade imbalance, the U.S. imports 9 million units a year and exports only 6 million. To combat the logjam, Virginia International Terminals of Hampton Roads limited the amount of empties that companies can keep on the waterfront, effective this March. As a result, the number of empties has dropped to 6,500 from a high of 14,000 last year.

Another little-known fact about these containers is that the floors are made of teak, an expensive and now endangered wood, noted Tickle, who wishes the Far East companies would manufacture all-steel containers. “


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