Ligonier Valley engineers winning riverfront design
By Marjorie Wertz
Sunday, March 21, 2004
The hardest part was getting started. But once they did, the Ligonier Valley High School Budding Builders team constructed a first-place showing in the 2003-04 Westmoreland County Architectural Design Challenge.
Westmoreland County Gifted Coalition and the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation sponsored the eighth annual competition. The challenge called for student teams to select an appropriate site for a barge building and construct a model detailing the plans. School teams were given a choice of 10 different sites along the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio rivers in Pittsburgh.
“The students chose to base their model on a site along the Mon River, across from the Technology Center,” at the South Side Works Development, formerly J & L Steel, said Jennifer Brisendine, one of Ligonier Valley High’s four gifted program advisers.
Senior David Poerschke, who served as team leader, has participated in the challenge for three years. He was joined on this year’s team by junior Kelly Morrisey; junior Patrick Sharbaugh; senior Stephanie Pompelia; and junior Abby Orchard.
“In my sophomore year, we were given the challenge to remodel one of the old Carnegie libraries. Last year, we were assigned an empty lot on the North Side and told we could build whatever we wanted,” Poerschke said. “This year’s challenge was more open. We had to come up with a place to start.”
Morrisey, a 16-year-old who has been interested in architecture for several years, said the team labored to develop a concept.
“Once you have a good concept, you build from there,” said Morrisey. “The team discussed the concept of our design for a while.”
“It was a very open-ended assignment and, since I’m a very structured person, it was difficult to get started,” said Pompelia, whose father, Mick, took her on a tour of the South Side bike trail.
“It gave me the idea of incorporating a rest area and information center in the model,” Pompelia added. The model had to be based on the size of an actual barge, 150 feet long by 35 feet wide. The students could build whatever design they wanted, as long as the model remained within the specifications.
“The team came up with a cross between a barge building, an information center, and a rest area for people who use the bike trail along the river,” said Brisendine. “The students really had to think outside the box on this assignment.”
In addition to model construction, the team had to write a report detailing the project and present an oral report to competing teams and judges. Projects were judged on feasibility, creativity, aesthetics, effectiveness of the oral presentation, and teamwork.
The budding builders worked on their project from October to Feb. 10, the day of the judging. Other high school participants were three teams from Belle Vernon Area; three teams from Mt. Pleasant Area; Yough; Burrell; Connellsville Area; four teams from Franklin Regional in Murrysville; Greater Latrobe; and two teams from Ligonier Valley.
Twenty-two middle school teams also competed. They were Laurel Valley; two teams from Burrell; Mt. Pleasant; five Franklin Regional teams; three teams from Greensburg Salem; three teams from Rostraver in Belle Vernon Area; four Penn-Trafford teams; Yough; Valley; and Greater Latrobe.
“We were incredibly impressed with the quality and the time the students put into the projects,” said Louise Sturgess, executive director of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation. “They come up with the most ingenious use of materials in their models. All the models are beautifully made. It’s incredible what these students can do.”
In the past several years, some of the students’ work has been utilized in renovation projects in the Pittsburgh area.
“In the new renovation plans for the Brookline and Homewood Carnegie Libraries, many of the elements that the students had in their models from several years ago are being incorporated into these renovations,” said Sturgess.
The 2004-05 competition will focus on the Fifth and Forbes area of Pittsburgh, Sturgess said.
“We’ll probably take them downtown in October and have them focus on a building or two and working toward preserving a building,” she added. “Maybe the students can trigger new life in the Fifth and Forbes area of Pittsburgh.”