PhilaU Students Win Top Prizes in BLT Architects Design Competition

Two students in the College of Architecture and the Built Environment won the top two awards in this year’s BLT Architects student design competition.

Fifth-year architecture student Bong Hei Wong took first place in the competition for his adaptive design of an old warehouse.

Fifth-year architecture student Bong Hei Wong took first place in the competition for his adaptive design of an old warehouse.

Fifth-year architecture student Bong Hei Wong, who goes by Billy, won first place and Oliver Thompson, a graduate student in sustainable design and 2014 graduate of PhilaU’s architectural studies program, took second place.

“Once again, Philadelphia University students placed first and second in one the BLT Architects student design competitions,” said Barbara Klinkhammer, executive dean of the College of Architecture and the Built Environment. Last spring, PhilaU students took the top two awards in the firm’s student interior design competition. Read more. “This is an external validation of the excellent design education our students receive,” Klinkhammer said.

BLT Architects, a Philadelphia-based architectural and interior design firm, challenged students to design an adaptive reuse of a century-old warehouse in Center City into a high-tech incubator facility with retail, office, prototyping, auditorium and breakout space. Students were judged by BLTa principals on their creative approach, response to site, sustainability and functionality.

As the first-place winner, Wong received a cash prize of $500 and was offered a paid summer internship with the company. “It was one of my goals since sophomore year to be placed in a competition before graduating,” he said.

After visiting the site to assess its potential, Wong said he created a design that would “reuse the existing building to serve new high-tech businesses while contributing as a public space on the street level.” View his project on Behance.

Wong adapted the existing design by adding void spaces through the building’s center to increase transparency and allow users to relate to the city, rather than an enclosed office space. “The entire roof space is dedicated to a garden,” he said.

Thompson received the second place award for his design focused on natural light.

M.S. in Sustainable Design student Oliver Thompson received the second place award for his design focused on natural light.

Thompson won $300 for his second-place design, but said recognition from an award-winning firm was his most valuable prize. “The fact that I placed at all, let alone in second, gave me confidence in myself and my education,” he said.

His design utilizes a massive “skywell” that allows natural light into almost all usable spaces and incorporates a new pedestrian street under the building between Market and Chestnut streets.

“I wanted to design something that would fit into the context of the city, the existing master plan for the area around it, while still breathing life into it,” Thompson said.

The BLT Architects competition was open to students from the Mid-Atlantic region, ranging from Massachusetts to Virginia.

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