A Journey of Exploration: The New Mexico Center for Kinetic Culture Project

By Whitney Bourgois

As an adjunct professor at North Dakota State University (NDSU), I’ve had the privilege of guiding and mentoring the creative minds in the Architectural Design IV class. This studio class, designed for third-year architecture students, is an intensive course that puts a spotlight on both individual and group design projects. The journey of creating, refining, and presenting architectural designs is a complex one, but the reward of seeing students evolve and grow in their craft is undoubtedly the highlight of my job.

This year, we embarked on an extraordinary project assignment titled the “New Mexico Center for Kinetic Culture”. The objective was to design a unique school of dance that would celebrate two vibrant and traditional dance forms – Flamenco and Native American styles. The location for this hypothetical cultural center was Albuquerque, New Mexico, a city rich in its cultural heritage and a melting pot of diverse artistic expressions.

One of the elements I’ve always emphasized is the importance of incorporating real-world feedback into the learning process. So, to enrich this design journey, I invited EAPC Architects Engineers, Phil Stahl and Matt Becker, two accomplished professionals in our field, to serve as guest critics for the students’ final presentations.

Phil and Matt brought to the table their vast experience and unique perspectives, providing our students with invaluable advice, constructive criticism, and encouraging feedback. They were incredibly supportive guests, and their presence helped us conclude the semester on a positive and enlightening note.

Phil and Matt were fantastic and supportive guests in our class and helped us to end the semester on a great note. The students and I are so grateful for their feedback and the time they took out of their busy schedules to join us. My favorite part about teaching is having positive, meaningful, and perspective-shifting conversations with others centered around architecture and design. It was fun to merge my two passions of teaching and the profession and spend an afternoon learning and having these conversations with both students and my colleagues at EAPC (something we don’t always have time to do as busy professionals).

The New Mexico Center for Kinetic Culture project was a great opportunity for the students to embrace their creativity, explore their design abilities, and also learn about the cultural nuances that influence architecture. This project highlighted the role of architecture in celebrating culture, diversity, and art, and it was a joy to witness the students’ enthusiasm and dedication throughout the journey.

“What an amazing class of talented architecture students! Technology has come a long way in aiding NDSU students to stay on point, present verbally and showcase their designs into photorealistic 3D renderings,” said EAPC Architect, Phil Stahl.  “Whitney taught her class well and they were eager to listen, learn and participate. Matt and I had a such a rewarding time giving a constructive critique to our next generation of architects.”

As an educator, it is moments like these that remind me of the impact that teaching has – not just on the students, but also on the teachers themselves. The conversations we had, the ideas that were shared, and the designs that were born out of this project, all serve as a testament to the transformative power of education and the beauty of architecture. This experience has left us all with a greater appreciation for the discipline we’re a part of and an excitement for what the future holds.