Mississippi State architecture students selected as finalists in national masonry competition

Contact: Christie McNeal

In preparation for the local Unit Design Competition, MSU Assistant Professor of Architecture Jacob A. Gines’s materials class traveled to Saturn Materials LLC in Columbus to see the manufacturing process firsthand and research the parameters and restraints of making a concrete masonry unit. (Photo submitted)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—A team of three Mississippi State architecture students is a top three finalist for a national masonry competition.

Designers of “The Pulse” custom-brick entry in the National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA) 2018 Unit Design Competition include juniors Madison C. Holbrook of Steens; McKenzie R. Johnson of Fayetteville, Georgia; and Baron O. Necaise of Gulfport.

“This year marks the 100th anniversary of NCMA and the first year that the MSU School of Architecture has been involved in the Unit Design Competition, so it’s exciting to be a part of that legacy,” said the team’s faculty adviser and Assistant Professor of Architecture Jacob A. Gines.

As a finalist, the team is invited—expenses paid—to NCMA’s mid-year conference in Chicago, Illinois, to present its design on August 1, along with the other two finalist teams from Ball State University and Iowa State University.

“We are beyond grateful for this opportunity and for all of the support and help from the faculty here at State,” Johnson said. “Professor Gines, Professor Justin Taylor and (Building Services Coordinator) Scott Hudspeth have encouraged and helped us through this process, and just making it to nationals is enough in itself.”

“It has been such an amazing experience working with our professors to learn how to design, make and use bricks,” Necaise said. “To apply this knowledge in real life as a part of a competition is even better.”

“I believe that this is a testament to the opportunities that CAAD presents us,” added Holbrook.

“The Pulse” was completed in Gines’s spring 2018 materials course and took first place in the local Unit Design Competition sponsored by Saturn Materials LLC of Columbus. Holbrook, Johnson and Necaise won $250 as a team, making their project eligible for the national competition.

For the project, Holbrook, Johnson and Necaise produced a set of eight concrete masonry units based on a single design, with each brick measuring 3-5/8 inches by 3-5/8 inches by 8 inches. The student team considered use of light and shadow, composition, orientation, usefulness and configuration while following a very specific digital fabrication process for the design and development of their custom brick.

“The design team of ‘The Pulse’ has worked tirelessly to design a concrete masonry unit that is beautiful, economic, durable and poetic,” Gines said.

The local competition consisted of submissions from 14 teams of three students each. The jury included Gines; Fred Dunand, president of Saturn Materials; Belinda Stewart, founding principal at Belinda Stewart Architects; and Neil Couvillion, landscape architect at Couvillion Design + Build.

The team of juniors Davis S. Beasley of Houston, Texas; Rory C. Fitzpatrick of Bossier City, Louisiana; and senior Felipe M. Olvera of Memphis, Tennessee, won second place and $150. Seniors Alexander “Alex” D. Boyd of Madison and Kaitlyn R. Breland of Wiggins and junior Mariah J. Green of Southaven placed third, receiving $100.

“Professor Gines’s students have demonstrated skills and knowledge way beyond the typical skill set of a second-year architecture student’s ability,” said School of Architecture Director and F.L. Crane Professor Michael Berk. “Our collaboration with Saturn Materials in Columbus has been invaluable. I am confident that Saturn was most integral to both the students’ understanding of the process and their ultimate success in this national competition.”

Learn more about MSU’s College of Architecture, Art and Design and its School of Architecture at www.caad.msstate.edu/sarc and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @CAADatMSU.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.