MSU architecture freshmen showcase design skills in ‘Emmett Till River Site Memorial’ exhibition

A silhouetted person is pictured standing next to an orange-walled structure beneath trees.
This design by MSU architecture major Kailyn M. Gardner of Madison is one of 36 student projects that will be featured Aug. 28-Oct. 1 in an “Emmett Till River Site Memorial” poster exhibition at the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, 120 North Court St. in Sumner. (Photo submitted by Silvina Lopez Barrera)

Contact: Sasha Steinberg

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Thirty-six freshman Mississippi State architecture students are showcasing their final first-year studio projects Aug. 28-Oct. 1 in an “Emmett Till River Site Memorial” poster exhibition at the Emmett Till Interpretive Center in Tallahatchie County.

Located at 120 North Court St. in Sumner, the center is open Tuesday-Saturday from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. or by appointment. Admission for the exhibition is free.

Through a spring 2020 semester partnership with the Emmett Till Memorial Commission, the students produced design proposals for a Till memorial at the Graball Landing site. Silvina Lopez Barrera, MSU School of Architecture assistant professor and studio coordinator, said this site sits at the convergence of the Tallahatchie River and the Black Bayou, where it is believed Till’s body was found. Since April 2008, the ETMC has attempted to commemorate the site, she explained.

“As part of my own research, we started this collaboration with the ETMC, and we partnered with the first-year studio to design the memorial,” she said. “Now, the commission wants to move forward with the development of the river site and is planning to use students’ designs to start community conversations.”

Along with Lopez Barrera’s coordination, students have contributed to the community engagement project under the guidance of John Ross, MSU visiting assistant professor, and Simon Powney, studio assistant. The students’ proposals could incorporate a wide range of design intentions and sources of inspiration, but they were required to include a site entrance, space for reflection and contemplation, and bus parking area.

Lopez Barrera said by incorporating symbolic and educative features in their proposals, the students responded to specific environmental conditions of the place, which could help engage visitors with Till’s history, the civil rights movement, and future of racial reconciliation.

“We hope the work of this exhibition contributes to conversations about the future development of the Graball Landing site and explores design visions and values that could be included in the new memorial and its restorative narrative,” she said.

The student exhibitors include (by hometown):

AMARILLO, Texas—Elizabeth M. Gerzon

BEAVERTON, Alabama—Whitney “Elaine” Otts

BELLS, Tennessee—James D. “J.D.” Jaggers

BIRMINGHAM—Michael D. Chew

BRANDON—Reagan A. Douglass

CHESTERFIELD, Virginia—Jessica M. Ninnis

CLINTON—Caroline R. Prather


COLUMBUS—Philip A. “Andy” Ladd

COVINGTON, Louisiana—Annelise E. Sernich

DELMAR, Delaware—Gabriella B. Morelli

DEMOPOLIS, Alabama—Tyler K. Pipkins

FRANKLIN, Tennessee—Ethan B. Harvey; Nikolas A. Humphreys

GARDEN CITY, Idaho—Kobe C. Clouthier

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama—Sarah E. Mixon

JACKSON—Jacob L. Bryson

LEAKESVILLE—Jared Woullard

LECANTO, Florida—Connor T. Speaks

LOUISVILLE—Jacob C. Herrington

MADISON—Alston T. Brown; Kailyn M. Gardner; Lita Li

MANDEVILLE, Louisiana—Abigail G. Desposito

MEMPHIS, Tennessee—Lillian K. Montague

NASHVILLE, Tennessee—Anna Kathleen Horn

NEWNAN, Georgia—Summer L. Watson

PURVIS—John Morris Karnes

RIDGELAND—Bryant P. Baugus

SALTILLO—Skylar N. Sloan

SILVERHILL, Alabama—Anna C. Criswell

SOUTHAVEN—Mikayla B. House; Jennifer K. Hutton


STEWART—Lindsey N. Boren

TUPELO—James B. “Jeb” Thomas

The School of Architecture in MSU’s College of Architecture, Art and Design offers the only curriculum in the state leading to a professional degree in architecture. It is home to the only architecture program in the nation that requires two semester-long collaborative studios for all architecture and building construction science students, including a design/build studio in the second year. For more, visit

The Emmett Till Interpretive Center is online at

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