MSU School of Architecture recognized by American Institute of Architects’ Mississippi Chapter

Contact: Christie McNeal

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State’s School of Architecture received several statewide honors from the American Institute of Architects at the virtual 2020 AIA Mississippi Celebrates Architecture Awards Ceremony this fall.

Awards were presented to Director Emeritus Michael A. Berk, the Fred Carl Jr. Small Town Center, and Associate Professor Hans C. Herrmann during the annual Mississippi Chapter of the AIA event that recognizes those who have made significant contributions to the profession.

Michael Berk
Michael A. Berk (Photo submitted)
Leah Kemp
Leah Kemp (Photo by Megan Bean)
Hans Herrmann
Hans C. Herrmann (Photo by Megan Bean)

Berk, who retired in 2019 after 29 years with the MSU School of Architecture, received the Education Commendation Award for his significant contribution to the field of education related to the purposes of AIA.

One of Berk’s many contributions noted was that, under his guidance, MSU was the first professional architecture program to require its students to purchase laptop computers for use in the design studios, changing the paradigm of architectural education.

The Fred Carl Jr. Small Town Center, led by Director Leah Kemp, received an honor citation for the creation of the Starkville Streatery and Small Town Streatery Toolkit.

Designed as a response to COVID-19 restrictions on local businesses, the Starkville Streatery is an outdoor café and shared public space adjacent to local restaurants. The toolkit is a free resource to help small towns implement the streatery concept—utilizing limited budgets, locally available materials and simple construction with volunteer labor.

Jurors noted that the project “advances architecture to the masses” and “was an intriguing, tactical urbanism solution to increase business during the pandemic.”

Herrmann’s project, Mirror Perch Bridge at the Crosby Arboretum Gum Pond Exhibit, received two awards, with the first being an honor award for overall design excellence.

A long bridge framed by logs is shown surrounded by trees
The Mirror Perch Bridge at the Crosby Arboretum Gum Pond Exhibit (Photo submitted)

Located at the northern edge of the arboretum grounds in Picayune, the bridge is the latest addition to the facility and marks the end of construction on the long-awaited Gum Pond Exhibit. The project utilizes natural and local materials and was built with the help of MSU students over the course of nearly three years. Students involved include architecture seniors Brandon Burton of Vicksburg; Spencer Cummings of Franklin, Tennessee; Blake Farrar of Blue Springs; Austin Keaton of Soso; Danielle Leclercq of Picayune; Kyle Murphy of Vicksburg; Maria Ory of Destrehan, Louisiana; Daniel Ruff of Starkville; Spurgeon Sanders of Flora; Robert Scott of Flowood; John Spraberry of Clarksville, Tennessee; and Duncan Thomas of Hattiesburg; as well as landscape architecture senior Ben Gunter of Opelika, Alabama.

Herrmann served as the lead designer and project manager for the bridge in consultation with Professor Robert Brzuszek of MSU’s Department of Landscape Architecture and School of Architecture Professor John Poros, who provided the structural design calculations.

Herrmann said the final assembly of the bridge took place last summer over the course of six weeks.

“Working around the water and occasional heavy rains, the teams cleared the site, dug the footings, built the formwork, installed the concrete, set the steel, maneuvered the poles into position, secured the tension straps and pole bindings and finally placed the floor grate in mid-August,” said Herrmann. “The result is a respectful, yet wholly original addition to one of the region’s and nation’s most important and celebrated arboreta.”     

Jurors noted the project is “a great example of linking materials of place with the issues of site and ecology.”

This project also was honored with the Samuel Sambo Mockbee Sprite of Place Award. This prestigious award is voted on by the full membership of the AIA Mississippi Chapter and is granted to only a single project each year.

Herrmann will speak at a ribbon cutting and dedication for the Mirror Perch Bridge on Jan. 23. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, event capacity is limited, but the general public can call the Crosby Arboretum at 601-799-2311 to sign up to attend if space is available. Operating hours are Monday through Sunday, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

The Mississippi State University School of Architecture offers the state’s only professional architecture degree accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board.  

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at