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Interior Architecture students focus on building up communities in Research Expo projects

In the recent Student Expo of Student Research and Creative Activity, four Interior Architecture students received awards for their senior thesis projects. One of these students was Deja Brown, who won first place in both Community Engagement and the Art 2 category. Another of these students was Lauren Hailey, who focused her social justice project on the black maternal mortality crisis.

“Basically, we do a year of research, learning about the topic and how evidence-based design can be used to alleviate some of the issues that are caused by whatever the topic may be,” Hailey said. “For me, it was looking at how design can be used to promote positive patient outcomes, and just create a more therapeutic environment for healthcare.”

Hailey won first place in the Art 1 category, as well as second place in the Community Engagement category and the Ohio Alumni Association Award. The latter of these three awards is given to a project with special relevance to the Ohio community.

Hailey’s building was based in Atlanta, Georgia; the location's proximity to Morehouse College and Spelman College would provide engagement for university students seeking shadowing/internship opportunities, and it is also in the center of a city with a high African American population.

“With the black maternal mortality crisis, black women don’t have a strong support system,” she said. “So, when I was designing my center, I really wanted to include spaces like a Financial Literacy Center, a fitness studio, just opportunities for people to interact and create connections within the space.”

According to Hailey, the southeast Ohio region also struggles with providing medical care so not only could her project be applied to black women, but also low-income women as a whole.

She also believes the Community Engagement award is suited to her project, which puts special emphasis on the communal aspects of solutions to her topic’s problem.

Brenna Cromwell also based her project in Atlanta for a similar reason, the high African American population makes it a good location for her topic, which afflicts one in 250 African American women.

“It’s a lupus healthcare facility that aims to reduce the risk of symptom flare for people with systemic lupus erythematosus,” Cromwell said. “There are a lot of architectural elements and buildings that can invoke these symptom flares, so the goal of this project was to create a building that reduces the risk of invoking these flares.”

Cromwell was diagnosed with lupus in 2020 and said her achievement of first place in the Diversity and Inclusion category and second place in the Art 1 category meant a lot to her.

“Being able to accept an award for a building that is essentially helping someone like me who may have experienced those symptoms at some point in their life was really rewarding and fulfilling,” she said.

Cromwell said while the expo was certainly a little chaotic, it was “a good day overall.” This sentiment is echoed by her classmate, Brynna Pope.

“Our (posters) took a little more effort to make sure they were aligned and stuff like that, but basically it was just waiting around and being...nervous for the judges to come talk to me,” Pope said. “At the end of the expo, when they handed out their award, I was not expecting one, but it was very exciting to be recognized and it was a great experience overall.”

Pope’s project was inspired by the theme of halfway houses in the 1994 film “The Shawshank Redemption,” as well as the lack of discussion about the subject in the design world. After her year of work, Pope was awarded second place in the Art 2 category.

“It makes me feel like my hard work paid off, it makes me feel like maybe I have a shot at being good at this in the real world, but it’s just an honor to be able to be recognized,” Pope said. “I just want to say thank you to all my fellow classmates and my professors, Nic Campbell and Lynnette Bush Clouse.”

Once she enters the “real world,” Pope hopes to work in commercial design, as well as continue her research on the design of halfway houses. Hailey recently accepted a residential design position in Charlotte, North Carolina, and hopes to someday own her own firm. Cromwell plans to work in higher education as a project manager.

“This project was really a good way into my professional career because I was able to work strategically, and in a project management role I would be doing a lot of strategic work,” Cromwell said. 

May 1, 2024
Sophia Rooksberry, HTC ‘26