Undergraduate Thesis: A School for Traditional Building Craft in Cincinnati

Thesis Statement:

Architecture is realized through building materials and the methods by which they are assembled. Traditional craft is the necessary counterpart to architectural design which provides identity and integrity to a community through the harmony of built and natural environments. Reinstating a culture of craft through higher education will help to strengthen the dignity of skilled laborers and encourage a renewed interest in traditional architecture which cultivates pride of place and sustainability through durability.

This study of a school for traditional building craft in Cincinnati was presented for the Notre Dame undergraduate thesis project in 2022. It received the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art Trumbauer Award for Excellence in Contemporary Classicism, the Notre Dame Faculty's Choice Honorable Mention for Design Excellence in Architecture, and the Gertrude S. Sollitt Prize for Architectural Structure. The renderings are primarily ink on mylar with one watercolor analytique.

The site is situated in the historic district of Lower Price Hill, named for Evans Price who developed the neighborhood in 1807 with an industry of building materials and homes for the tradespeople employed, anchoring the proposed school in the history and the urban fabric. Because of its separation from downtown, Lower Price Hill has faced disenfranchisement, but its remaining historic fabric and the presence of the K-12 Oyler School encourage future business development. The proposed craft school is situated along the West Eighth Street viaduct toward downtown. It seeks to provide a more celebrated gateway to the historic district while maintaining the existing axis from Depot Street to Hatmaker Park. The depot and city axes converge at an open public court which acts as an amenity to the neighborhood and a means of engaging the public in craft education. 

The building itself is broken down to integrate the massing with the context and separate out the programmatic functions which provides ample opportunities for outdoor display, loading, storage, light, and ventilation adjacent to the workshops and studios. An enclosed loggia runs along the main facade with opportunities for the public to look into the workshop spaces during opening hours. Similarly, the classroom spaces of the second floor look into the double height spaces of the studios to ensure that classroom and workshop education always work in tandem. The third and fourth floors are primarily dedicated to residential for an elevated "on campus" living experience for 25% of the maximum 150-person student body. The elevations seek to express the celebrated civic character of public spaces and the dignified industrial character of Lower Price Hill. The load-bearing brick and stone masonry, exposed wood beams and trusses, as well as decorative plaster and ironwork respond to the context while representing the craft being taught within. In this way, the building itself takes a philosophical stance on architecture and craft, offering a high style version of the vernacular language while employing local materials built to last as an educational tool to its students and to the public.

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