St. Michaels University School doesn’t have an architecture course, but two students are clearly gifted in the craft as they’re finalists in a Nanaimo design contest.
Fo Wu and Jasmine Yu, both Grade 11 students, make up Team Monster Club, one of three teams in the High School Parklet Design competition at the Festival of Architecture, running June 8 to 11. With guidance from SMUS art teacher Chris Bateman, the duo made the top three of the design contest with their nature-themed parklet.
“Architecture and design is something really new to me,” said Yu. “I had something like writer’s block – more like drawer’s block – but I saw the contest and I said, ‘I’ll do it,’ and grabbed her.”
“The idea of the design actually being built was really exciting for me,” said Wu. “We started drawing it, and as we entered the second phase, we made a 3D model. We got help from the architect Greg (Demant) and our IT teacher Mr. (Peter) Steed.”
Parklets are extensions of sidewalks, usually in urban areas, that provide pedestrians a place to sit down. Wu and Yu drew inspiration from maple leaves to create two areas to sit, as well as ocean themes with a wave design along the fence.
“We started with the shape of the maple leaves, and we thought if we were going to build a parklet beside a street, we’d want something more organic to bring nature to the busy city,” said Wu.
“They did tons of pre-drawings,” said Bateman of their design. “They’re a really hardworking team and they come up to the art room pretty well every spare moment they have.”
The competition saw students from across Vancouver Island design parklets in phases, with the top three teams taking their 3D models and turning them into full-size spaces for the public to use. They were paired up with different architects who taught them about budgets and the technical side of building their designs before making them a reality with the Vancouver Island University Carpentry Foundation program.
The top three designs will be installed along Nanaimo’s Commercial Street. Wu and Yu will be judged on their design by a panel, but will also depend on votes from passers-by for the People’s Choice Award. The other two finalists are GISS Junior Design from Gulf Islands Secondary School and NC Aspengrove of Aspengrove School in Lantzville.
“I’m kind of nervous,” said Wu. “I’m really confident in what we designed, but I’m nervous because we’re showing it to the public and it’s the first time we have been involved in something like this.”
Wu and Yu will be on hand Wednesday, to tell people about their parklet. The winning team will be announced at an awards reception at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre on Friday.
The winning team will receive a $900 team prize and $2,000 for their school, with second receiving a $600 team prize and $1,000 for their school, and third receiving a $300 team prize and $500 for their school.
That said, win or lose, the students are ecstatic that they’ve gotten to this point in the competition, and St. Michaels has a plan for the parklet after the competition is over.
“The school is hiring a crane truck to bring the park down to campus when it’s all over,” said Bateman. “The day after the contest, we’ll have it installed in our quad here.”
“I don’t care if we don’t get first place because we’re in the final and it’s going to be built,” said Yu with a laugh.