Hines College Architecture Students Win AIA Fort Worth Merit Awards

Projects highlight creative and community-centered approaches

by Symone Daniels • February 27, 2023

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Fort Worth Chapter honored University of Houston Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design students Triciajane Asuncion, Yasmeen Saab, and Kim Saotonglang this past Saturday, February 25th, as part of their annual 2023 Excellence in Architecture Student Design Awards, recognizing exceptional student work from students across the state of Texas. UH students were awarded for Pe-Tree (Asuncion and Saab) and ASCENSION (Saotonglang).

Smile, Jaw, Eyelash, Sleeve
Smile, Eyelash, Jaw, Headgear
Smile, Eyebrow, Eye, Sleeve, Headgear

Left to right: Kim Saotonglang; Yasmeen Saab, and Triciajane Asuncion

Saotonglang's project ASCENSION is set in a post-apocalyptic underground dwelling. Due to years of living in darkness, its society became blind and reverted to primitive ways of life. Although their circumstance seems hopeless, a deaf boy and a muted girl find each other through light and decide to ascend from darkness together. 

"The architecture is based on how these blind dwellers inhabit the underground colony and our main character's journey," said Saotonglang. 

The creation process began as Saotonglang constructed a storyline to set the tone for her architectural graphics. She credits filmmaker Tim Burton and graphic artist M.C. Escher as inspiration for the darker storyline of ASCENSION. Saotonglang searched for graphic precedents, choosing primary stylistic references – one for aesthetics and the other for drawing techniques.

"After studying the works of Burton and Escher, I combined the styles of the two artists to create the aesthetic tailored only to my project," said Saotonglang. 

Although the development process of ASCENSION did not pose a challenge to Saotonglang, she did find it difficult to manage her time. As a student, she was balancing time between studio and thesis preparation courses during the semester. Still, she decided to have fun with the project, alleviating some of her pressure. 

Saotonglang hopes that when people view ASCENSION, they will enjoy the story it tells, the fun philosophical questions it asks, and all the experimental illustrations. 

In addition to Saotonglang’s project, Pe-Tree, designed by Triciajane Asuncion and Yasmeen Saab, also received recognition with a Student Merit Award. Pe-Tree grew from the need for a more resilient infrastructure in the predominantly Black and brown Third Ward community. Houston has experienced three 500-year floods in the past six years, which hits these vulnerable communities the hardest. Constructed from natural and recycled materials, Pe-Tree establishes a net-zero spatial, agricultural, and infrastructural network.

“The holistic urban ecological infrastructure system mitigates the community’s challenges, which include repeated flooding and periodic droughts, lack of nearby nutritious food sources, limited transportation options, and access to open green spaces,” explained Asuncion.

Given the site of MacGregor Park, the pair drew inspiration from nature and the efficient formations of bacterial growth on a petri dish.

"We positioned social/recreational spaces, water storage systems, and community gardens, framed by a series of yellow walkable and bikeable loops at various scales, to connect pedestrians to the site's amenities," shared Saab.

Property, Map, Yellow

Asuncion and Saab attributed their ability to work together successfully to bringing their different strengths while sharing a common interest. Saab specializes in fabrication and material research, while Asuncion specializes in graphic visualization, material, and technical research. 

In addition to designing a building, the pair designed multiple park amenities, including an amphitheater, a volleyball court, playgrounds, and a community garden.  

One challenge Asuncion and Saab faced was determining how to link amenities together and build them coherently. During the design phase, they utilized physical models for the design iterations to determine the most efficient and engaging paths between the amenities. 

Both Asuncion and Saab are proud of the work they have produced benefiting the Third Ward Community. They also hope their work inspires students and upcoming designers to have the courage to experiment and constantly develop their ideas, helping them blossom over time.


Back to TOP

Back to TOP


More College of Architecture and Design Stories

Smile, Forehead, Face, Hair, Nose, Cheek, Skin, Head, Chin, Eyebrow

In honor of Black History Month, the Hines College kicks off its student organization profile series highlighting Black Students in Design.

Flash photography, Brown, Cheek, Smile, Lip, Chin, Outerwear, Eyebrow, Eyelash, Neck

Alumni Spotlight:
elly Robichau '06

"The Hines College fostered a culture where doors were open, professors were accessible, and classmates almost always worked alongside you ... The ability to communicate is a skill that begins way before you step into an architecture firm."

Smile, Bookcase, Watch, Shelf, Book, Publication, Shelving, Building, Customer, Retail

Scott Ziegler, AIA, has established the Ziegler Travel Fellowship Award at the Hines College with a gift of $25,000.

Material property, Font
Material property, Font, Rectangle
Rectangle, Font
Mammal, Font