Two Architecture Undergraduates Recognized in Prestigious Design Competition

Two Architecture Undergraduates Recognized in Prestigious Design Competition



By Jeanne Hedden Gallagher

June 27, 2022

Isabel Vineyard and Yishu Yu were recently awarded prizes in the 2022 Lyceum Fellowship Competition


The competition required students to develop design proposals for a welcome and research center for the Friesenhahn Cave near San Antonio, Texas. Besides the La Brea Tar Pits in California, it is believed that no site in the United States has yielded a greater variety of significant Pleistocene vertebrate fossils.


Prehistoric scimitar tooth cats used the cave as a den during the Ice Age but the site is now situated in the midst of a housing subdivision. Student architects were tasked with creating a boundary experience between the “current-day suburban condition” and the buildable portion of the “deep time” of the interior protected cave area.


Vineyard, a recent graduate, was awarded third prize for her entry, “Shroud.” The Lyceum judges appreciated the simplicity of the barn buildings that elevated the experience to be evocative of the qualities of the cave. She will receive $4,500 for one month of travel to study landscape architecture in Scandinavia and the Baltics. 


Yu, entering her final year of undergraduate study, impressed the jury with her building design’s relationship to the site’s unique geology. “Here to Here, Before” earned a Merit Award of Recognition.


Rensselaer was one of only two schools throughout the United States to receive more than one award in this year’s competition.


Vineyard and Lu were students in the fall 2021 design studio class led by Rhett Russo, an assistant professor and the Undergraduate Chair in Architecture, who used the competition as a tool to inspire students to design in the face of the obstacles and opportunities found in a unique landscape.  


Matthew Lopez, a lecturer in the School of Architecture, led an independent study in the spring of 2022 to mentor interested students on the graphic design of their entries.


“The students who chose to polish up their projects and submit them to the competition faced the real-world challenge of communicating their vision using text and two-dimensional images,” Professor Russo said. “The Lyceum Fellowship truly offered the students an opportunity to find their voice beyond the academic context.”


“These awards are a testament to the school’s overall commitment to design excellence, the innovative pedagogy of our faculty, and the hard work and creative ingenuity of our students,” said Evan Douglis, Dean of the School of Architecture.


The Lyceum Fellowship was established in 1985 by Jon McKee, AIA (1927-2013). Through its annual design competition, the Lyceum seeks to advance the profession of architecture by engaging students in design and travel. For more than 35 years, the Lyceum has engaged highly noted architects from all areas of the field to develop programs for the annual competition. The Lyceum has awarded more than half a million dollars in travel prizes to date, enriching the education of highly talented students through travel to more than 100 different countries.


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About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, over 30 research centers, more than 140 academic programs including 25 new programs, and a dynamic community made up of over 6,800 students and 104,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include upwards of 155 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration. To learn more, please visit www.rpi.edu.