Adaptive reuse concept along Mississippi riverfront wins Steedman Fellowship

New York architect Nikole Renee Bouchard has won Washington University’s 2008 Steedman Fellowship in Architecture International Design Competition.

The biennial competition, sponsored by the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts’ College of Architecture and Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design, is open to young architects from around the world and carries a $30,000 first-place award to support study and research abroad — the largest such award in the United States.

Bouchard, who earned a bachelor of architecture from Cornell University in 2006, was chosen from a field of 197 registrants and 49 submissions representing Australia, Britain, Canada, China, Germany, India, Singapore and the United States. She works for Steven Holl Architects in New York.

“The Steedman is one of the oldest and most widely known competitions for young architects in the United States,” said Bruce Lindsey, dean of the College of Architecture and Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design and the E. Desmond Lee Professor for Community Collaboration. “This year’s site was an historic St. Louis district that has come under increasing pressure for redevelopment. The results show a wide range of possibilities for bringing new life to older buildings.”

The competition centered on the former St. Louis Cold Storage Company building, an abandoned 100,000-square-foot industrial structure located along the Mississippi riverfront, just north of downtown and Eero Saarinen’s Gateway Arch. Architects were charged with creating environmentally sensitive adaptive reuse strategies for the structure, which was built in 1901. Most buildings in the area reflect St. Louis’ industrial past, specifically power generation and cold storage for the river and railroad commerce of the early 20th century.

“There is a need for a program that activates the landscape and engages the public — people of all ages, social statuses and interests,” wrote Bouchard in her winning proposal, titled “In Situ Sensibility: Seeding the Future Growth of St. Louis.” She points out that the area “is one of very few in the city which does not currently have a public green space.”

Bouchard’s design would reinvent the site as a center for urban agriculture. A network of hills, valleys, fields and tributaries would transform the grounds surrounding the Cold Storage Company building. The building itself would take cues from the natural topography to “create spaces that are both dark and intimate (like the surrounding landscape’s submerged caves) as well as expansive and open (like the region’s rolling prairie).”

Historic northern, eastern and western facades would remain untouched, aside from reopening a series of existing apertures, which are boarded up. A large open space flowing from the southern facade would serve as an indoor/outdoor market as well as a venue for summer film screenings and other public functions. Additional components include classrooms and offices; an area for composting; and a green roofscape that would house gardens, collect rainwater and provide spectacular views of St. Louis and the Mississippi River. A nearby abandoned train depot would become a parking facility.

In addition to Bouchard, three entrants received honorable mentions:

Maria Eva Contesti, Seattle. Constesti, a native of Argentina, earned a professional degree in architecture from the Universidad Nacional de Rosario in 2003 and a master of environmental planning degree from the Universidad de Buenos Aires in 2004. In 2007, she earned a master of architecture degree from Washington University and also won the Best Degree Project Prize for the class of 2007. She is a staff architect with ZGF Architects in Seattle.

John Bruenning, St. Louis. Bruenning earned a bachelor’s in architecture from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 2001 and a master’s from Washington University in 2004. He works at AAIC, a St. Louis architecture firm.

Sabina Santovetti, Ph.D., Rome. Santovetti earned a master’s in architecture from Washington University in 2005 and previously earned a master’s in industrial design from the Pratt Institute in New York, a master’s and doctorate in art history and archeology from the Sorbonne University in Paris, and a degree in literature and philosophy from the University of Rome. She is a cofounder of the firm SANTOVETTI NARDINI: Architecture & Design in Rome.

Winners were selected by blind jury. Lawrence Scarpa, visiting professor of architecture and principal of Pugh Scarpa in Santa Monica, served as jury chair. Other jurors included Peter Davey, former editor of The Architectural Review in London; architect/urbanist Hashim Sarkis, Ph.D., who has offices in Beirut and Cambridge, Mass.; Nader Tehrani, Ph.D., a partner at Office dA in Boston; Ken Yeang, principal of Hamzah & Yeang Architects in Malaysia; and author/theorist Wilfried Wang, co-founder of Hoidn Wang Architects in Berlin.

Granted since 1925, The Steedman Fellowship is supported by an endowment — given to the Sam Fox School’s College of Architecture and Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design — in honor of James Harrison Steedman, who earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Washington University in 1889. The memorial was established by Steedman’s widow, Mrs. Alexander Weddel, and Steedman’s brother, George.

For more information about the Steedman Fellowship, visit