Sam Fox School announces winner of 2008 Steedman Fellowship

International Design Competition focused on adaptive reuse along Mississippi riverfront

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.

Site plan
“In-Situ Sensibility.” Site plan for an urban agricultural development just north of downtown St. Louis. Image courtesy of Nikole Renee Bouchard.

Bouchard, who received a Bachelor of Architecture degree 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 currently 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,” says Bruce Lindsey, the E. Desmond Lee Professor for Community Collaboration and dean of Architecture. “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, an abandoned 100,000-square-foot industrial building 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,” notes Bouchard of 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 greenspace.”

North facade
Approach from train shed. The northern facade of the former St. Louis Cold Storage Company would remain untouched, aside from the re-opening of existing apertures. Image courtesy of Nikole Renee Bouchard.

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. 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 currently boarded-up. A large open space flowing from the southern façade 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 received a Master of Architecture degree from Washington University and also won the Best Degree Project Prize for the class of 2007. She is currently a staff architect with ZGF Architects in Seattle.

South side
Architecture as instrument for enlightenment. A large multifunction hall on the building’s southern side could accommodate markets, lectures, exhibitions and film screenings. Image courtesy of Nikole Renee Bouchard.

John Bruenning, St. Louis. Bruenning earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Architecture from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale B.S in 2001, and a Master of Architecture from Washington University in 2004. He currently works at AAIC, a St. Louis architecture firm.

Sabina Santovetti, Rome. Santovetti received a Master of Architecture degree 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 currently 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, who has offices in Beirut and Cambridge, Mass.; Nader Tehrani, 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 received 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