Students will have a new spot for relaxing in the sun, based on the winning design “The Hangout” from the annual School of Architecture mini-charrette competition. Wiess College sophomores Yoseph Maguire and Andrew Bertics, Baker College junior Eric Hsu and Brown College sophomore Ethan Chan envisioned their project as a field of hammocks at various heights for studying and relaxing in the academic quad. 

“Over the course of the design, we sought to create a tool that students could use to find new possible forms of learning, unrestrained by the conventions of inflexible indoor spaces,” Bertics said.

Hsu said “The Hangout” is particularly appealing for its adaptability and affordability. The poles are designed to be scattered and free-standing such that each hammock can be hung between multiple poles and in different positions. The team said the entire design can have 19,000 configurations, with a total of 21 poles. 

“We imagine that this design will be implemented in a variety of environments outside of our campus,” Hsu said. “Perhaps one day our design will be installed in parks or other public spaces for the citizens of the entire city to enjoy.”

Every year, the Architecture Society at Rice elicits proposals for the theme at the mini-charrette. Two years ago, the winning design from the mini-charrette competition was later implemented as the “Sound Worm” installment, an art piece behind Anderson Hall that collects sounds from around campus.

Architecture students Mitch Mackowiak, Toshiki Niimi and Kajal Patel, and sociology student Geneva Vest began conceptualizing their idea of redoing an outdoor space late last semester, which was later chosen as the prompt for the competition.

“We were really interested in the idea of actually implementing a solution to the problem of [creating] more outdoor study spaces,” Niimi, a Hanszen College junior, said. “Places like Brochstein [Pavilion] seem to be heavily populated, which proves people would like to study outside if that were an option, but there isn’t a secondary option.” 

Niimi said the competition required interdisciplinary teams to design the currently unused space between Fondren Library and the Humanities Building to be utilized for outside learning. Teams were given a budget of $7,000 maximum and 54 hours within which to complete the challenge. Teams then presented to a jury that included Vice President for Administration Kevin Kirby and Rice University President David Leebron on Friday, Oct. 23. 

“We used the mini-charrette as a generator of ideas but we also hoped it would be a method of getting a project built,” Mackowiak, a Lovett College junior, said. “Because this was a priority, we pushed for as much student involvement as possible and crafted a compelling prompt.”

Niimi said the requirement that at least one member from each team not be a student of the School of Architecture enhances the’ learning experience. Maguire, an electrical engineering student, said he has always had an interest in architecture.

“As an [electrical engineer], I am learning about the world of electronics,” Maguire said. “But as a student, I am always interested in understanding more, and widening my breadth of knowledge. We will be able to create something that will tangibly influence the experiences of students for years to come, which is crazy. 

The temporary installation will be funded by sales from the KTRU transmitter and Rice’s Environmental Society, according to Rice News. “The Hangout” team will be involved within the creation of the installation, including choosing materials and the physical setup of the poles.

“Right now, all we have is a concept, so we’ve got a long way to go,” Maguire said. “With help from all the right people, this is going to become one of the coolest places to study and relax on any college campus.”

The runner-up was the project “Posture Play,” a formation of benches at different angles intended to provide students with an ergonomic study environment. Other projects included “Capriccube,” a stained-glass design allowing students to immerse themselves in a colorful place to study, and “Continuity of Canopy,” which aimed to incorporate solar power into the space.