COD Architecture Students Design and Build Campus Gathering Pavilion

gathering pavilion

By Brian Kleemann

Seven College of DuPage Architecture students have turned their vision into reality after designing, building and installing a gathering pavilion on the Glen Ellyn campus.

Located next to the McAninch Arts Center, the wooden open-air structure is called Umbra 82 by the students who created it. “Umbra” refers to the darkest part of a shadow, while 82 is the number of white boxes that are inset into the piece. Students designed the structure to play with light and shadows.

Click here for photos, click here for a video and click here for a time lapse of the construction phase. 

The project was funded by a grant through the College Foundation’s Resource for Excellence program. Mark Pearson, Professor of Architecture at COD, said the eight-week Design Build class is distinctive because the students actually construct their project.

“It’s a valuable learning experience because it makes students think differently about design,” he said. “Building the project actually changes the conversation, because they now discuss what materials to use and the scale of the structure. When they get into the shop, they actually see how every piece connects together.”

Pearson first received the Resource for Excellence grant in 2014. The student-designed pavilion from the inaugural Design Build class is still in use and located next to the Technical Education Center on the west side of campus.

“Now it’s fun to create a pavilion for the east side of campus,” he said. “It will attract a different audience and it’s located in a high foot-traffic area by the McAninch Arts Center.”

The students first researched similar types of installations and small structures. They next broke into teams, studied a variety of design approaches and presented ideas to the group. Three ideas were selected and developed in more detail before a final design was chosen. The students then worked together to complete drawings before meeting with Bruce Schmiedl, Director of Facilities at COD, and DuPage County officials in order to obtain the proper permits.

It was the real-world experience that Jose Maldonado (West Chicago) enjoyed most.

“The process involved teamwork, and even if your design wasn’t chosen, everyone’s input counted as the project was finalized,” he said.

Maldono, who would like to transfer to either the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee or the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said the class gave him a chance to confirm that architecture was the right career choice. 

“I recommend this class because you need experience in order to understand what being an architect means,” he said. “When you work in the studio lab, it’s just you. But in a class like this, your sweat, blood and tears go into it. And the best thing about it was that we all developed and worked on it together.”

Arlinda Haxhiu (Lombard) also enjoyed the group dynamic as they completed the project, which needed to be both distinctive yet practical as it had to be built in a short period of time.

“We wanted something sculptural, and having input from everyone added to the final design,” she said. “For example, Jose told us the original design was too static, so we modified and improved it.”

Haxhiu, who would like to transfer to either UIUC or the Illinois Institute of Technology, plans to become a registered architect and said the experience added to her skills. For example, she had never used drills or saws before the construction phase of the project.

“It was exciting to build something for the school, and I’m proud of what we all accomplished,” she said.

Malak Saadeh (Willowbrook) said she was interested in the design’s movement and pattern.

“We developed hierarchy and pattern within the modular pieces, and the south-facing wall allows for shadows to show through,” she said. “I felt we had a responsibility with this project. We wanted to prove to everybody that we could do it even if we were a small group.”

Saadeh is transferring to IIT and eventually would like to build “beautiful buildings that people will talk about.”

“I also want to thank the COD Foundation for providing the funding for this experience,” she said. “I’m very excited about seeing it finished, and I feel great about our achievement.”

Andrew Dunlop (Naperville) said the pavilion needed to be something that seven people could build without compromising their vision.

“We knew what we wanted and what we could do,” he said. “The collaboration between seven people coming together with different ideas is what I imagine working at an architecture firm will be like.”

Dunlop is interested in a commercial architecture career and working with environmentally friendly materials. He also would like to design his own dream home.

“When you create models and drawings, you don’t know if it’s going to work unless you actually build it, which is what we had the opportunity to do in this class,” he said.

College of DuPage is an accredited community college that serves more than 29,000 students each term. The College, which grants nine associate degrees and more than 170 certificates in 100 areas of study, is the second largest provider of public undergraduate education in Illinois.

For more information about the Architecture program, visit, email or call (630) 942-2331.

College of DuPage

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