First Year Final Project: The Selma Welcome Center

First year architecture students in the Foundation Unit curriculum complete a final project annually that is the accumulation of all they have learned in the year. It always encompasses the design of a structure, and students are required to deal with plans, sections and elevations. This year, the final project was atypical in both rigor and scale.

The assignment was to design a Welcome Center for the city of Selma, Alabama. The site of the project was The Songs of Selma park, located at the base of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The location was chosen for its high visibility for visitors and tourists. The students were asked to create a welcome center and redesign the park, parts of which are in disrepair. The rigor and scale of this project is not just challenging due to the complexity of the terraced site, but also because of the need to consider historical context within design and not just physical.  

Debbie Ku, Assistant Professor, and Kevin Moore, Associate Professor, the co-teachers of the Foundation Unit Studio, presented this particular project knowing it was complex, but they felt confident the students were up for the challenge. Many of the students commented that they were excited for the opportunity to finally design a building as much of the first-year curriculum utilizes more abstract design assignments to teach basic design concepts. All were excited to complete a project with a real site they could visit, walk on, and then design for with all the complexities presented involved.

Ku and Moore said each student needed to design a space that related to the site but also the larger context of what Selma means to the Civil rights movement and equity in our world. “The site is the front door of Selma” said Ku “and the project needed to serve both the Selma community as well as the visitors who come from all over the globe to see this historic location in the state of Alabama.”

On the day of the final review studio professors from 4th and 5th year were invited to participate as jurors for the students. The faculty were consistently impressed with the work of the students. Moore said, “There was huge variety of proposals of the students. We had designs that were non-building park proposals as well as clear building proposals. The students were able to choose the direction of their project and the variety of designs across the studio was impressive.”

Related people:
Kevin Moore, Deborah Ku