As the leading manufacturer of windows and doors, Pella understands the importance of nurturing and supporting the next generation of architects and designers who will shape our future cities and towns. That’s why, for the past two years, we’ve partnered with North Dakota State University for the Pella Design Competition.
The Pella Design Competition is a scholarship program that not only aims to provide students with financial assistance, but also gives them the opportunity to build their portfolios by working with real industry professionals.
Two key people who assisted us with the design of this program were Dr. Susan Schaefer Kliman, Architecture Department Chair and Professor at NDSU, and David Crutchfield, professional Architect and Associate Professor at NDSU. The official host of our design competition, David teaches the “Environmental Control Systems” course within NDSU’s School of Design, Architecture & Art.
“When we were approached by Pella about creating the scholarship program, we really wanted to develop it as an assignment that pulled from all the course content in the architecture program,” David explains. “And so the scholarship became a comprehensive contest for the course; a demonstration of what they’ve learned.”
The assignment is as follows: All third-year students of the architecture program must come up with a design for a stand-alone Pella showroom. The showroom must include a warehouse, offices, restrooms, breakrooms, storage, and more.
This year, students were given a real-world location and were tasked with determining where the parking lot would go, the orientation of the building, and its shape and form, all within a specific height and square footage.
“We also asked them to consider maximizing the amount of windows and energy use, and to consider energy modeling (or determine how the building is going to perform),” says David. “That particular element is what we like to celebrate through the Pella products,” he adds.
A complex contest to be sure, the Pella Design Competition poses a challenge worthy of real-world professional architects and designers.
Pete Malm, Pella Northland’s Commercial Architectural Consultant, has collaborated with David on the scholarship program since its inception. Pete works with students throughout the semester to answer questions and prepare them for the comprehensive assignment.
“Halfway through the semester, I bring the students pizza and we have a ‘Lunch and Learn,’” says Pete. “Ultimately, our hope is to see some of the students in the next few years at the firms we work with. So, this program isn’t just about building those relationships for a year, it’s about building them for the long-term.”
Students' submissions are initially judged by their professor, David, based on the assignment’s parameters. He then chooses the top 20 submissions and sends them over to Pete and his team at Pella to make the final decision.
“Aside from the exterior, we’re interested in how the building flows on the interior,” says Pete. “From the time somebody walks in the front door, we want to see that students understand what makes the most sense.”
This year, around 60 students submitted their designs for the contest. Of those 60, three received scholarships for their exceptional showroom designs. This year, the two runners-up were Cody Williamson and Haddey Zastrow, who won $500 each. The lucky winner was Emma Clark, who was awarded $3,000.
“All of our students worked very hard on this — there were a lot of very good and very impressive designs that didn’t make it to the top, but were outstanding,” David points out. “But more than a design competition, this is an important exercise in engaging with the industry. Through this contest, the students begin to understand that there are real products and real people that they will be interacting with throughout their careers.”
Pete agrees about the importance of this aspect of the competition, citing Pella’s own origin story:
Back in 1927, Pella owner Pete Kuyper went to the architect community to present his “rollscreen” products for the first time. He wanted to hear the architects’ honest feedback and hopefully get his products specified.”
Luckily, Kuyper was successful. And from those original relationships with the architecture community, Pella grew into the business we know and love today.
“So, our goal is to start building those relationships at the university level with the architecture students, professors, and administrators,” says Pete. “NDSU is the first school we have partnered with, and it’s been a great success thanks to Susan, David, and the students.”
Ultimately, David hopes the Pella Design Competition gives his students a “window” into what the future could look like as they continue to build their careers in architecture.
“We want them to know that there are people they can reach out to, and resources out there to assist them in their development of designs,” says David. “And that, at the end of the day, we’re all in this industry together to create amazing buildings!"