On Saturday, May 11th a team of students from WHSAD took a trip to the town of Lake Como, New Jersey to present their proposed redesigns for Lake Como to the town’s committee. According to Executive Director of the project, Heather Butts, “The project is a collaboration with Lake Como, NJ, Monmouth University, H.E.A.L.T.H for Youths and the Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design. The title of the project is ‘Lake Front Fun and Wildlife Park’ and the collaboration was formed to achieve environmental, health, social and economic improvement in the town of Lake Como, NJ. The school has effectively ‘adopted’ Lake Como with an educational approach that will benefit both the students and the residents of the town.”
Back in late 2018 the board decided they needed to renovate the area around Lake Como and began looking for a team to take on the project. Heather Butts had suggested that they should go to Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design to ask for help. The committee was enthralled with the idea from the start. Jon Gibbons, chairman of the Lake Como environmental commission said, “We loved the idea of letting WHSAD design the revamp.” Mayor Higgins, who is also an Assistant Principal of the local High School, was entirely on board with the idea and after a sit down with WHSAD principal Gill Cornell the plan was set. Earlier this year in January, the student architects from WHSAD visited Lake Como to meet with Lake Como’s board to receive some guidelines and regulations that set parameters and needs for the lake. At the same time, as Jon Gibbons said, “ [We] Didn’t restrict the students creativity.” Over the course of the next four months six groups of WHSAD students from freshmen to seniors worked on redesigns, trying to meet the needs put in place by the committee. Concerns that the students addressed included the preservation of native plants as well as flooding and tourism.
On May 11th the students presented their redesigns to the community of Lake Como and at the end of the presentations the committee picked a winning design. The next step, which will be addressed this summer, will see the students refining their designs based on feedback that the panel at Lake Como provided. Although Lake Como is a small town, the redesign is being treated like any other professional project. Students are treating the community of Lake Como as clients. The consensus among Lake Como’s board members is that the project will run over the course of a couple of years, meaning that as WHSAD students continue to refine their designs, new students will be coming and adding their input to the project. Of course, WHSAD alumni will still be able to come back and help finish what they started. The ultimate goal of the project is not only to improve the beauty of Lake Como, but also help introduce students to the type of work and business an architect or designer will have to go through.
In order to create their plans, students had to visit Lake Como and conduct their own research. Mr. Rodriguez, one of the school’s architecture teachers, listed several challenges the students faced such as negotiating, working with people from different backgrounds, and being able to effectively present their designs to architects and non-architects alike. These challenges helped the students develop skills like communication, time management, and attention to detail. While there was a great deal of free will in the project, the students had to address the needs and problems facing Lake Como or, in this case, the client. One member of the winning group, Senior Kaylin Guzman, described the problem of how many tourists during the summer drive right past Lake Como and head straight for the beach. Her group did extensive research on the lake and suggested minimalist changes to help improve the overall wildlife. Things like color of plants attracting pollinators and even the gender ratio in the town were all things they looked into. According to the mayor, that was one of the reasons their concept resonated best with the committee. Another senior, Reggie Huggins, was a standout among the groups as he had to do his project alone.
Some of the problems he faced were things like time management and learning to be decisive and focused. He said, “This was an experience I was glad I had. Something like this really sets you up to present in a college setting.” Ultimately, this is a learning experience for every student who touches the project as the time table for any sort of realization of the design could be five years from now. Despite that, both WHSAD and the Lake Como community are fully dedicated to revitalizing the lake.
Featured below is the video of Mayor Higgins awarding Joseph Balbuena and Kaylin Guzman for their winning proposal as well as videos of each group’s competing design proposals.