September 14, 2020 Architecture Students Design Urban Food Hub, Receive Honorable Mention in ACSA Steel Competition

In summer 2020, Architecture students Briley Houston and Phillip Minton were awarded an honorable mention in the 20th annual ACSA Steel Design Student Competition for the 2019-2020 academic school year. This competition is administered by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture and sponsored by the American Institute of Steel Construction.

HOOPLA Project

Houston and Minton, led by Lecturer Kevin Stevens, competed in the Urban Food Hub category with their design titled HOOPLA.

HOOPLA receives an honorable mention for its innovative inclusion of children as a focus for the design. The project uses the steel structure to animate the building and makes food an experiential part of the building,” said the jurors for this year’s competition.

Houston and Minton wrote that the primary goal for HOOPLA was to give the family the power to become the farmer.

“The idea behind the design was to make it at a scale that even a child could understand and take part in,” they wrote.

The hub, itself, revolves around two main cores, one that stores and recycles the compact kits for use by the consumer and the other to process and store food. The space frame that drapes over it serves both as structure and playscape, with slides, nets and openings that beg to be explored, as well as moments where the playful environment pushes the boundary into the work environment.

“With our proposal, the food hub becomes a collaborative community project that distributes semi-transient infrastructures to enable families to be self-sustaining while simultaneously promoting agricultural education and curiosity,” Houston and Minton wrote. “Excess food grown by the community is dropped off at the Food Core to be hoisted up by the workers, processed and resold at the market for a tidy profit. All the while, this bustling center is blanketed by slides, nets and the curious cries of playing children.”

Inspiration came from whimsy. “For this project, we were initially inspired by toys and the question of whether that could be applied to the steel structure,” Houston said. “We wanted to create something that was exciting and whimsical while being as easily assembled as a Tinker Toy or LEGO set.”


The ACSA Steel Design Student Competition challenges students to explore design issues related to the use of steel in design. For the 2019-2020 competition, steel had to be the primary material used, and entries had to have at least one space that used a long-span steel structure.

Nearly 200 designs were submitted for the whole competition, and jurors chose first, second and third places and six honorable mentions to be awarded.

According to the competition’s website, the winners were selected on “the criteria of creative use of structural steel in the design solution, successful response of the design to its surrounding context, successful response to basic architectural concepts such as human activity needs, structural integrity and coherence of architectural vocabulary.”