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Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News
Architecture student Judson Kemsley carries a man-made tree that represents the suffocating effect of plastic on the environment.

Using at least 85 percent of salvaged materials, found objects or recyclables, University of Utah architecture students will address issues of time and sustainability.

"They have to be aware of the past, in terms of materials used, the present use, which will be very short term, and then the future use as well," said U. design studio professor Mimi Locher. In addition to its spatial design, the student projects must have some sort of agenda.

"We're trying to instill a sense of ownership in the city, and in the community," she said. "They need to start thinking about what they can do, even as architecture students, that can help revitalize downtown."

Charged with imagining and creating architectural installations that resonate with ideas on how to recycle an otherwise "empty" place downtown, students have chosen to examine concepts such as the sustainability of everyday household objects, the nature of fast food's impact on society, the overabundance of media choice in society, issues of the non-biodegradability of plastics, and the roles of consumers in society, to mention a few.

U. student Carl Greene said his group contemplated using objects that would normally end up at the Salvation Army or Deseret Industries, with hopes that people would bring "bought and used" items to the site today. Those objects would then be layered in homemade bins that would somehow depict an erosion over time.

"We feel that the best kind of architecture is the kind that involves those who are participating in it," Greene said. "In our economy, we are driven to buy things, and a lot of times the things that we buy get thrown away."

Sustainability, climate change and other societal issues were among those his group has conceptualized over the weeks, but consumerism and re-use of objects was what seemed to resonate most with them.

"Using architecture, we're going to try and reflect what some of those issues are," Greene said.

Rather than presenting their final projects to the faculty at the College of Architecture + Planning, students will be showcasing the designs today on the old DV8 lot downtown. The projects, Locher said, will hopefully "connect people to an idea about time."

Displaying the projects on the DV8 lot, she said, is a perfect depiction of time and how time creates change. The once-thriving building, which housed an active dance/music club, caught on fire in recent weeks, forcing owners to topple the structure making way for new ideas for the space.

"The Club DV8 site — with its recent history — exemplifies how a once-thriving destination can become derelict virtually overnight," Locher said. "We encouraged the students to integrate this notion into the concept of their installation."

For many of the nearly 50 students involved in their first year of the program, this is their first experience actually building one of their own designs. Working in small groups of four or five students introduces another challenge to the otherwise completely hands-on assignment.

In years past, the project has been done largely using disposable products. This year, Locher said salvaged materials are required, representing re-use and revitalization.

Twelve full-scale architectural installations will be available for public scrutiny at the lot, 115 S. West Temple, from 3 to 5 p.m. Student architects will be on hand to explain and interpret their work as well.

"We as architects would like to be able to design for the communities that we work in," Greene said. "For us as students to be able to get the community involved in our studios is like a euphoria for us."

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com