BY REBECCA ALVAREZ
It all started with her class. Before her class, no other Tech architecture student had ever set the bar or left any footprints in habiTECh for them to follow. They had no expectations, yet they had one goal: to design and build a house for a family in need and simultaneously gain experience for their careers as architects.
Stephanie Morse was a member of the 2006 senior architecture class that spearheaded habiTECH, and like her classmates, she had one goal in mind when she signed up for the project. Little did she know, her experience with the project would confirm her aspirations of becoming an architect and reveal to her something bigger than the house she was working to build.
“We were students,” Morse said. “I don’t think we had any expectations except learning to build.”
For the next nine months, Morse and her classmates worked through drafting and finalizing designs and putting in long work hours constructing the house that would ultimately brighten the faces of April, a Ruston resident, and her children.
Before the construction of their house, April’s boys and girls shared one room, Morse said. When the students designed the new house, they ensured each child would have their own room. The day they revealed the house to the family, the children’s joyful faces at the sight of their own rooms found a special place in Morse’s heart and became her greatest memory from the project, she said.
“It became clearer that my gifts and desires to create can help make others happy through a beautifully built world,” Morse explained. “It helped me realize even more this is what God’s plan for my life involved.”
Prior to pursuing a degree in architecture, Morse had already attended and graduated from Tech with a degree in interior design. She said she chose to study interior design in order to have the opportunity to create satisfying environments that would invoke happiness. And while her degree allowed her to express herself and utilize her creativity, she said she felt something was missing.
“I did not just want people to think I was going to select their drapes and paint colors,” she said.
In time, Morse decided to sign up with the Tech School of Architecture to try to lead the path she felt was meant for her.
A few quarters later, her decision to pursue her new degree brought her to start a legacy in habiTECH.
The house that soaked in the group’s sweat and time for nine months was featured in an issue of The Architectural Record, one of the world’s premier architecture publications.
Those who worked with Morse in the inaugurate project left their mark with the experiences they received for future aspiring architecture students to follow, not only in terms of business, but in humanitarianism.
“I believe God made us all different because there is always something you can learn from others,” she said.
LaQuanta Hargrove, future home owner, marks her territory by signing the wood her home is being built with.
BY AUSTIN VINING
Tech’s habiTECH for Humanity is in the process of building a home for one lucky family who will receive the keys May 19.
LaQuanta Hargrove, the mother and head of household, said it means a lot to her to be getting a house.
“I thought I was never going to get one at all,” she said, “but after 16 years it’s finally happening.“
Hargrove said she applied several times and was finally accepted in December.
“I was actually in Baton Rouge at a conference for my job when I got the call” she recalled.
She helped frame. She helped paint. She helped with everything, Hargrove said.
“I’m trying to be able to pay bills, and help build the house,” she said, “I’m just working enough to pay my bills because I have to put in 300 hours of work on the house.”
It is rewarding, Hargrove said about working on the house she will soon live in. She also said, if anything goes wrong with the house, she’ll know how to fix it through her experiences with building it.
Fifteen-year-old Jasmine Dodson, attends Ruston High School as a ninth grader and is Hargrove’s only daughter.
Dodson, who has never painted before, said she painted the outside of the house.
“I learned all the stuff they have to go through,” Dodson said, “and all of the hard work that goes into building a house.”
Dodson was not convinced her family would actually be moving, even after her mother told her.
“I thought we weren’t going to actually get it,” she said. “Most of the time when we are supposed to move we end up not moving. When she first told me I just had to think about it.”
It became a reality when they went to the ground-breaking ceremony, Dodson said.
She said her room is bigger than her old one, and she likes that. Dodson said she needed more space in her room as a high school student.
Hargrove said, “This is her first time picking out the color of her room,” and when Dodson was asked what color she wanted, she quickly said, “Pink!”
The children helped pick out the entire house, Hargrove said.
“We chose a lot of stuff like which model we wanted,” Dodson said. “I also changed the porch. Originally it had a roof over it, and I asked them to take it off.”
The boys were no help with picking out the designs, Hargrove said. They didn’t care as long as they had a place to sleep.
“She (Dodson) was concerned with the way things looked,” Hargrove said. “She would say, ‘No momma leave this and take this off and do this and this looks good. I said OK, just pick it out, tell them what you want and let them build it.’ “
Hargrove said the whole family is ready to move into the new house.
“My cousin said the day we move in she wants to spend the night with me,” Dodson said.
Even though they aren’t moving until May 19, Hargrove said she has already started packing.
BY GRACE MOORE
As a young boy, small blocks of green, blue, yellow and white flooded the carpet floor around him. Figures of all shapes and sizes were the product of his Lego construction, and each viewing left his spectators in awe.
Phillip Carthern, a senior architecture major from Shreveport, began his rudimentary stages of life with an interest in meteorology, only later to discover his true calling: architecture.
“It was around middle school when I knew I wanted to be an architect,” he said.
He said his career path was comparable to that of a highway in Mississippi. Around every bend a new bump was waiting and the rough terrain often complicated his travels.
“When I started college, I was so excited about everything,” Carthern said, “but my first day of class in Wyly Tower, I went to the wrong class. I sat for about 15 minutes and then the teacher called role and I didn’t hear my name.”
This was a great start for his journey in architecture, he said.
It wasn’t until the end of his freshman year when the majority of his excitement toward architecture finally came to fruition, Carthern said.
“It was my matchstick project,” he said. “I had to build a memorial for Tech’s Spirit of ’88, which was my first all-nighter ever.”
He chuckled and said it was mind altering; he believed he was going insane.
“There was something exciting about pulling that all-nighter,” he said. “It was an adrenaline rush.”
Unable to express why, Carthern said the end of his project arrived with the compilation of 745 matchsticks in his sculpture.
The following year was when Carthern said he had begun facing adversity.
“The second year is when they weed everyone out,” he said. “It’s survival of the fittest.”
He said the lowest point, however, happened when his assistant professor, Damon Caldwell, no longer wanted to teach him.
Carthern said his teacher explained, “I didn’t fit this image of an architect he had.”
“He only catered to about four people in our class,” he said. “He thought that negative reinforcement was the way to go.”
During Caldwell’s class, he began neglecting Carthern especially when taking role. Caldwell wouldn’t let him sign the role in the hopes that he would drop or fail, Carthern said.
Through this hardship, Carthern said, he discerned his life path for hours on end.
“I came to the conclusion that I won’t let anyone stand in my way of what I wanted to achieve,” he said. “If I could say one thing to him now, it would be ‘Thank you. What you did made me stronger; I’m still here.’”
He surpassed the major obstacle of a skeptical professor early in his college career, he said, and his four years of hard work have finally paid off.
He and his class are building a house in Ruston for habiTECH, Louisiana Tech’s branch of Habitat for Humanity.
“I now have had the opportunity to have hands on experience and learn how a house is built,” he said. “I’ve never built a house before. I may not get everything right, but I’m a fast learner.”
He said he has enjoyed every experience in his life regarding architecture, from the childhood Lego creations to building a real house for a family to inhabit.
“I’m not too bitter about anything anymore, it made me stronger,” he said. “It helped me understand that nobody could talk me out of what I want to do. So many people told me I couldn’t do it—well look at me now.”
BY CHAD MERRITT
The habiTECH house began months ago as an undeveloped plot of land months, and will soon become a home.
Though many can easily picture the before and after of the lot where the house is built, the construction of the house is much more detailed.
Once groundbreaking had begun, the first thing accomplished was the completion of the foundation. The mound of dirt on the site changed forms many times before the foundation was completed.
Krystal Cannon, a senior architecture major, described the chaotic task at hand.
“There was no order,” she said. “There was only one task to be done, and there were a lot of us out here to do it.”
There was only dirt in the lot at first, and then rebar became the next ingredient in the house recipe. Much like cake mix, the concrete was poured into the desired shape and left to harden so the class could continue the task. The framing was next to be implemented into the project. The beams rose one after another and appeared like a sickly cornfield of risen wood.
Chrissy Short, a senior architecture major, said the framing of the house made everything surrounding it look tiny.
“The framing for the house looked huge from the ground, but when I got to the top it was so much higher than I thought,” Short said.
With the skeleton of the house in place, the muscle could then be applied. Wires and pipes snaked throughout the structure with insulation and sheetrock covering the house, finally giving it the appearance of a house.
However, just because it finally looks like a house, doesn’t make it a home. The house is full of construction equipment and ominous puddles, which dot the cold-concrete floor. When walking in the house, one’s footsteps kick up dust and cause various metal pieces to clang together underfoot. The walls are sticky with plaster and full of electrical wires without a socket to house them. There are holes for air-condition ducts leaving ominous black holes in the wall. A small concrete slab for an air conditioner sits with its connection pieces lying on the ground.
It is merely a matter of perspective, however, as to how one looks at the current state of the house. Kelly Guilbert, an employee of Encana, is working on the site and has optimistic views for the current state of the house.
“It’s a new and creative house that has cool architectural interest,” she said. “It definitely brings more flair and stands out amongst the houses in the area.”
The modern house for the modern world is how Guilbert describes the new house.
In the next few weeks, the walls will dry and the floor will be clean. The house will be fitted with power sockets and an awning. Radiant rays of light will shine through the windows onto the high walls in the house. The once-empty lot will be transformed into more than a house; it will be transformed into a home.
The future owner of the house, Laquanta Hargrove, seemed elated about her future home.
“It’s a nice cozy home. I can easily call it my home already,” she said.
While those on the ground won’t be able to notice, Hargrove says there is an element to the home she enjoys a lot. The floor plans of the home remind Hargrove of a butterfly. Hargrove says that from the sky the house resembles butterfly wings.
The efforts put into the project will come to fruition at the end of May when a home becomes the product of months of labor.
The inner structure is an important section of a house’s anatomy.
The dust underfoot is kicked up when walking through the house, but will soon be swept away with its completion.
BY AUSTIN VINING
Just north of the interstate in Ruston, La., a young man wakes up just before seven a.m., begins making coffee and prepares a bowl of granola before he sets out in his ’97 Acura Integra en route to the local university.
After his seven-minute drive to work, Kevin Singh commences the monotonous task of returning emails and phone calls. Singh manages to prepare for class once he finishes returning the abysmal ocean of attempted communication.
A student of Sing’s emphasizes that he is “always on the computer or on the phone.”
Suddenly and almost unexpectedly, it is time for lunch. Singh chooses not to drive back home today, but instead to peruse the limited options of on-campus dining. Before discarding the remnants of his meal, he stands and slides his chair forward to signify he has finished his meal. He must now prepare for his next responsibility. His task will provide a safe haven, a place of refuge, for three kids and their mom on May 19.
An Auburn University graduate and registered architect in the state of Ohio, Kevin Singh is now an assistant professor for the School of Architecture at Louisiana Tech University.
It’s nearly 1 p.m. and Singh assembles his students for a brief on what their assignments for the day are. The students are not professionally dressed. The students are not in a classroom. The students are not taking notes. The students are on site at the building location for habiTECH, a program affiliated with the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity.
“We printed out drawings 10 to 12 times before they were ready…20 to 30 pages every other day,” a student noted in regard to Singh’s intense focus on minute details.
While the students working on the house may not be in their finest garb, Singh appears well groomed in slacks and a button-up shirt. At first glance the only thing distinguishing this professor isn’t headed for the university is the absence of his tried and true briefcase.
True to his personality, Singh calls back a plumber when he notices water faucets were not installed in the proper position. “He wasn’t real happy,” a student later added.
Singh isn’t always business, his student Chris Perez said. Out of desperation Perez needed to get an extension ladder from the storage facility used by habiTECH. It was a Saturday and the facility was locked up, and Perez said, “I got told to jump the fence, break in, grab the ladders and walk them back to the truck. (Singh) told me he would bail me out if I got caught.”
“He did a little dance when we passed the building inspection,” said another of Singh’s students Kristen Caulk.
Singh also frequents the universities gym when he is not busy overseeing the building of houses. As an avid road cyclist, he enjoys “spin class with Andy.”
Around 10 p.m. Singh retires to his bed for a night of sleep before his next day of waking up just before seven a.m., beginning to make coffee and preparing a bowl of granola before he setting out in his ’97 Acura Integra.
Students build diligently while melting in the sunlight.
LaQuanta Hargrove signs a piece of wood to be used in the building of her home.
BY GRACE MOORE
A great wooden frame sits atop a colossal pile of bronze dirt; piercing hums from power tools subdue any noise except the muffled echo of nails penetrating lumber within by the might of a sterling hammer.
Students like worker bees buzz around the house seemingly oblivious to the overwhelming vibrations from power saws and air compressors.
Beaming lights radiate from above bringing with them an intense wet heat, which seems to melt garments onto skin.
Beads of perspiration saturate every brow, trickle down sun-stained cheeks and spatter on the wooden frame below, making the students one with the house.
One architecture student building for habiTech wears a green argyle T-shirt, which has shapes that complement his major, crouches over to assist the house’s future owner with an electric saw.
Close by is an overflowing scrap pile of wood lightly dusted with the adjacent dirt.
Amidst the ever-present clatter called progress, a distant voice on the roof says in a condescending tone, “Good God, what is that?”
Lines are an architect’s most valuable instrument, and his rooftop companion made an error.
Another student in a white tank top sarcastically jokes about how “well” the project is coming.
With a tone of deflation, the man on the roof says he is miserable.
Fifty more days loom over him as he melts in the sunlight with a drill in hand.
The sun blazes so fervently it seems only a matter of time before the site becomes a flickering bonfire large enough to prepare a 10-ton s’more.
When the clouds roll in on rare occasion, a silent sigh of relief seems to escape each mouth, and the breeze that follows feels like an angel with a hand-held fan.
The lingering smell of freshly cut wood floods every nose with the unique aroma of sawdust.
Inside the one-story framework exists a russet maze adorned by Gatorade, water and soda bottles, cell phones and a tall black bottle of wasp and hornet killer.
Snake-like cords of red and yellow wind about underfoot.
Several pieces of unused wood are decorated with penciled graffiti while they lay in waiting to complement the final structure.
When the house becomes a home on May 19, a mother and her three children will eagerly greet it.
“It’s small and cozy,” she says, “just enough for us.”
The near-crimson cedar to build the awning leans at an angle against other lumber on the floor; its rustic gleam makes it stand out like a ruby in the sand.
A great wooden frame sits atop a colossal pile of bronze dirt; piercing hums from power tools and the muffled echoes of nails penetrating lumber within begin to fade as the sun slowly retires from the sky.
Piece-by-piece, what is not already secured, the house-to-be is carted back into the massive construction trailer.
The worker bees are buzzing less in lieu of the workday’s end, but the daunting and repetitive task seems to hang heavy on their shoulders adding to the weight of their sweat-soaked clothes.