The University of New Mexico School of Architecture + Planning architecture student Ian Tibbetts was recently awarded first place in the graduate division of the 2023 Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA) Student Design Competition. Tibbetts' project, Harmony Nature Center, references the delicate balance between nature, agriculture, and urbanization along the Rio Grande River.

The 2023 MBMA Competition challenged students to create an innovative metal building design for a new nature center and environmental research facility. With the guidance of faculty advisor Kristina Yu, Tibbetts created a design for a nature center at Bachechi Open Space that draws inspiration from the movement of grasses and reeds along the river, aiming to bring their sense of motion into the metal structure.

Harmony Nature Center
Ian Tibbetts' project, Harmony Nature Center at Bachechi Open Space.

"I am honored that I was selected for this award. The inspiration for the Harmony Nature Center is rooted in the distinct ecological environment of the highland desert portion of the Rio Grande River," said Tibbetts. "This intersection of natural environments with human ones drives the plan of the nature center, guiding visitors from an outwardly observant mindset to an introspective one, and back again.”

 "This is the third year of our design competition," said MBMA Director of Research and Engineering Lee Shoemaker. "It's exciting to see it grow and introduce metal building systems to students across the country. The creativity, insight, and enthusiasm of these students is wonderful to see and inspiring for our industry."

The competition was juried by Eric Pros, AIA, director of design for DS Architecture in Cleveland, Ohio; Terri Meyer Boake, LEED AP, professor at the University of Waterloo's School of Architecture, Cambridge, Ontario; Lauren Gwaltney, AIA, senior associate with Williams Blackstock Architects in Birmingham, Alabama; John Underwood, consultant to Behlen Mfg. Co., Columbus, Nebraska; and Robert Tiffin, national accounts manager with Silvercote in Greenville, South Carolina, and chair of the MBMA Architecture Committee.