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Architecture students, alumnus saluted by magazine

Ahmed El-Husseiny
Ahmed El-Husseiny
Pholkrit Sangthong
Pholkrit Sangthong

Wallpaper, a prestigious international design magazine, has listed two MIT graduate students in architecture and a 2006 alumnus of MIT's master's program in architecture in its global directory, "110 Up and Coming Graduates" in art and design.

Wallpaper cited MIT graduate students Pholkrit Sangthong and Peter DePasquale, along with Ahmed El-Husseiny (M.Arch. 2006), among nine young architects to watch. The Wallpaper directory also features images of their work.

"Having three architecture students in the Wallpaper directory confirms we are a major design force," said Yung Ho Chang, professor and head of MIT's department of architecture.

Wallpaper praised Sangthong's work for its originality, comparing it to that of Frank Gehry and Antoni Gaudi. Sangthong describes himself as a designer who likes pared-down, playful forms and works intuitively to develop them. Jan Wampler, professor of architecture, inspires him to focus on simplicity, he said.

Sangthong's proposed house design, shown in the Wallpaper listing, has the mass and serious aerodynamic look of a mobile home, yet its open spaces and warm gold exterior make it appear lighthearted.

In true MIT manner, Sangthong never strays far from a hands-on approach to design.

"I strongly believe in the touch of hands. I let them do the work first, very intuitively, sculpturally and freely. Using touch, I sense the qualities of space and form. Then I use a pencil. I love to do hand drawings. I can communicate better when I draw by hand, rather than by computer," he said.

Once he has an idea and drawings, Sangthong uses anything he can get his hands on--scrap foams, paper, found objects, clay, scrap woods, candy, food--to make a 3-D physical model, he said.

DePasquale, a graduate student currently working for New York architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, has found inspiration in the versatile Dutch product designer Hella Jongerius, according to Wallpaper.

The magazine featured an image of one of DePasquale's MIT projects--a proposal for an Aquatic Community Center to rejuvenate the pool and recreation area at Magazine Beach in Cambridge.

El-Husseiny, the 2006 alumnus now living and working in New York, caught Wallpaper's attention with his award-winning re-imagining of Cairo's central rail terminal.

El-Husseiny described his approach to design as one that blends diverse approaches and uses multiple technologies. He seeks to combine conventional rigor with computation-driven experimentation, he said, and a chance to study in Japan inspired him to draw from both contemporary and medieval Islamic architecture in his work.

MIT provided El-Husseiny with many talented and supportive professors. Among them, Shun Kanda, senior lecturer in architecture and El-Husseiny's studio professor and thesis advisor, was particularly inspiring. "His guidance and subtly incisive approach to teaching were invaluable to me," El-Husseiny said.

As for the essential tools of the trade, El-Husseiny listed heavy stock, lightly textured paper for spur-of-the-moment drawings; a set-square for technical drawing; and the "fastest computer I can get my hands on."

The Wallpaper Graduate Directory may be found at

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 30, 2008 (download PDF).

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