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Welcome to the 2012 DiscoverDesign National High School Architecture Competition!
These are the instructions for entering a design project in the competition.

Design Challenge Background
Cafeterias are often dark and crowded. They are uncomfortable and unhealthy.

Design Challenge Brief
The challenge is to redesign your high school cafeteria and re-think how your school’s cafeteria should, or could, function asas a healthy eating space. What does a cafeteria look like that is designed around a person’s needs?

You may redesign the interior of the existing cafeteria space, expand on the existing space, or design a completely new addition on to your school building. Your design should contain all the spaces and functions required for a typical school cafeteria – a variety of seating options for students (inside and out!), as well as a food storage, space for the kitchen, outdoor eating spaces, serving areas, and places to pay for the meal. You should also consider sustainability issues and the environmental impact of your design.

In our school with 3,200 students the cafeteria can get full very quickly in the lunch period. There are also long lunch lines in which students may not get food until near the end of lunch. With all of these people the side of the school can become crowded. I have decided to create a satellite cafeteria for the other side of our school in which students would not be packed into one space and that the students on this end of the school would have quick and easy access to a cafeteria without having to cross the school.


from your description, it seems that you are proposing a completely separate building for the cafeteria. interesting. let's get some sketches posted so we can see what you are thinking.

Great idea and you have a pretty good size school. Sounds as the existing cafeteria has reached its limits. Hand sketches are the fastest way to get your ideas accross. Ever hear of an Architect sketching on a napkin during a lunch with a client. You may not have to use a napkin but sketching is a very effective tool to present and get your ideas across. Any professional will tell you that hand sketching even in todays world of computers is still an important skill to have. Looking to see your progress.

nice progress and great sketches. i think its really great that you are thinking about energy efficiency in your project. have you thought about incorporating operable windows to get fresh air into the space?

Keep the posts coming, Matt!

Cool idea. I would suggest that when you are uploading sketches to draw the line darker because they are hard to see.

Your sketches remind me of the Museum of Fruit in Yamanashi, Japan. The link is to a view of their eating area outside the food court( This project might be a good resource to inspire new ideas regarding structure and form.

The computer drafting work is nice, and you've done a great job laying out the food service and dining area.

you've done great work thinking about the technical aspects of this project. now, i'd like to see some ideas about the experience of being in the space. what materials are you going to use? is there any kind of special furniture you want to incorporate?

Great job so far, I like seeing the progression of your idea from sketches to a more developed drafted plan. A site plan or key plan that shows the location of your proposed addition in the context of the school campus would be helpful, as well as provide a way to indicate the orientation of the building. It's good to see that you are conscious about the need to balance the desire for lots of natural light with making sure the space does not get too hot, given all the glazing that you have in your design. Though make sure that you have provided enough shading (is the film enough?) and natural ventilation (are the windows operable?) within your design, especially given your location/climate. If possible it would be nice to see a perspective sketch of the interior to illustrate even more details and what it would feel like to be in your proposed space.

spectacular! this design is freakin fantastic keep up the good work matt i wanna see what the inside looks like

Hello MV. Please consider changing your portfolio cover image (from the empty lot at school) to something that represents your cool original design. How about a rendering of your new model instead? The portfolio cover is your 'face' to the world and helps 'sell' your idea. More people will want to click on your project if they see that you have an orginal design there. Keep up the good work!

Hey Matt, I am really digging the design you created. Check out the architect and inventor Buckminster Fuller for more inspiration. He invented the geodesic dome!

I too am looking forward to seeing interior shots of the cafeteria. It would also help if you labeled areas on the plans and sections.

The dome would look more powerful if it were a full sphere instead of half. I like the sections that run east-west more than the ones that run north south. You could create a dome that was half enclosed with windows, while the other half was left open. What if you were to move the outdoor seating to go on the north side of the building? That way people would be out of direct sunlight, but still enclosed in the open dome.

Sketch it out to see if you like my suggestion and show us what you come up with!

I'll check back soon to see if you have made more progress.

Okay, Matthew - I think all the recent posts say it all! We all expect to see more! (Nice, nice work so far!) It would be really helpful to see how your design fits into the existing building layout. (Remember, design does not happen in a vacuum.)

Would it be possible for the dome, if it became a full dome, to be half on top of the existing cafeteria? I agree with the comments above. I do appreciate all the drawing you've done and your use of Autodesk's freewheel to share your digital work; it helps us to understand and see your ideas. The advantage of drafting on the computer is that it is easy to explore different ideas or modifications to your idea quickly. Make sure that you save as with a new name (probably good if you're drawing in 3d) or copy and paste iterations within a single file (quite fine if you're drawing in 2d), so that you maintain a history of your design process / project's evolution.

The model looks great, Matt! Can you also add the image from your portfolio cover to either the "Develop Solutions" or "Final Design" step so we can see it larger? I know you already have the DWF file uploaded in Freewheel, but it would be good to have a jpg rendering - perhaps of a different view? - of it to view within your project file also.

I really like this design, but I really want to see what the inside looks like. Is it student friendly? The idea that I'm getting from the overall view is more corporate.

Seeing the interior rending definitely illustrates what a dominate element the glass half dome becomes. I think the views of the sky and natural light make it feel open and expansive though it also feels like a greenhouse and I'm still worried about it getting too hot in there even with the 3M film on the windows. Have you considered making some of the windows operable? Also I noticed you mention in your text that the half dome is oriented with the sun's path, though even the flat side of your dome is glass, so really you have glazing in all directions so I think the effect would be the same no matter how it was oriented to the sun.

I am really impressed with the level of detail you have brought to this project. It looks fantastic and the rendering you posted almost looks professional. The difference is really just a matter of resolution and filling the space with RPCs (people).

The only two suggestions I would have are: 1. Explore the structure of the dome, since it's raised off the floor you would probably need a tension ring of a certain thickness. 2. That is a lot of glass, and FL is hot climate, even with 3M sun control window films. You might want to consider being even more creative, playing around with and replacing some glass panels with louvres, metal panels, or even spandrel panels. If you're opposed to that approach you may want to incorporate a sun screen that could hang off the steel, it could be a decorative piece. Maybe you could find a way to keep it small by making it a mechanical piece to allow movement with the direction of the sun.

Keep in mind I would not expect you to tackle either of these issues with a busy class schedule, they are merely ideas you might explore if you become bored over a break.

Keep up the good work.

Thank you for participating in the TAH2 program. I've enjoyed following your project. It's been great to see you utilizing both hand sketches and computer renderings to develop your ideas. You have demonstrated your technical skills and creative ideas well. Make sure when following the design process you take advantage of exploring and testing different ideas early on, and modifying a design when it will make it even better. You've arrived at a great point with the project though if you are passionate about it and have had fun working on it, I'd suggest continuing with it and thinking about the suggestions that were made above to evolve it even further. I wish you all the best in the future and hope you consider pursuing a career in designing built environments some day.

Very impressive project. This is university level work, and there are many professionals who would like to be able to render a project as well as your final image.

However, I agree with some of the comments above. If you had a variety of options that you considered along the way, it is helpful to post and share those ideas with your audience. Revealing your process, and how you logically arrived at a solution, helps to strengthen your scheme. The viewer/reader can see the steps that took you from the assignment through your renderings. This will help you to address questions such as 'Did you consider ____' and you will be able to say 'yes, I did, here were the results, and because of X, Y or Z, I decided that the best option was to do _____.'

Having said that, your plans, section, elevation and model are quite comprehensive. You have considered furniture, materials, operations, sun path and the overall experience of the space, particularly at lunch time. Great work. About the only thing you could easily add would be some scale figures in the sections, elevations and renderings so that the size of the space could be understood quickly.

Best of luck in the future, and hope that you consider a career path that takes advantage of your obvious talents.

Many thanks for contributing to TAH2 as well - the dialogue that you have started will assist all of us in the future to refine the curriculum and the exchange process.

One problem I see is that at night, on the top floor, you would not be able to see. even on cloudy days it would be too dark because there are no artificial light sources at all (that I can see) on the top floor.

Curious about the instructions for this step of this cafeteria design problem? >>

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In the Collect Info step of the design process, you try to gather as much information as possible about your existing school cafeteria, along with the students and staff who will use it.  You can't propose new solutions until you figure out and document what the existing problems are.

Try This

  • Walk around the interior of your school building and take photos or a short video of the existing cafeteria. You can upload those photos or short videos here. Be sure to write a detailed description for every image.

Think About

  • How many students need to be seated in the cafeteria during one period?
  • What types of furniture is used in the existing cafeteria? Does it need to be movable? Why or why not?

Try This

  • Interview students, cooks, and other staff about what they think of the existing cafeteria.  What changes would they make to spaces if they had a choice?
  • Make a list of those features that you really like about how your cafeteria looks and functions.
  • Make separate list of all the ways that your current cafeteria is not so well designed (chairs may be uncomfortable or the light is poor, or there are really great outdoor eating areas).

Try This

  • Take measurements of the overall dimensions of your existing cafeteria.
  • Take interior photos of the hallways and entrances that lead into your existing cafeteria.

Think About

  • What are the different pathways that students use to get into the cafeteria now?
  • What types of food are available in your cafeteria? How are they stored?


Try This

  • Visit Flickr or another photo sharing site and search for other types of cafeterias to determine good and bad examples of how cafeterias accommodate user’s needs, especially teens.

Think About

  • Does your new school cafeteria need to look like the same typical cafeteria with long rows of tables?  What other eating spaces around the world are inspiring and interesting?

mvetterick's work for the Collect Information step:

There are approximately 3,200 students in our school in which there are two separate lunches. With around 1,600 students eating lunch at the same time I feel there needs to be more space for the students to go. The cafeteria that we currently have can hold 1,188 students, though not everyone eats lunch in the cafeteria. I think that with a second cafeteria it would help open up more space for students to enjoy their lunch time. Looking at an overview of the school with Google Earth and going around the school I found a spot that I think is close enough to the school as well as easily accessible by students on that end of the school. I would also plan on using 3M Sun Control window films over the windows to make sure that the sun is not beating down on the students.

Curious about the instructions for this step of this cafeteria design problem? >>

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In the Brainstorm Ideas step of the design process, you put some early ideas down on paper that show what you've found in the Collect Info step.  You also might take more photos to show specific new ideas you have. 

The simple diagrams you make here will help you understand how the existing cafeteria location and design compare with your new ideas.


Try This

  • Walk around the exterior of your school building and take photos of possible locations for your new cafeteria with outdoor seating.

Think About

  • Will this cafeteria replace your school's existing cafeteria or become an addition to a different part of the building? Will it be built in an empty lot or space?  Will it be underground or built on the roof?  You decide.

Try This

  • Use Google Maps to view and print out an aerial photo of your school. 

Think About

  • Spend some time looking at the aerial photo of your school.  What types of other buildings surround your school?  Homes, businesses, parks, parking lots, or an empty field?  How will these other buildings impact the design of your new library?
  • What types of streets surround your school? Are they busy or quiet?     

Try This

  • On a piece of tracing paper placed over the aerial photo of your school, sketch a diagram showing a large arc around the building to show the path of the sun throughout the day.  This drawing is called a site analysis diagram.  (Remember, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.)
  • Draw other lines on this diagram to indicate the best views around the building.

Think About

  • Based on the site analysis diagram you've sketched, where is the sun located throughout the school day? 
  • How can the indoor and outdoor seating areas of your new cafeteria be positioned to take advantage of the sunlight for good lighting?

mvetterick's work for the Brainstorm Ideas step:

A sketch of my proposed idea.

A section of my original design.

An overhead sketch of the area which I plan on placing the second cafeteria.

This is the site I am looking at putting the new cafeteria on.

Another perspective of the same site.

Circulation of people. Blue is the flow of people, green is landscaped areas.

I want to make the second cafeteria on the opposite side of the school. I am also looking at placing storefront in a dome shape to let in natural light and cut down on the use of artificial lighting and creating a brighter cafeteria. To cut down on glare and heat 3M sun control window films can be placed on the windows with different intensities at different hights on the storefront. the darker films would be placed on the top and lighter films near the bottom creating an effect that looks similar to the sky. On a clear day when you look up at the sky it is darker directly above you and as you look further out the sky becomes lighter and lighter, this is the effect I would like to achive with the film as well as helping cut down on heat, light intensity, and air conditioning costs/ energy costs. I would like to add a second story with a balcony to add more seating and give covered outdoor seating on the first floor and open outdoor seating on the second. The direction in which the sun travels is also how the half dome storefront is faced so that as the sun moves throughout the day it gives light through the curve of the dome to give more natural light. The food service area will be a long bar that students can select the food they would like to eat and the take the food to the cashiers.

Curious about the instructions for this step of this cafeteria design problem? >>

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In the Develop Solutions step, your rough ideas come together with drawings and models that can show others your solutions for a new cafeteria.

Important! Since DiscoverDesign is about investigating the design process, the other people viewing your project - other students around the country, your teacher, and the competition judges - want to see how your ideas have changed over time. This means that while you're working on your digital model, you’ll want to be sure to keep re-saving it with a new file name every few days as you work through the steps.

Try This

  • Draw a sketch or use software such as Google SketchUp, AutoCAD, or Revit to illustrate your ideas.  You can upload photos (JPG files) from your SketchUp model, video fly throughs (FLV files) of your SketchUp model, or drawings (DWF files) from AutoCAD.


Try This

  • Make sure your cafeteria includes the following types of spaces and furnishings.
    - indoor seating area (tables, seating)
    - outdoor seating area (tables, seating)
    - food storage (shelves)
    - cook desk (place to check out)
    - small office for kitchen staff
    - bins for recycyling


mvetterick's work for the Develop Solutions step:

The base of the new cafeteria with refrense to where it sits on the site.

Sidewalks around the school and leading to the new cafeteria.

My idea for a second cafeteria. I have created a countinous line with food set out for students to take uup to the cashier and pay for with two entrances for this line and three cashiers. There is also a teachers dining area which is set up were food can be placed there by the kitchen staff so that it is not out of their way yet still have acess to the room from the serving area. seating is set up for students both inside and out with tables form small groups our large groups and bar style setting as well as tables with couch and chair seating.

Curious about the instructions for this step of this library design problem? >>

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The final step of the design process is to create more finished drawings that illustrate your ideas to others. Remember, your explanation text, and the types of drawings, images, and models you share need to tell the whole story of your project to someone who may or may not have ever visited your school.

You might want to share floor plans, elevations, renderings of your digital model, photos of a physical model, or a video animation of your model.

Continue to collect feedback from your peers, teachers and the online community to help you improve on your final design. Be sure to review and add constructive comments on the work of other students who are solving the same design problem. If your ideas change, be sure to explain your thinking and let others know about the new work you have posted to your account.

mvetterick's work for the Final Design step:


An interior rendering from the second floor.