LAHS grad wins architecture award

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By Roger Snodgrass

A University of New Mexico architecture student with Los Alamos roots, has won an international student design competition.

Antonio Vigil, who graduated from Los Alamos High School in 2002, captured a first-place award for his vision of a recycling center for Albuquerque.

The competition was part of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture and Portland Cement Association’s third annual sustainable concrete student design competition.

“A recycling center is usually just a warehouse,” Vigil said in a telephone interview this week from Albuquerque. “I decided to make an icon of sustainability.”

While Albuquerque’s real recycling center is shoved out of sight on the West side of the city, Vigil wanted to bring it into the foreground.

He chose an Albuquerque landmark that once housed The Beach Waterpark, just off Interstate 25 at Montaño, at the entrance to a former Superfund site, now known as the Renaissance Industrial Park, where a number of big-box stores are now located.

In order to draw people into the area, Vigil thought of a recycling center combined with a local mercado (market) that would attract the public, but in a way that contrasted with the large wholesale and retail outlets in the area.

“These types of consumer attractions exemplify the waste and mass consumption that have plagued our cities far too long,” he wrote in his conceptual description of the project.

Siting the recycling center in full public view and replacing an abandoned tourist attraction, makes a strong statement on its own, he said, but the mercado adds a local cultural accent and reinforces the idea of reuse.

“The shape of the building is kind of a big-box itself, wrapped in concrete and similar to Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium,” he said. “It is more rigid, which speaks to how bales of recyclables get bundled by wire.”

Vigil’s design makes organic use of the former water park site, by providing an off-ramp entrance to the location on the upper level, while connecting the lower levels to the industrial traffic of the big-box neighborhood. It also integrates parking areas into the design, so they become stalls where merchants can sell their own goods directly from their vehicles.

He said there was probably not a good chance that the building would ever be built because of the site location.

“But maybe, given a different site, it could work in many types of areas,” he said.

His design was selected among 800 students from 33 architecture schools around the world.

A press release from the University of New Mexico quoted Associate Professor Geoffrey Adam’s, who taught the architectural technology studio course.

“I am extremely pleased for Antonio,” Adams said. “This is a wonderful accomplishment which emerges from the combination of individual hard work and acumen supported by the collective cauldron of the architectural studio environment.”

Vigil said he was born and raised in Los Alamos. He is the son of Manuel and Prescilla Vigil of White Rock. He attended Piñon Elementary School.

He received his bachelor’s degree in architecture at UNM in 2006 and went directly into a master’s program. He has one more year to finish.

“And then I want to stay in New Mexico and find a local firm that needs an intern, so I can get all my intern credits and become a licensed architect,” he said.