Penn State has had an architecture student design competition supported by the Pennsylvania Concrete Masonry Association and the NCMA Foundation for more than 20 years. The competition includes choosing a building program that is conducive to the use of concrete masonry as both a structural system as well as an aesthetic device.

In the past few years, sites for the project have been chosen in Manhattan and sponsor support has provided for an extremely intense one-day field trip to NYC for the students (typically leaving State College at 6 a.m., returning at 12 a.m.). The students analyze the site in situ, and the trip includes a very thorough tour of Manhattan’s rich architectural history, from 1700s to the present, with emphasis on buildings utilizing CMU. It is a great learning opportunity, as many students in the second year have not been to NYC. The programs for the projects have ranged from libraries to small museums to a faculty center/spa to an academic academy.

The competition also includes a one-day “hands-on” workshop at Penn College of Technology in Williamsport, where students learn the basics of the masons’ trade firsthand. The students typically have a great time and learn a great deal in the process. The faculty members at Penn Tech are more than generous in helping out and leading the tutorial.