Tyler architecture student receives travel grant

Brandon Youndt, senior architecture major, combined his love of architecture and the environment on a recent trip to the Everglades.

Since the first time Brandon Youndt went to the Florida Everglades, he’s been studying the connections that humans have to the animal kingdom. When he arrived, he said he ventured into a world he never knew existed.

Last semester, the fifth-year architecture major received a travel grant which funded his trip. Youndt said the environmental aspect of his project make the Everglades the perfect place to explore his research.

“The project is about blurring the spatial boundaries between humans and nonhumans, creating spaces and habitats that are ambiguous in who and what species they’re designed for,” he said. “I’ve had this developing interest in understanding humans as natural creatures.”

His interest in the subject came after reading about humans having a “companion species” because of animals’ value to humanity. From there, Youndt expanded his research focus to explore animals’ habitats and social structures.

With the wide variety of animal species and habitats, the Everglades offer a balance of architectural and biological study. Youndt said although the grant came as a surprise, he believes it will impact his final thesis, due this spring, in ways he never imagined.

Perhaps more important than the research he was able to obtain, Youndt said, are the experiences he had while on the trip.

To prepare himself for some of the species he would see on his excursion through the marshes of the Everglades, Youndt visited the Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center in Port Everglades, Fla. He toured coral farms, research labs, scuba facilities and other areas of importance for his research. He said the real excitement came when he ventured south and finally saw the wetlands.

“I rented a kayak from the park service and spent four days paddling around mangrove forests, bays and swamps, camping on beach islands, and taking lots of notes and photos,” Youndt said.

Youndt said going into the trip without expectations allowed him to keep an open mind and enjoy the experience for all it was worth – especially in a dauntingly unpredictable environment like the Everglades.

“There was a cold front that moved in that week, so temperatures dropped and it got windy, which made things pretty difficult in navigating,” Youndt said.  

Youndt managed to push through the rough weather and obtain data to showcase the importance of the human and animal interactions in the area, which he said is his ultimate goal.

“I really want to create a great thesis project that blurs the lines between architecture and other fields, like biology and environmental sciences,” he said.

Youndt is prepared to break down the boundaries of typical career paths for his major, he said, because he would rather combine his interests than follow the path many other architects take.

“I’ve tried working in architecture firms before and, frankly, I find the work boring,” he said. “Adding this environmental, biological twist to architecture not only keeps me learning new things, but it also holds true to my values as a person to pursue sustainability in architecture and other disciplines.”

Alexa Bricker can be reached at alexa.bricker@temple.edu.

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