Spitzer Student Receives Prestigious Scholarship

We are proud to announce, one of our students, Ahmed Helal (B.Arch ’22 candidate), just received the John A. Notaro Memorial Scholarship for his proposal Monumentality and Public Space, questioning the existing architecture of Untermyer Park and Gardens in Yonkers, NY. In describing the thought behind the project, he raises many questions about what monumentality means to us as a community.

What are the narratives we are shaping, reinforcing, and re-telling in our present that will also live in the future? What is the interplay between monumentality and the people? How do we create new monuments that are as diverse as we are?

Ahmed uses these questions as the engine driving him to find how monuments in our future can become more representative of the community. He would like to see more significant creative structures in public spaces than, for example, a single man on a horse or an architectural object signifying power and health elevated above us.

He goes on to describe Untermyer Gardens as a lavish display of Samuel Untermyer’s wealth, the owner of the property. Untermyer was an influential lawyer, who had agency to form and manipulate legislation. His garden at Greystone was a place of many political events and offered a place for him to display his wealth. This garden is an amalgam of historical styles unified by crenelated walls, connecting balustrades, cohesive mosaic schemes and repeated architectural forms, all of which have inherent ‘monumental qualities.’

As a reaction to the garden’s formal layout and the founder’s legacy, Helal’s proposal includes a space for public gathering and discourse to infiltrate the site. “In order to transform the site into a civic destination, a certain density of people need to come to the park, which led me to include a library component into the proposal. The library becomes the public commons that brings about broader participation and draws plurality of people to come to the site,” Ahmed says. He aims to set a precedent in creating new monumental spaces that exemplify the notion of ‘powerful place making’ of a different kind.

It is with great pride that we feature Ahmed Helal in earning this great honor. This is but the first of many successes we aim to share as we kick off 2022.

Ahmed Helal is currently in the fifth year of Spitzer’s B.Arch program.

“Architecture has broadened my understanding of humanity,” he says, “and I am utterly inspired by its effect on changing people’s lives. I believe, as architects, we have a duty to always put people first when we design. From the moment we start to think about the layout of the space to the choice of material finishes, we must be conscious of how this process, in its entirety, can impact people’s health, mood, and productivity.”