UF Students Win Zoo Design Competition
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Politics and Activism

UF Students Win Zoo Design Competition

Gators win design competition in Jacksonville, Fla.

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UF Students Win Zoo Design Competition

The Jacksonville Zoo has chosen a design for their Donor Recognition Area renovation and the designers hail from the University of Florida. In early fall of 2014, the Jacksonville Zoo requested concept design proposals for the area located just inside the entrance of the Jacksonville Zoo. The competition asked that the designers work in teams to come up with a creative way of displaying the names of past and current donors.

The partners of the winning team are Amber Fulgham and Ledia Durmishaj, two emerging design professionals (EDPs). Fulgham is a current upper-division architectural interior design student at the University of Florida. Durmishaj received her bachelor's of design from the University of Florida and her master's of architecture from Washington University in St. Louis.

The design duo was mentored by Jim Kolb, senior healthcare designer, and Trevor Lee, principal-in-charge of the corporate and urban design studio, at Gresham, Smith and Partners, a Jacksonville design firm. As an entry-level architect, Durmishaj was the first to find out about the competition and asked Fulgham to join her on the project. Because Fulgham is originally from Jacksonville, she was excited to enter a competition for an attraction she grew up visiting.

The inspiration for their design came from a concept called the golden ratio, which is a ratio that often occurs in nature. In their proposal, the team explained that, "The donors are the source of growth for the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens. Growth in nature is best expressed through the golden ratio, a ratio that allows growth to expand organically."

After six weeks of hard work, proposals and editing, the girls were one of three teams asked to present their design to the Jacksonville Zoo board. In their presentation, they explained the significance of the 3D text attached to tension cables where donor names will be displayed. This main display wall is made of three steel arches with the tension cables extending to the ground. This "allows the donor area to feel like an extension of the zoo entrance," Ledia explained in their final presentation. Other aspects of their design include an information center, children's play area and historic center. 

In the second week of January, the zoo called to tell Fulgham and Durmishaj they had won. As the winning team, the girls were awarded $1,500, an exclusive zoo cocktail party for eight, a special zoo tour and onsite credit for the design.

As emerging design professionals, the real prize for Fulgham and Durmishaj is seeing their designs come to life at such a young age. In the design world, the hierarchy of designers is far-reaching and hard to climb. No amount of education can compete with the tangibility of a real-life design. Because of this competition, these two girls are well on their way to success.

The Gator Nation is proud of the hard work Fulgham and Durmishaj have done outside the classroom and wish them the best of luck in the future.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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