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USM’s Marine Education Center wins first season of ‘America ByDesign: Architecture’

Photo courtesy of the University of Southern Mississippi/website.

The University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) Marine Education Center (MEC) walked away with the grand title of first place for its design after being featured as a finalist on America ByDesign: Architecture.

Last week, the MEC received the first-place title in the inaugural season of the magazine-style television series produced by CBS, which focuses on American architectural innovation, ingenuity, and design excellence. The MEC was selected from 10 finalists to secure the title by a unanimous vote from the judges.

“I was very impressed by the MEC’s video and was not surprised we advanced to the finals,” MEC Director Dr. Jessica Kastler said. “Imagining the conversations that must have gone into the expert panel’s decision to select the series winner, I saw the MEC with new eyes again. It was a pleasure to watch that final episode, and this recognition is quite an honor.”

The education facility includes outdoor classrooms, laboratories, administration offices, assembly spaces, exhibition areas, and a pedestrian suspension bridge where researchers have an unparalleled opportunity to learn about the ecologically critical bayou and tidal wetlands of Mississippi.

Photo courtesy of the University of Southern Mississippi/website.

Since first opening in April 2018, the 100-acre Ocean Springs facility has served as the educational and outreach arm of USM’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL). Prior to the building’s completion, the MEC had been working from temporary buildings at GCRL after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the previous facility at Point Cadet in 2005.

The university then contracted with Lake|Flato Architects from San Antonio, Texas, who created the design of the current center.

“It was an absolute honor to work with the University of Southern Mississippi to help realize their vision of placing the coastal habitats of Mississippi at the forefront of the design process in the creation on these buildings for the Marine Education Center,” Matt Wallace, partner at LakeIFlato, who contributed to the design of the facility said.

So far, the facility has been recognized by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) on numerous occasions, with the AIA granting the MEC design team an Honor Award in May 2022. Prior to that, AIA awarded MEC one of its Committee On The Environment Top 10 awards in 2020.

The MEC is the only building in Mississippi to ever receive this designation, which awards 10 outstanding projects each year based on design excellence with environmental performance.

To see the America ByDesign: Architecture season finale, click here.

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