Students Complete Mentorship Program under Guidance from Manhattanville Team

June 02, 2015

At The Center for Architecture in Greenwich Village on May 27, attendees watched a presentation on a below-grade student center for the Manhattanville campus, modeled after iconic buildings including the Louvre in Paris and Apple’s retail store on Fifth Avenue and 59th Street.

If you observed the presentation, which covered design elements, structural requirements, HVAC and more, you may have thought you were privy to the newest building design being introduced for the Manhattanville campus. In reality, you and other attendees were enjoying the results of seven hardworking high school students from the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics in East Harlem who were giving their final presentation as part of the Architecture, Construction, and Engineering (ACE) Mentorship program.

The ACE Mentorship program grouped high school students and industry professionals throughout the city to help prepare the students for careers in design, construction and engineering through mentoring. This year marked the sixth time that a team of students from the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics worked with professionals at Columbia’s Manhattanville development.

“Getting students exposed to real-world projects involving architecture, engineering and construction is critical for drawing more people to these fields,” said Philip Pitruzzello, vice president of the Manhattanville Development Group at Columbia University. “Experiences such as stepping on an active job site next to a half-built structure can have a lasting impact on someone’s career trajectory. Columbia University is proud to join with our construction partners in participating in ACE Mentorship. We congratulate our students from the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics and look forward to continuing the tradition next year.

A three dimensional model of a student center made by students.

For the simulated project, the team of seven students – Kiyan Alexander, Jordan DeJesus, Justin DeJesus, Ashley Lopez, Erik Perez, Brandon Torres and Emily Vasquez – designed a four-floor, below-grade student center that would be located on the Manhattanville site between two buildings that make up the new Columbia Business School.

While there currently is no real or planned below-grade structure in this location at the real Manhattanville site, the students were still subjected to follow real-world constraints as if it were a part of the campus, including height zoning restrictions, utility availability, and the design theme for the overall campus.

The students chose to include a book store, library, multipurpose gymnasium, weight room, café and lounge in the space. The students innovated to address challenges inherent in building below grade. They designed two light tubes to maximize natural light based on the position of the sun in the summer and winter. The tubes also doubled as ventilation for fresh air.

The Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics students were mentored by professionals at Columbia’s Manhattanville Development Group, phase 1 construction manager Lend Lease, and other design and construction partners including Davis Brody Bond architects; JB&B, a mechanical and electrical engineering, plumbing and fire protection consulting firm; Stantec, a provider of civil engineering consulting services; and WSP Group, structural engineers.

“It was an incredibly rewarding experience working with such a diverse group of mentors and students,” said Skyler Harris, project engineer for Lend Lease and lead mentor for the Manhattanville ACE team. “The students’ task of working together to design a building complying with the height restriction of being no more than 3 feet above grade was not an easy one. However, after months of introducing concepts and asking the students the right questions, with considerable time and effort the students were able to present an impressive design to the ACE jury at the Center for Architecture.”

An aerial view of the three dimensional model with a board in the background detailing the project.

Founded in New York City in 1995 by a group of leading architects, contractors, engineers and owners, the ACE Mentor Program has grown to more than 8,000 students and 5,000 mentors in 200 cities. ACE New York has awarded almost two million dollars in scholarships to more than 900 graduates of the program. For more information, visit

This article originally appeared on the Columbia Manhattanville website.