Illinois Tech Student Wins Chicago Women in Architecture Scholarship

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By Andrew Connor

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Every year, the local nonprofit Chicago Women in Architecture awards a scholarship to a female architecture student in her final year of study. This year, College of Architecture student Nandin–Erdene Dashdondog took home top honors for her submission “Urban Fracture.”

Dashdondog, in her third year in the M.ARCH. program, grew up in Mongolia, where she spent summers on her grandmother’s farm along with her cousins. While watching her grandmother come up with ways to accommodate for an influx of children, she came to realize her desire to build spaces when she grew up.

“To house all those kids at once in the summer is kind of a challenge for my grandma. In a way, she started designing her little farm as the kids grew by adding portions to her house,” says Dashdondog. “That was my initial spark into what building and design is.”

After receiving her bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Dashdondog came to Illinois Tech to receive her Master of Architecture degree. By doing so, she believes she can combine both fields into a cohesive design style that considers both site and building as one.

“My knowledge of landscape architecture really prepped me for sustainability and thinking globally,” says Dashdondog. “I thought of the built environment and how that could be more sustainable and how my background could be injected into the space making. I thought overall it would help me become a better designer.”

That ethos is clear in “Urban Fracture,” the project Dashdondog submitted for the CWA scholarship. The project takes a site along the Chicago River in the industrial corridor west of Lincoln Park. Dashdondog and her teammates produced the project for their spring 2019 semester studio, and it imagines the space with a bicycle manufacturing space mixed with public space. By sinking the manufacturing space into the earth, the surrounding landscaped area leaves space for light to penetrate the factory while leading pedestrians into the common areas above.

“What if that industrial corridor can also be used during weekends to become a larger part of the parks system? How can I connect these people to the riverfront? I treated this site more like a park that also has a building on it,” says Dashdondog.

With graduation and professional life around the corner, the CWA scholarship is a reaffirming achievement for Dashdondog, who is currently working at Brininstool+Lynch as an intern in addition to her architectural studies.

“It was really nice getting to see all these women in the Chicago area practicing,” says Dashdondog. “It was beautiful, and I was just immersed in this world of designers who are women and that was very empowering. I’m about to graduate, I’m going to be one of these people. It was like seeing my future.”

Photo: A diagram of "Urban Fracture" (courtesy of Nandin–Erdene Dashdondog)