Kent State Architect Students Use Fabric, Rope and Ice to Construct International Recognition

The details are stunning. The size - mammoth. The temperature - frigid. They are some of the most awe-inspiring creations made out of mother nature’s most exquisite winter ingredients: snow and ice.

Equally impressive are the artists, architects and engineers who take that snow and ice and design and build structures for the “Extraordinary ICE Building Design Competition” organized by Harbin Institute of Technology in China and Working Group 21 of International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures.

Kent State students arrange the frozen building blocks of their ice sculpture in Harbin, China.

The organizing committee invited elite universities from around the world, including Kent State University - which created a design team made up of 14 students from Kent State’s College of Architecture and Environmental Design, led by Mark Mistur, dean of the college, and Rui Liu, Ph.D., assistant professor.

The team developed two separate designs that they named “THRICE” and “PNEUMAT-ICE.” Out of more than 20 entries from the United States, Netherlands, Belgium, and China, 18 projects were selected for awards. PNEUMAT-ICE received an excellence award, and THRICE was selected as one of six for full-scale construction by the students in Harbin.

Kent State students set up the first of three poles to build their award-winning ice sculpture.


When designing THRICE, the team found inspiration from legendary Swiss engineer, Heinz Isler, who used materials such as fabric to form shells out of snow and ice. The team then turned to J.R. Campbell, director of Kent State’s Fashion School and Vincent Quevedo, associate professor of fashion design, who helped select fabric and sew it all together.

Before heading to China, the team started testing the prototype. They gathered outside Kent State’s College of Architecture and Environmental building.


The design of THRICE employs intersection of three asymmetrical cones covering an approximate area of 100 m2. Using heavy machinery, students hoisted the first column off the ground. They attached radially arrayed ropes to a rope loop connected to the top of each column. The structural system provides the initial formwork, which employs ropes and fabric acting in tension against the three columns.

The poles are covered with fabric and sprayed with a water and cellulose mixture.

After a successful mock-up construction for the initial formwork, 12 members of the team traveled to Harbin to replicate the structure in temperatures dipping below 15-degrees Fahrenheit. With the frame in place, the team covered it with the fabric and sprayed it with a mixture of water and cellulose until it formed a 2.5-inch ice shell Rope loops (oculi) at the top to allow natural daylight to penetrate deep into the structure, providing the passerby a sense of curiosity in exploring the space of the ice spires. The students included, Tingjun Bai, Bradley Bowman, Max Hentosh, Qian Kang, Yang Lei, Lu Liu, Keely Mager, Blake William Minster, Mike Roe, Alex Sanchez, Brandon Sanchez, Aaron Schordock, Yi Yang and Ruihang Zhu.

The final sculpture, consisting of three ice spires, is illuminated in Harbin, China.

The extreme cold did not stop them. The team took top honors in the first round, earning them international distinction among other prominent universities. In addition, three students - Max Hentosh, Aaron Schordock, and Ruihang Zhu - participated in Harbin Institute of Technology’s Snow House Competition and took Second Place among elite Chinese Architecture programs.

UPDATED: Friday, December 09, 2022 05:16 AM
Kristin Anderson