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MU Architectural Studies grad wins 2023 Forge Prize

EV Oasis designed by LVL Studio, winner of Forge 2023 Prize.

Mizzou Architectural Studies graduate, Jeffrey Lee ’17, with his studio co-founders Christopher Taurasi and Lexi White, won the $10,000 grand prize in a YouTube live stream Thursday, March 30. They worked closely with Schuff Steel Senior Vice President Christian Crosby to refine their Electric Oasis vision along with the details that would be required to make it a reality.

From left: Christopher Taurasi, Lexi White and Jeffrey Lee ’17

“As for myself, Mizzou was where it all started – learning to understand spatial relationships, building tectonics, and an appreciation for fine craft. The program, while small in numbers, did a fantastic job in setting me towards a career path that’s still drawing from my earliest lessons,” says Lee.

“Our office Level Studio was honored to be accepted as this year’s American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) Forge Prize recipient. We are pushing to further our concept into a built project as there are currently major shifts in federal and state legislation towards building up the national EV charging infrastructure.”

The project team gave an encore presentation at Architecture in Steel at NASCC: The Steel Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina on Wednesday, April 12.

The judges were particularly impressed by the team’s thoughtful approach, which turns a banal task into a destination event.

“You’ve taken something very mundane that we give not a second thought to usually and injected a certain level of magic—not just waiting for the charging, but also what you can do with that time,” said Forge Prize Judge Melanie Harris, AIA, LSSYB, NCARB, who is the national healing practice director at BSA LifeStructures. “We’re all looking for efficiencies in our life these days and the last thing we want to do is wait around and do nothing while we wait for our cars to charge.”

The time it takes to recharge electrical vehicles is, the team noted, one of the primary differences between a gas and electric vehicle.

“On average, a gas stop takes around seven minutes to refill a tank,” Lee said. “A level-two charging station, which is the most common type, takes upwards of four and a half hours for a full charge. Considering this, we have an opportunity to reimagine the gas station typology into something that can revitalize local economies.”

The Level Studio team is confident in the potential of their research and are currently pursuing leads and open to partnering with interested fabricators or development teams to bring their design to life. With the major shifts in legislation towards building up the EV infrastructure throughout the country, finding success with Electric Oasis case studies can pave the road to redefining the traditional typology.

“I am so proud to share Jeffrey’s amazing accomplishment and highlight the important role that this curriculum plays in real world functional design. The impact at Mizzou has been and will continue to be instrumental for student success,” said Lyria Bartlett, associate teaching professor and chair of the Department of Architectural Studies in Mizzou’s College of Arts & Science.

Level Studio is a coast-to-coast team of architectural designers with complementary backgrounds in various typologies including gallery/exhibition, residential, high-rise, and civic projects, from conceptual design through construction administration. Based in New York City and Los Angeles, the studio was formed by 3 former classmates who met while pursuing design-build competitions. After nearly a decade of working together, they see great potential to deliver purpose-driven designs while maintaining project efficiencies.