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MSU’s LightBox Illuminates ArtScape

Morgan students from the School of Architecture and Planning transformed a used shipping container to a modern workspace that displayed at ArtScape in Downtown Baltimore in July. The project, dubbed LightBox, got its name from the creative use of natural light and airflow in the structure. MSU’s design-build team utilized a 40-foot-high shipping container cube along with reclaimed building materials from The Loading Dock, a nonprofit materials reuse center, to create a workshop and studio space. The structure demonstrates the benefits of cooperative design strategies; creative, adaptive reuse of local and recycled materials; energy conservation and passive solar design. LightBox also features a garden courtyard.

After its appearance at ArtScape, LightBox will be relocated to The Loading Dock’s facility in Baltimore City, where it will serve as a permanent office space for three public educational programs in sustainable architectural design and construction.

“I think with (this) hands-on way of learning comes an amazing natural sense of confidence,” School of Architecture and Planning professor Michael Zebrowski says about the project. “…Design is a very sketchy place, (but) when you are hands-on, you finally see things coming together and working or not working.”

Jennifer Hare, architectural major and academic honors scholarship recipient at MSU, voiced similar praise: “This project really means a lot to me, because I am on an actual construction site and not just working in theory and on paper.”

LightBox team member Ben Dagenhard enrolled in the School of Architecture and Planning after a campus visit. “Morgan came to our studio and asked if we wanted to learn how to weld and build things, and it sounded good to me,” he says. About the LightBox project, he says, “It’s a lot of fun learning. All the wood that we are using was pulled from projects that were deconstructed. All the steel has been donated to us by a place that reuses steel strips. The used shipping container we got for scrap. It was going to be chopped up and sold for parts. The roof is going to be constructed out of pallets. The windows are designed to take advantage of any breeze going through it. The air blows in from the bottom and goes out through the top.”

The LightBox project participants educated 350,000 ArtScape visitors on the issues involved in sustainable/green architectural design. To track the daily progress of the LightBox, visit or the project’s Facebook page. You can also see a profile of the project on local NBC affiliate WBAL here.

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