News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

August 7, 2012

Doorway to Design

French company to design canopy entryways for 13 Vigo County School Corp. schools

TERRE HAUTE — Matthew Won Piker attended and graduated from Vigo County schools.

Now, the international design agency that he founded in Paris, France, earlier this year, called Majeur Won, will design canopy entryways for 13 Vigo County School Corp. schools.

Phase 1 will involve four schools: Deming and Riley elementary schools as well as West Vigo and Woodrow Wilson middle schools. Each school community will have the opportunity to participate in its own design process during a series of town hall meetings that start today.

The Phase 1 canopies are expected to be completed in November.

The district has negotiated a contract with Majeur Won for $78,000 that will go before the School Board Monday as part of its consent agenda, said Superintendent Dan Tanoos. School district costs will not exceed $78,000 and it will come out of the Capital Projects Fund, he said.

The project “will allow community members in each school to voice their opinions and to be involved in the design process,” said Piker, a 2004 graduate of Terre Haute South Vigo High School, during a news conference Monday at the administration building.

There also will be opportunities for the school community to participate in construction when each project is close to completion.

The canopies will provide protection from the elements and give each school a unique, identifiable entryway, Piker said.

Piker said he started his academic career in Vigo County schools and was inspired by many of its teachers. The canopy project “is about giving back,” he said.

He attended Fayette and Ouabache elementary schools, West Vigo Middle School and South before going on to obtain architecture degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Cincinnati.

 He is the owner, president and design director of Majeur Won.

Superintendent Dan Tanoos said Piker contacted him a few months ago and the canopy project grew out of that discussion. “It’s nice to celebrate the successes of our students,” Tanoos said.

Piker said he initially proposed about two canopies, but Tanoos pushed for 13.

While Majeur Won will provide “design expertise and aesthetic direction,” the canopy-entryway project will involve three partner companies with ties to Terre Haute: BSA Lifestructures of Indianapolis (architects/engineers), Freitag Weinhardt of Terre Haute, and American Structurepoint of Indianapolis (architects/engineers).

Shawn Mulholland, managing director with BSA Lifestructures, attended a celebratory kickoff event Monday evening. The company will serve as the architect of record and engineering firm for the project and provide “deeply discounted” services, he said. “We won’t make any money on this.”

The firm has a strong connection to Terre Haute, both in terms of designing facilities and in hiring Rose-Hulman graduates, Mulholland said. Also, Piker interned for the company.

“All of these strategic partners are coming together to provide services to make this happen,” Mulholland said. Another partner will do work at-cost.

Based on estimates the district has received in the past for individual canopy projects, what’s being proposed by Piker sounds like “a darned good deal,” Tanoos said.

Any costs beyond $78,000 would be between Majeur Won and its partners, Tanoos said.

Majeur Won designers are not licensed architects in Indiana, which is why BSA Lifestructures is the architect of record, Piker said.

The Vigo County Education Foundation also is involved. Its board agreed to set up an account for the project to facilitate material, in-kind and monetary donations, said Jenny Thomas, foundation executive director. The foundation will serve as a conduit “so we can involve local companies and businesses in support of this project,” she said.

The foundation is excited about the canopy entryway project, Thomas said. “We’re going to see an architectural highlight in this city that we have never seen before and we’re going to see it with one of our own,” she said.

Piker presented schematic designs during Monday’s news conference, but he expects the designs to change after the school communities provide feedback.

One goal is to use sustainable materials for the canopy entryways.

A series of town hall meetings for Phase 1 will occur this week as follows:

• Deming Elementary, 5 p.m. today in the cafeteria.

• Woodrow Wilson Middle School, 6:30 p.m. today, gym.

• Riley Elementary, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the gym.

• West Vigo Middle School, 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the cafeteria.

Phase II will involve new canopy entryways for Meadows and West Vigo elementary schools, Honey Creek Middle School and McLean High School.

The last phase, to be constructed in 2013, will involve Davis Park, Dixie Bee, Fuqua and Lost Creek elementary schools along with Otter Creek Middle School.

According to its website, Majeur Won does schematic architectural design, graphics, event production, installations, web development, urbanism, artistic direction, communications and brand identity.

Kim Tran, a Majeur Won partner and designer, is involved with the schematic design of the canopy entryways. “I’m very excited to contribute to your community. I’m really, really pumped,” she said during the news conference.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or

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