Inclusion and Neighborhood Resilience with IISTL

  • Node A: IISTL studio
  • Node B: IISTL studio
  • Node C: IISTL studio
  • Node D: IISTL studio
  • Node E: IISTL studio
  • Daniel Aguilera, rendering, Social Sustenance: Nurturing Change.
    Daniel Aguilera, rendering, Social Sustenance: Nurturing Change.

In this graduate architecture studio, students were charged to envision a new use for the former home of the International Institute of St. Louis (IISTL), located at 3654 South Grand Boulevard, which is currently vacant. The site, situated in the Gravois Park neighborhood near the boundaries of the Tower Grove South, Tower Grove East, and Dutchtown neighborhoods, was originally built in the 1930s as an automotive dealership and repair shop. The surrounding neighborhoods are economically and racial diverse, and the South Grand Business District, just a few blocks north, is already known as an international hub. IISTL has since moved to a larger location a few blocks north, where they continue to help immigrants and refugees transition to America, serving approximately 7,500 immigrants and refugees from 75 countries annually.

Students worked to understand the urban context of the site through historical, demographic, and spatial research. They also met with key neighborhood stakeholders, including elected officials, residents, business owners, and community activists. These individuals shared the opportunities and challenges for the neighborhood and the site. Each student identified a particular need for the community, and developed an adaptive reuse proposal based on the specific need. To take into account the feasibility of development, the projects needed to allow for the pursuit of historic tax credits by re-exposing the front façade and preserving the historic auto elevator at the rear of the building. The proposals were required to allocate space for 40 units of housing—including market-rate, affordable, and refugee housing, which includes multiple bedrooms to allow large, extended families to remain together.

The students' work was exhibited at the site, and a public presentation of the work shared the inspiration and ideas from the studio with stakeholders and potential developers. The studio also produced a book, summarizing their research and the proposals, as a reference for IISTL as they pursue future development of the building.

Participating Students

Daniel Aguilera, Social Sustenance: Nurturing Change
Lindsley Etienne, Trad[in] Space: International Incubator
Suzannah Grasel, The Third Space: Anchoring Communities
Savannah Hecker, Volte-Face: Rebooting the Automobile
Abby Luan, Permeable Boundaries
Amanda Malone, Early Beginnings: Inclusive Head Start Program
Xinzhi Pan, Climbing Ground: Play & Learn Family Center


International Institute of St. Louis
Support for the exhibition was generously provided by IISTL