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Student Hands Create “Applause”

Architecture Class Designs New Clarice Café

By Liam Farrell


Courtesy of The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center

Courtesy of The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center

When the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center decided to renovate its 15-year-old Applause Café, it found the right design consultant close to home: UMD’s own School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.


Ten graduate students spent the fall semester coming up with design plans and even prototyping furniture for a more cohesive eatery that will serve fresh, West Coast-inspired culinary options.

“The reality of the project really stimulated the students,” says Associate Professor Madlen Simon, who taught the course designing the café. “It was no longer, ‘Does our design look great?,’ but ‘Does our design look great and work for people?’”

The students focused on uniting the separate serving and eating areas with colored carpet and a sculpture of hanging leaves, visually connecting the areas and providing the feeling of eating outside. Kelly Haley ’19, who is studying for master’s degrees in architecture and historic preservation, says shifting from drawings into reality was a great intellectual challenge, different from any theoretical classroom exercise that has more room for flights of fancy. 


“We are very conceptual in our thought, but this furniture has to stand and support a person’s weight,” she says. “It’s a shock to us this is actually going to get built.”

The Applause renovations will be done in two phases: first, revamping the aesthetics and updating the menu and equipment; second, improving the seating area. The café’s makeover is expected to be completed this summer, says Erica Bondarev Rapach, associate executive director of The Clarice, and will include a plaque to acknowledge the students who helped make it a reality.

“We couldn’t have done it without them,” she says. “It was really great to reach across campus and have students connected to the project in very real ways.”

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