The 2008 2x8:SKIN exhibition of the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA/LA) opened March 27 at the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles, showcasing the work of architecture and design students throughout California. The exhibit is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. through April 24, 2008.

The winners of the juried competition, a part of the 2x8 exhibition, were announced during the opening night reception. University of California, Berkeley, student Son N. Nguyen won top honors for his project, "Unnatural Selections," taking home a $5,000 cash prize. Originally completed as his graduate thesis, Nguyen's project is an island city that generates enough bioenergy from algae to sustain itself and the city of San Francisco. It was designed as a reclamation of San Francisco Bay's Treasure Island.

Nguyen's interpretation of the exhibit theme, SKIN, manifests as a living and breathing membrane—in the form of vegetated walls and roofs, rooftop retaining ponds, and the landscape—that allows light and air to penetrate to the interior of structures while absorbing water and pollutants. His city's structural design, emulating the diverging and interlacing patterns of coral reefs, rivers, trees, and other elements of nature, is based on his mathematical study of nature's logic of branching. Nguyen says he used the concept of branching to explore ways to maximize surface area while minimizing materials and to create an architecture that treats the environment sensitively.

Other students recognized for their projects are Los Angeles Institute of Architecture and Design student Kathryn Purvlance, who will receive a $3,000 prize; SCI-Arc students Midori Mizuhara, Patrick Shields, and William Lopez, who will split a $3,000 award; Salvador Ceja, Daniel Phillips, and Andrew Thompson, who will each receive a $1,500 prize; Karina Davtyan and Ryan Klinger, who will split $1,500; and Tai-Li Lee and Omar Ureta, who will each receive a $750 award.

Now in its sixth year, 2x8 is an annual exhibition produced by AIA/LA in partnership with the architecture and design programs within participating academic institutions. Each program selects two student projects that exemplify its core vision for the exhibition. A theme is established for each exhibition, and participants are given the freedom to interpret, incorporate, or manipulate the theme as they choose.

Student design work, housed in a series of mobile storage pods supplied by sponsor PODS: Portable On Demand Storage, was judged by a jury of three architects: Li Wen, AIA, of Gensler; Annie Chu, principal of Chu+Gooding Architects; and Joe Day, principal of deegan-day design. For more information, visit www.aialosangeles.org.