Designs by 29 Texas A&M University architecture students
aimed at enhancing handicapped accessibility in the home of
fellow student Mandy LaCombe, a finance major who was paralyzed
in a tragic car accident nine years ago, were unveiled during
a Sept. 30, 2005 public presentation in the fourth-floor studio
of Texas A&M's Langford A Building.
As part of the semester-long project, students working under
the direction of George J. Mann, the Ronald L. Skaggs professor
of Health Facility Design, developed scale models and drawings
for expanding and upgrading the disabled 34-year-old student's
home to create a more accessible and livable environment. The
designs include both short-term and long-term remodeling projects
to be phased in as funds become available.
"One major project objective," Mann said, "was for
the students to consider issues of sustainability with respect
to energy conservation and other "green" building
concepts aimed at conserving natural resources."
"Project Mandy," as the studio effort has been dubbed,
received much needed support from Professor Jim Smith's construction
science students who provided cost analyses for implementing
the architecture students' designs. Also consulting on this
multidisciplinary endeavor were Joseph J. McGraw, professor
emeritus, and faculty from the College of Architecture's Center
for Health Systems and Design.
"I and all those involved in Project Mandy are very pleased
with the progress," said David Ruiz, a 1981 graduate of
Texas A&M and president of Energy Smart Consultants in
Houston. It was Ruiz who alerted Mann's studio to LaCombe's
"You can see that the students have come to care a great deal
for Mandy, and that's reflected in their design ideas," Ruiz
added. "This project has been a true testament to the
Ruiz and LaCombe, formerly of Bridge City, met when both were
engaged in volunteer work for the Houston Livestock Show and
"Despite her disability and the many day-to-day challenges she's
encountered since recovering from her August 1996 accident," Mann
said, "Mandy has worked tirelessly as a volunteer for
the Texas A&M's Student Affairs Department and for the
Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Her commitment and perseverance
have left an indelible mark on the hearts of family, friends
and all those she comes in contact with, and has become an
inspiration for all those involved in the project."
"Mandy's home is very unique in character, but not accessible
for her," said Kimberly Bearden, a senior environmental
design major working on the project. "Our objective is
to improve her home by removing frustrating obstacles to everyday
tasks. She has a spirit about her that encourages us to do
our very best to make her life a little easier."
To kick off the project, on Sept. 5 LaCombe invited the architecture
and construction science students to her home where she demonstrated
her unique needs and the obstacles she encounters daily. On
Sept. 14, she participated in the project's mid-point review,
suggesting further modifications to the students' preliminary
"I was deeply touched by their caring spirit, and compassionate
attitudes towards me, and their creative work," said LaCombe,
noting her amazement at the variety of design solutions the
students presented. "I feel blessed that the Department
of Architecture undertook this project."
"The enthusiasm of the class is contagious to all who come in
contact with it," said McGraw. "One leaves them to
their efforts with the feeling that Mandy's future and ours
are in good hands. In redesigning a modest individual home
to more fully accommodate the physical and financial realities
and long-term hopes and interests of their client," he
continued, "the students show a broad range of interest
in better health for all of us."
"The students were tremendously motivated to create an accessible
and functional tailor-made architectural design," said
Mann. "In responding to Mandy's needs on many levels,
they learned that architectural design has a tremendous human
element. Now the next step is to raise funds to make these
visions a reality."
A fund has been established to help pay for the student-designed
enhancements to LaCombe's home. Anyone interested in contributing
may send a check to:
Mandy LaCombe Benefit Fund,
P.O. Box F.B.,
College Station, TX 77841-5102.
LaCombe meets with students and
The kickoff event for "Project Mandy"
Student design work
Another student design