Proposition: Architecture being a “social art,” relies on aesthetic imagination to achieve lasting and beautiful work. As a “social art” it equally embraces the moral imagination. We designers can use this moral responsibility to address the social and environmental concerns many communities are facing today. Just think about this last year alone, the social upheaval and environmental catastrophes on a global scale. If architecture hopes to remain relevant it needs embrace the potential in its ethical capability, now more than ever. We do this by learning to ask the right questions, carefully listening to the answers given and through them understand the deeper issues that impacts our work. Digging deeper we’ll provide meaningful design solutions for more equitable—and aesthetically pleasing—places to live and work. Then, and only then, do we begin using our skills to creatively design.
Methodology: The studio uses a Public Interest Design approach to help you gain a greater understanding of the needs of those you’ll work with. To achieve this, the studio incorporates readings and discussions about Public Interest Design methodologies. Through that social-economic-environmental design lens you’ll: 1) apply critical thinking for new design approaches to address complex social and environmental issues; 2) use new communication skills that expand your understanding of community-based design; 3) identify and employ ways in which architects make well-designed, environmentally-friendly and equitable buildings that promote beauty and dignity for all. You’ll achieve these three goals by: a) learning in-depth site investigation practices, insuring an appropriate and inspiring design; b) learning how to effectively engage a real-world client to better learn their needs while communicating your design intent; c) learning how to make appropriate material choices and develop craftful detailing in ways that insure a thoughtful design; d) learning how to effectively design around a limited budget and tight schedule; e) gaining skills by developing and producing a full set of Construction Documents for permitting and construction; f) learning how to determine means and methods for building what you’ve designed; g) having the opportunity to compare design intent with what is built; h) being part of a design process that brings about a poetic and meaningful design for decades to come. Using that newfound knowledge, you’ll better understand the wants and needs of your client. Immersing yourself in this process, you’ll learn firsthand what an architect does when working with a client, better preparing you as a future architect.
Design Problem: This semester you’ll work with the Crenshaw School of Environmental Studies, a grade and middle school on Bolivar Peninsula, part of the greater Houston area. You’ll work with their staff and its students, to learn all you can about their needs to help them in their environmental education efforts. This will be done by designing and building an outdoor education pavilion in the school’s wetland area close to the ocean’s edge. Working with them you’ll design & build this shade pavilion for kindergarten through middle-school students who attend classes at Crenshaw. UTSOA students will provide them a well-built, appropriate and inspiring new place where they can learn about local ecology and stewardship responsibility through out-of-the-classroom engagement in the environment on which they depend. Five trips are planned during the semester; one at the beginning, one six weeks into the semester and three towards the end when students will stay for 12-14 days over three long weekends to install the project you designed. Your design work will be both individual and group based. NOTE: Necessary requirements to maintain a healthy and safe studio experience will be in place at all times, both on and off campus.
This semester will offer you a unique opportunity to experience firsthand the complete design and construction process for a built work. It will be a studio that’s both challenging and rewarding, offering real opportunities for growth. The result will be a deeper understanding of the role that architects play in the communities they work; not only producing imaginative and fulfilling designs, but contributing to the betterment for those who will use your built work. When complete your project will be a new place that better enables our next generation to better understand their social and ecological responsibilities, through bringing them a significant work of beauty.
Travel Dates: Five to six trips are planned, the first you’ll meet your client to understand their needs. The second trip is to present your design to Crenshaw school and county officials. The last three to four trips, toward the end of your semester, you’ll install the project you designed. Final dates have yet to be determined.