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Design/Build Studio

University of Washington
Thematic Area
Multi-disciplinary , Social Sciences and Humanities, Natural Sciences
Factual description
The program, developed in 1995 by Associate Professor Daniel Winterbottom, is offered to undergraduate and graduate students in landscape architecture and related fields.
The design/build studio format accomplishes two goals. First, it provides an alternative design process, in which thinking and making are integrated. Second, the resulting project provides an amenity for a community in need.
Through the program, they seek to develop skills in four main areas: the relationship between thinking and making, collaboration, communication skills and a returning of a benefit to the community. This process is collaborative; building becomes a social as well as a physical art. Students become a team: bringing ideas to fruition and cooperating in the shared act of building. Communication skills are honed and tested through client and community interaction. In this applied teaching model, they provide a critical link between design, building and service learning.
In many of the projects (Varey Memorial Garden, Garden of Eatin’ and Cascade Adopt-a-Park) a larger plan of rebuilding communities through “urban-greening” is addressed. The program strives to advance a common societal goal, the improvement of our ecological and social environment. To achieve this they create transferable models in which small degraded “residual” urban parcels of land are redesigned as ecological and social community amenities resulting in an increased quality of life within the urban environment and opportunities for interaction between people and the natural environment. Through the process of community participation and interpretation, the students develop ecological awareness and social opportunities for interaction and celebration.
Relevance in complex systems
Even though the program does not explicitly use a formal theoretical approach to complex systems it is extremely efficient in providing a profound and immersive experience for the students in the complexity of real-life situations.
Strong points
The program starts with the formation of an often heterogeneous group of students (a first complex system) that have to learn how to collaborate between themselves and then exposes the students to a community in need (second complex system). The two complex systems have to cooperate in a very demanding environment and with a tight schedule (the design part of the program) in order to be able to implement the design in the construction phase of the program. Dealing with a community in need helps the students to develop and experience empathy and to deal with the ethical dimension of design.
Transferability potential
In the design/build approach lies a very high transferability potential even to thematic areas unrelated to landscape architecture.