General Description of the Project:
The CAPLA West Face project is an initiative to re-conceive the main entrance and forecourt of CAPLA WEST and is to include a gridshell structure. It will be delivered through two sequential studios with the same student team. The first studio is dedicated to predesign, schematic design, design development, and permit/construction documents. The second studio (fall 2015) will be dedicated to delivery and construction. The performance of the completed project will be assessed for 1 year following completion, about social and technical criteria. The project and studios are sponsored by an international multi-university grant sponsored by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The grant is dedicated to researching best practices in educational design build. The studio will be the subject of research by a team of human ecologists, philosophers and experts in the history of technology who will utilize our products and conversation analysis to study our decision-making processes.
The project is based around four performance realms; this project will:
1) be a NEXUS, introducing new circulation paths to connect existing corridors and will be programmed to maximize value and create stimulating spaces for the CAPLA and the greater UA community.
2) be a SCAPE that merges landscape and architecture to create a symbiotic environment for plant and human inhabitation.
3) optimize human COMFORT by introducing shading systems, accommodating diverse of ergonomic conditions, and creating a safe environment for all users.
4) WALK THE WALK by embodying and expressing the principles, values and aspirations of CAPLA, the premier institution in sustainable design, planning, and management for arid regions.
The CAPLA West Face project is the confluence of three forces:
1) CAPLA’s Educational Design Build tradition
2) CAPLA’s interest in working with the University on campus development and
3) The School of Architecture’s partnership on the Thinking While Doing grant, a 2.49 million dollar (CAD) international / multi-university grant researching best practices in educational design build.
The school of Architecture was given the opportunity and funding to design and construct a small gridshell pavilion in Southern Arizona. This is a great opportunity for us as a school, to do what we do, in a celebrated way on campus and to do it better by working with the support, guidance and supervision of UA FM, RMS and PDC.
The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada is the sponsor. The grant is based out of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia and includes three partner institutions (University of Arizona, University of North Carolina Charlotte and University of Louisiana Lafayette). Each of the four universities is designing and building a small gridshell pavilion in their respective locales. Subsequently, as a collaborative, the four institutions will be designing and constructing a larger gridshell pavilion in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia in summer 2016.
Design Build Pedagogy:
Educational Design Build (EDB) is the pedagogical art and science of negotiating reality through creativity, making and performance. It has a broad spectrum and takes many diverse forms including the studio-based practice model, elective-based, experimental installations, artistic performance and building technology pedagogies. Common to all these interpretations is the dimension of reality, arguably it’s most unique and valuable contribution to the architectural academy. Reality introduces conditions, constraints and opportunities comprised of people, materials, fabrication processes, environmental conditions, gravity and use. EDB is a well spring of opportunities and challenges that are in marked contrast to the hypothetical paradigm of the conventional architectural design studio.
The overwhelming majority of architecture schools offer some form of Educational Design Build (EDB) opportunities for their students, faculty and communities. Here at CAPLA, we have a longstanding tradition of EDB. Our projects range from Bus Shelters, a Playground, an Urban Garden, and several Sustainable Affordable Houses to furniture installations. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) have recognized many of the projects for design excellence. We also have one of the the finest student-centered material laboratories in the world. The CAPLA Material Labs are central to our curriculum; utilized by our laboratory based building technology courses, fabrication classes, design studios and electives.
Our design build projects are delivered through vertical courses comprised of 4th-5th year undergraduates and 2nd-3rd year graduate students. These are students in the final 2-3 semesters of their professional degree programs (Bachelor + Master of Architecture). The courses utilized for EDB projects are called Application Studios. They are positioned later in the degree programs to ensure participants have experience in the full breadth of the curriculum and are prepared to step beyond the theoretical and hypothetical, and into application.
There are four dimensions that are central to my interpretation of educational design build.
1) ēdūcere: the Latin root of the word education meaning “to draw out.” Students are not a means to an end, they are the means and the end. It is paramount that they be exposed to risks, challenged with responsibilities in unfamiliar territories, given opportunities to fail and make amends. Experiential learning is a natural method to inspire and challenge students, to let them turn on, take flight and realize their potential.
2) Pragmatism: in the philosophical sense, consequence. This is a critical lens. To consider the consequence of our actions and our designs is to optimize our efforts and our performance. In design build we must transcend the often uttered phrase “the idea of.” We cannot afford to entertain “the idea of sunlight,” we must embrace the poetic inclination but render it tangible and apply performance criteria.
3) Collaboration: is the construction of consensus through individual contributions. It is a critical, proactive and consuming process. I aspire to optimize collaboration in design build studios through regular self/peer/ faculty evaluations that serve as mechanisms for reflection and provide the feedback necessary to optimize one’s performance as a member of the collective.
4) Practice Laboratory: I frame each design build studio as a practice laboratory; an opportunity for students to question procedures, rationales and organizational structures. I aspire to cultivate in students the potential to be agents for change. They will inherit the profession and it is paramount that they transcend the aspiration of assimilation and move forward with an informed mind and the courage to implement change.
– Through EDB projects students have real experiences that not only set them apart from their nonparticipating peers but catapult them forward, better preparing them for advanced career opportunities and specializations
– What laymen consider to be “design” is actually a very small part of the architectural process. Participating students have a better understanding how design ideas are challenged, shaped, destroyed, survive and thrive in the translation to reality.
– Learning how to build relationships with people, listen to them and better communicate with them.
– Learning how to earn confidence and responsibility in the eyes of stakeholders, and how to be accountable.
– Learning the value and methodologies for assessing qualitative and quantitative performance of technical and social criteria.
– Cultivating an understanding of the importance of due diligence, organization and assessment/reflection; good ideas are easy, the challenges lie in realizing them
– Cultivating skin that is both thick and sensitive
EDB alumni: I have some anonymous quotes from surveys submitted 1 year after project completion + graduation): working on locating them
The design build projects we undertake are the quintessential student engagement projects. This project, for example, simultaneously addresses all 7 competencies for all participating students. It also requires that some students develop abilities in each of the 6 skill areas, but that all students develop abilities in 4
Collaboration / Teamwork
Problem Solving / Critical Thinking
Reflection + Application).
I have long felt that programs such as this are a vast and largely untapped resource for the University, as they relate to facility design, maintenance, and operations. What types of projects do any of you perceive might also prove to be a good match for collaboration with Facilities Management (UAFM) in the future. What benefits do you see for UAFM, for your Department, and for the students and professors involved?
The benefits of our current and prospective collaborations with UAFM to CAPLA students, faculty, staff and college as a whole are substantial. FM has been incredibly generous in its contribution of support, expertise, labor, equipment and supervision. Having experienced projects comparable to this one but without FM’s involvement, I can say the educational efficacy, which was already great, has been augmented exponentially. By sharing their knowledge and resources they are not only looking out for the interests of the University from a facilitates standpoint, they are making an incredible direct contribution to the education of 16 architecture students that will in turn become better practicing architects, mentors, teachers and civic leaders.
I hope we can continue to develop this relationship on other small scale campus projects. CAPLA students bring fresh ideas and determination, FM brings expertise and authority. Together we could incrementally and sustainably optimize the campus environmentally, socially and aesthetically. The CAPLA West Face project is redeveloping one of the most barren, inhospitable and high-profile sites on campus (located along a major circulation route) into a comfortable and dynamic outdoor architectural space that is a physical manifestation of student engagement. I propose that we find the most neglected, difficult and underutilized spaces on campus, collaborate with nearby stakeholders, and create new extraordinary places worthy of a PAC-12 commercial.