A new book on Design/Build in architectural education by William Carpenter is published! Out of 463 pages, Drury has 50 pages in the book devoted to 3 projects. Jacqueline Tygart wrote about the gallery built in 1999-2000 by John Kleman, Henri Foch & Jay Reeves, and Traci Sooter wrote about the Eggstreme Chicken Coop for Extreme Makeover - Home Edition, and the LEED Platinum Drury Habitat For Humanity House.
As with all design-build studios, the value is in the educational experience it provides the students. With ten years to reflect on this experience, it seems fitting that the three former students, all gainfully employed architects in award-winning firms, be given a chance to voice their thoughts on this experience and share what impact it has had or continues to have.
Jacqueline Tygart (JT): Would you again push to be able to embark on this project in light of what you know now?
Jay Reeves (JR): Certainly. Such an experience was an invaluable transition from the academic studio environment to the practice of architecture. The ability to test our design ideas in an environment where we were responsible for taking ownership of both the detailing and construction provided a foresight into the way that I execute projects ten years later. It placed a value on craft and thoughtful detailing that I continue to draw upon when working with my colleagues and contractors to maximize the quality of our projects. The irony of this particular situation was that as students, we had command over neither the detailing nor the construction prior to this project, so every step became a design problem in both the planning and construction of the Gallery.
Henri Foch (HF): I would do it again without hesitation. What I now know is that it was one of the most valuable experiences of my educational path and at an appropriate time.
John Kleman (JK): I'd do it again tomorrow! I worried then that I might never have so much fun in the "real world" and - while my projects since have been rewarding in many ways - I remember designing and building the Gallery with special fondness.
JT: If you found yourself teaching in an architecture program next year, would you be willing to take charge of a design-build studio?
JR: Without hesitation. More than any other component of architectural education, I continue to follow Design Build Projects at various institutions from a distance. I am continually inspired when conversing with students who are involved with a Design Build project. No matter the scale of the project, their enthusiasm and energy is always infectious and it is something I take back to my office with me. Leading a group of students through the intense and emotional process would be well worth the effort coordinating such a studio.
HF: Absolutely. My career path has allowed me to work with many architectural students and recent graduates on construction and work and have found joy in their excitement and enthusiasm to learn through hands-on work in architecture and design build. I think it is a rare opportunity that can give students an experience that will benefit them through their careers.
JK: Yes, I would find it hard to teach any other way. It was my experience that the type of projects traditional studios use to inspire thought and design simply weren't as engaging as one with real inputs and consequences. There might not be less to learn by wrestling with the theoretical but there's definitely less to experience. Moreover, what I learned by doing something meaningful in the real world was more enduring than the lessons I learned in the virtual world of my previous studios. Our communities are full of design problems that need the kind of fresh thought and energy that students can provide. Design-build studios are a perfect opportunity for learning and can make impactive contributions to our neighbors.
JT: What was the most valuable lesson learned that you still depend on in your current practice?
JR: Successful details make good buildings. The ability to anticipate how a series of small details can influence a large project is what often defines effective projects.
Respect the people who build our designs. The value of good General Contractors and craftsmen are immeasurable. The ability to listen and work with the builders productively always strengthens projects.
HF: Remain flexible to unforeseen opportunities. Work in collaboration. You will learn unexpected lessons from the whole project team.
JK: I learned that creating in a community and embracing the power of collaboration can be extremely powerful and fulfilling. Buildings are complicated and it's often necessary to share ownership of their creation. That's not something that's encouraged in a competitive educational environment focused on individual student designers.
JT: Has this project been part of your portfolio when looking for a position? Why or why not?
JR: In every interview. The opportunity to build a simple building with extraordinary people on a modest budget was the single most influential experience in my architectural education. I use the Gallery as a tool to define the way I think about making buildings. As we discuss more recent works in my portfolio, the narrative of this experience provides a backdrop for how I approach problem solving, working with others, and maximizing the potential of a project no matter the scale.
HF: The value of hands-on work is recognized throughout the architectural profession. The experience of being part of a building project from start to finish will never diminsh. Completion of this project was an important factor in my future employment opportunities.
JK: The Gallery has been in all my portfolios and I'll show it for the rest of my career. I'm extremely proud of what we did and it's never failed to elicit a positive reaction.
JT: If a 4th year student asked your advice regarding whether he or she should participate in a design-build studio, what questions would you ask to help him or her arrive at a decision?
JR: This is ultimately a lifestyle decision. There is a shared understanding in architecture school of what one can expect out of the studio environment. This is not your grandpa's design studio. In order to wring all of the value out of such an experience they must ask themselves if they are willing to commit to the process fully. They must understand their role in the project and trust their teammates. If they do, they will be richly rewarded, as I have been.
HF: Are you willing to commit the time and energy the work will require? Are you prepared to work as a member of a team that will depend on you giving it your all from start to finish.
JK: Are you interested in putting your ideas to work? Will the design-build studio create something meaningful for you and others?
JT: Do you think many architecture firms value or understand the design-build experience as it is being implemented today in many architecture programs?
JR: While I have found that architecture firms do value the experience that the design build model provides for young architects, it has been my experience that not all architects fully appreciate the wide range of issues faced by these students. Practicing architects are often pleasantly surprised to understand the complexity involved in what can be misperceived as simple endeavors.
HF: In my experience most architects do place a high value on the design-build educational experience.
JK: The beginning of my career has been shaped in many ways by what I discovered by working on the Gallery. I have been fortunate to work in firms where design is intimately related to building and where craft and innovation are valued equally. I think this kind of approach is becoming more wide spread; evidenced in part by - or perhaps because of - the increasing popularity of design-build studios in architectural education. The design-build studio experience helped me understand the relationships between thinking and making, ideas and materials, concepts and people, and between imagined space and actual places.