Design and Build: Experiencing the Whole Process

Often when you ask architects and designers what their favorite part of of a project is, they’ll tell you it’s getting the opportunity to see a design completed and built. In the Program of Environmental Design, students in their third year get the opportunity to take a design-build studio. Last semester, I participated in one of these studios where we got to work with the Lama Foundation in New Mexico. This was the best studio I have taken in this program, in particular because I got to experience the entire design process from meeting the client, to creating the design, to constructing the final project.

In this class, each of student got to create a design of a shower facility to present to the residents of Lama Foundation. After many iterations and long hours of work, it was awesome to get the chance to present my ideas to an actual client. After all of the students in the class had presented their designs, my professor announced which project the client had chosen as the final design to be implemented over the summer, and that design was mine. tI could hardly believe it (I still don’t fully believe that there is a building out there that was inspired by my design). Although it was sometimes difficult to see things change on my original design as the class worked together to make construction documents and final design decisions, I truly believe that the overall project got better. It was interesting to see how other students’ great ideas could get integrated into my design in a way I never envisioned. I think this truly illustrates the importance of working with others on a design, as they will see new things that you never could have imagined. My original design was a shell, and the other students in the class helped to make it an entire functional building.

(1) Original design proposal I submitted to the Lama Foundation

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Although it was amazing seeing my project being implemented,, the best part was actually getting to help build it. Despite sleeping in a tent for 3 weeks, and working 10 hour days in the 95 degree weather,, every moment was worth it! The whole process taught me more than any one class. I learned that no matter how much time and thought you put into a design, it will end up changing on the spot. I learned how important it is to work with others on both design and construction projects. I learned what a toe-nail connection is, how to drill fiberglass (and how to get out the splinters), and even how to install a door.

(2) Constructing the Shower Facility

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From this class, I would recommend to any aspiring designer to get out there and build something. Whether it’s taking a class like this, or volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, go do it! The experiences and the friendships that you will make through the process are irreplaceable. I am so glad that I was given the opportunity to take a class like this through the Program in Environmental Design!