Between the California high schoolers who are building their own classroom and the New York Institute of Technology architecture students who are designing a recycling center in Costa Rica, we're pretty jazzed about the confluence of education and public-interest design.
In the Utah desert, the nonprofit DesignBuildBLUFF (DBB) pairs up members of the Navajo Nation who need housing with architecture students who must learn their way around a client relationship—and who, the idea goes, will develop a propensity for community engagement and pro bono work. Hence DDB's tagline: "Compassion can be found in a CAD file."
Each year students from the University of Colorado and the University of Utah decamp to the town of Bluff to design and build one house for an adult or a family in the community. Though it is modest in scale, the program—founded in 2000 by architect Hank Louis—addresses the severe shortage of livable housing options for Native Americans. "Over 40% live in overcrowded or dilapidated housing," according to DBB. This week the fall semester wraps up, and the current crop of students will complete a home for a single mother with five children.
The previous session's house (pictured) was built in just 80 days for a cost of about $30,000. Led by Colorado architecture and planning professor Rick Sommerfeld, eight students designed the home for a Navajo woman named Lorraine Nakai and her large collection of magazines and books. "When the team first met her, collections were piled and dispersed within her old house," one of the student-architects, James Anderson, writes. "She expressed a strong desire to showcase her eclectic collections in her new home." To create enough storage and display space, the team essentially wrapped a wood and recycled-glass shell around 50 feet of bookshelves. The bed is integrated into one bookshelf wall, and the bathroom is tucked behind another. Tiny house movement, take note!
Left photo: James Philip Anderson