Academia is often seen as an insular world, so caught up in esoteric ideas that it has no bearing on society at large. This is not completely true. Most disciplines, architecture included, have a great bearing on everything we do. The education that architects receive will translate into very real, worldly implications. But it is often esoteric.
Perhaps then, schools should be focused on the worlds they inhabit, not just the realms of history and theory. Students who study the past will build and rebuild the past, for better or for worse. Yet there are ways of addressing this dilemma, to offer students a practical education and experiences, while promoting real and immediate changes in the world.
These projects are the result of architecture programs that, instead of being inwardly academic, are outwardly progressive. They encourage students to actually build their designs, and to be considerate of the greater world. Each project is innovative, capturing the imagination of budding architects before they are jaded by convention and tradition. Moreover, with each structure, the constraints of a small budget make for innovative designs. Though the architects for each project may be overlooked as merely “students,” these are real solutions to real problems, providing support to real communities.
Skow Residence by University of Utah – DesignBuildBLUFF, Colorado Building Workshop / University of Colorado Denver, Bluff, Utah, United States
Incorporating students from the universities of Utah and Colorado, Skow Residence is part of a larger project intended to provide affordable, sustainable and innovative homes to residents of the Navajo Reservation at Bluff, Utah. For this structure, students created a home checkered with glass walls, to let in ample sunlight and incredible views of the surrounding desert. Suspended above the structure is a roof with an inverted gable, which stretches out to a dramatic cantilever over a deck, to offer protection from the sun.
The D.O.G. House – Norwich University’s Department of Geology Environmental Field Station by Norwich University Design / Build, Northfield, Vt., United States
Built by students from Norwich University, representing many disciplines beyond just architecture, the D.O.G. House combines innovative process with a groundbreaking program. Made out of repurposed materials, the portable, shipping-container structure is powered by solar energy and equipped to be a laboratory for environmental science. The project not only showcases the forward-thinking ideas of young designers, but demonstrates the strength to be found in the diverse academic climate of a university.
The Taliesin Mod.FabTM by Taliesin, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, Office of Mobile Design, Scottsdale, Ariz., United States
Built by students of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, the Taliesin Mod.FabTM is located near the American architect’s Arizona home, and derives its name from the same structure. Yet the project updates Wright’s legacy by applying his utilitarian forms to contemporary concerns involving access and sustainability. Made up of prefabricated panels, the design incorporates these simple elements to give the house a playful, Mondrianesque façade.
Built with the combined efforts of locals from Johannesburg and students from Cornell University, Armadillo Crèche is designed to facilitate educational experiences for both the students who built it and the children who will use it. The child development center is inspired by organic design, taking its name and concept from the armadillo, an influence manifested in the building’s protective façade, which opens up to bright and dynamic interiors.
Colorado Outward Bound School Micro Cabins by Colorado Building Workshop / University of Colorado Denver, Leadville, Colo., United States
When building these Leadville, Colorado cabins, students from the University of Colorado Denver devised effective strategies to make up for the project’s limited budget and time frame. The cabins follow a basic, yet modular, design, comprised of an external frame containing a prefabricated structure. The students also worked with a limited palette of materials, to make cabins which were easy to assemble and maintain a clear and coherent design.
Another collaboration between students from the University of Utah and University of Colorado, Nakai House is built for a single resident with an extensive collection of books. Despite the small scale and limited resources of the project, the house features one open room extending the entire length of the structure, to maximize space, make room for wide ribbon windows and show off the resident’s collection along one continuous bookshelf.
Created by the Scarcity and Creativity Studio, within the Oslo School of Architecture, and Chile a Soñar, a local organization, Pumanque Community Center was constructed to replace ruined architecture and restore community wellbeing in the wake of a destructive earthquake. The façade features geometric patterns as decoration that also provide ventilation to interior structures, and sails are suspended over the building to protect it from the sun. The project demonstrates a school’s ability to engage with communities, even if they are on the opposite side of the world, and do work that benefits everyone involved.