On Friday, undergraduate students in the architecture major presented projects to real-world clients from Red Hook, New York.
The presentations marked the culmination of “In Space,” this year’s fall studio for senior architecture majors. The annual course offers seniors an experiential foray into the practical workings of the architectural profession. Falconworks Artists Group, a community-based acting program located in Red Hook, was selected as this year’s client, and students were asked to design a theatre on a shoreline site, formerly used as dumping ground for various kinds of rubble, to serve as the Falconworks’ “permanent home.”
Daphne Binder ARCH ’16, a graduate fellow for the course, said the class asks students to evaluate their own design processes in important and novel ways.
“This kind of pedagogical approach, where students are engaged with a ‘real’ client, has the potential to be very informative for the design process,” Binder said. “Usually people view constraints as detrimentally restrictive, but I think in this case it allows students to always have parameters by which to judge their work.”
The seminar gives students what is often their first chance to work with an actual client, explained School of Architecture professor Turner Brooks, one of the professors who teaches the class. Although the projects may not be constructed, Brooks added, the opportunity remains an important learning experience for students.
Reggie Flowers and Chris Hammett, the theater group’s leaders, met with the students before they began the project, presenting the Red Hook site and their own visions for the building that would host their theater.
“The space is a place where we have performed before for a specific location piece. We brought them in the space so they could see it and think about how they can turn into it a performance-ready space,” Flowers said. “It is an industrial space, it is raw, so I am curious to see how the students think about it.”
Ruobing Xia ’16, a student in the class, described the experience as both challenging and interesting. Her project included a monumental walkway that would allow people to move freely in and out of the theatre, entering directly onto one of the building’s various stage levels.
“Something that I took away from the project is how to address the given site and existing buildings in design,” Xia said. “The grain elevator on our site was massive and hard to challenge in size, and it was interesting to see how each one of us chose to respond to it, either by creating something completely different, or utilizing the façade of the building as a backdrop.”
Yanbo Li ’16, another student in the seminar, added that he particularly appreciated the opportunity for further interaction with professors in the School of Architecture.
Li said that the studio is a “perennial favorite” among senior architecture majors from year to year, and said his own experience was not an exception.
“People always talk about architecture majors as the people on campus who don’t sleep or leave Rudolph, but senior fall is the exception,” Li said. “Both of the professors have reasonable expectations on our time. For me, that meant that where I fell short on sheer volume of late nights, I made up for in genuine care.”