Collab/Fab May03


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The Collab/Fab Studio, founded by Rob Corser, AIA and sponsored by the UW Department of Architecture, brings undergraduate design students together with community members to explore mutually enriching opportunities for collaborative interventions in the built and social environment.

CollabFab 2012 studio during its first visit to Twisp and the TwispWorks site,  March 2012

This year’s project: “GhostWorks” aims at gathering collective histories and future visions for the TwispWorks PDA in the central Washington town of Twisp.  The vision for GhostWorks is a series of interactive installations that will collect and project stories, images, histories and dreams of TwispWorks –ghost structures that will stand for a short while in the late spring and summer of 2012 as part of a larger public event.  Building on the past success of the two previous Collab/Fab studios, the GhostWorks project seeks to actively involve TwispWorks teams and local individuals in planning, history gathering, curation and installation activities.  Students are jump-starting this initiative by generating and refining design visions with strong community collaboration, then prototyping lightweight but powerful digital and built structures that can be constructed with onsite community involvement.

The team for GhostWorks brings together TwispWorks staff and volunteers with two groups from the University of Washington.  Continuing the past two Collab/Fab associations, I am leading a group of undergraduate architecture students in Arch 402.  A new partner for this year is a group of undergraduate students from the Design department in Design 386 (Visual Story Telling) led by internationally regarded digital media guru Tad Hirsch.   While their specific focus is on Interaction Design, they are also contributing widely to all aspects of collaboration, conceptualization and fabrication.  This new partnership brings the skills of students in Industrial Design, Communication, and Interaction Design to the rich dialog already underway between TwispWorks and the University of Washington College of Built Environments.

While I’ve taught design-build, interdisciplinary, and collaborative studios many times in the past, this current experience is both incredibly rich and tremendously challenging for students and faculty alike.  We began the GhostWorks project with an intense fieldtrip to Twisp in March that brought together students from multiple disciplines, and local residents for the first time.  We shared information, locally produced sausages, and karyoke at the local “Branding Iron” bar.   This rich, shared experience created a sense of bonding and purpose among the students and community members, and has contributed enormously to the development of the projects.

Upon our return to Seattle, students began working in teams of 4 –always with at least one architecture student and several design students in each group –to develop concepts for “Ghosts”.   In a very short time, seven strong ideas were hatched and refined.  This past weekend Tori Karpenko, Director of Programs and Partnerships for TwispWorks, (and an artist and farmer himself) came to Seattle to review the proposals and provide feedback.  While none of the concepts are perfect, all are on track to be developed, prototyped and presented to people in Twisp during a daylong public event planned for Saturday June 2nd.


Collaboration over the TwispWorks site model.  3 IxD majors + 2 Arch majors = one TEAM  -collaboration is hard !

Collaboration is also FUN !

One concept:  a Ghost Tree that embodies returned memories of the countless trees planted from seedlings reared at the TwispWorks site.

Another Concept: A Fire Spirit -who inhabits an old shed and links with mythologies and stories of resilience.

Still Another Concept:  A field of “Stems” that contain images of Twisp’s past, audio, lighting and other information.

And One More (0f several): A Wasp’s nest, a Hive, or Cloud of smoke -made of Mason Jar lids -using juxtaposition and projected media to transform and communicate.

Finally -a proposal for Tumbleweeds -a system of spherical wagon wheel forms that can wander the site, containing information and activities.

Tumbling Tumbleweeds…
Link to the YouTube song “Tumbling Tumbleweeds”  by Sons of the Pioneers,  words and music by Bob Nolan, 1934

“Tumbling Tumbleweeds” by Sons of the Pioneers, words and music by Bob Nolan, 1934


We’ll be coming back at ya again soon with real live on-site installations in early June!


Rob Corser, AIA
Assistant Professor

Rob Corser, AIA is an architect, educator and designer who has worked and taught in the US, Italy and the UK. Educated at the University of Virginia and Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, Corser has won numerous academic awards including Harvard’s Peter Rice Prize for the integration of engineering and architecture. Corser is a licensed architect in the state of California, and his professional experience includes work in San Francisco and London. His research focuses on collaborative design, and construction systems and strategies for deployable and sustainable structures.


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