Neighborhood Design / Build Studio May10

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Neighborhood Design / Build Studio

Design proposal of the new shed/greenhouse/teaching area for the UW Farm.

At only our third week on site so far, the Neighborhood Design Build Studio is well on its way to building a piece of UW history, quite literally, in fact, with a little over six more weeks to completion.  Through a joint effort of students, teachers and members of the community, the project will culminate in the construction of a shared tool shed, greenhouse and outdoor covered teaching area for the UW Farm, the Center for Urban Horticulture, the Seattle Youth Garden Works, and the Hardy Plant Society.  It will also serve as a practical medium from which we will learn valuable hands-on construction skills.

Design charrette with Steve Badanes and Jake LaBarre.

A daily routine that was once comprised of designing from the relative comfort of our studio is now replaced by physical building and assembly.  Our first lesson was quickly learned: it seems we’ve taken a few liberties in the physics involved with the construction of our theoretical structures (did I say algorithmic design based on computational models? I meant four walls and a roof).  Cross-collaboration between students of both architecture and landscape architecture is not uncommon, but for most of us, the physical nature of building for the first time is the challenge.  Steve Badanes, along with Jake LaBarre, have been our most knowledgeable and patient instructors, mentors, and trainers. “Don’t call it the ‘bar’ scheme, the clients won’t know what that means.” While we break out of our studio presentation habits, Steve reminds us how to sell the project to real clients with real money.   On the other hand, Jake never misses giving a note of practical advice—“It’s    always good to look busy on the work site—sharpen your pencil if you have to.”

First day on the site: digging for the footing.

Students laying out the formwork.

Students mixing and pouring concrete over the formwork.

Overlooking the site with the footing in place.

With a tight budget, the studio is using its creative-insights to online casino their fullest with its design, using a double slanted roof to gain maximum sun exposure for the greenhouse and to harvest rainwater for washing tools.  After tedious construction, measuring and leveling to settle the formwork in place, the foundation was successfully poured by the end of the first week.  Although we are currently living and breathing the build, a portion of our Saturdays includes barbecues to celebrate our weekly accomplishments.  Even with the newfound challenges of establishing cohesive teamwork and execution of the plan, we can’t resist the inherent satisfaction of witnessing the product of our efforts.  After a long afternoon of breathing concrete dust and traipsing in the mud, it’s not uncommon to overhear a whisper of, “This is actually fun.”  A tremendous team effort permeates the group with all-around high-fives and smiles.

At the end of each day at the site, the entire class gathers in a circle, exhausted and covered in dirt, joined by Steve in his daily clapping ritual to remind us of a job well done and to look forward to the next exciting and productive workday.  As we get closer to framing the structure, cladding the walls, and putting the last rain barrel in place, we can expect to say to each other with a smile, “we built that” and to hear Steve say again and again, “this is the best class ever.”

Discussing plans with Steve Badanes, Jake LaBarre, and Robert Servine from the Seattle Youth Garden Works.  Photo: courtesy of Lisa Venticinque

Students filling the foundation with dirt and gravel. Photo: courtesy of Lisa Venticinque

Students raking to level the foundation. Photo: courtesy of Lisa Venticinque

Ending the day by clapping with Steve Badanes.

Written by Giselle Altea, MArch Candidate 2013

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