Service By Design Oct03


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Service By Design

During the spring quarter of 2011, a handful of like-minded students gathered to discuss the creation of an independent design studio that would 1) engage an underserved community in the Seattle area, 2) explore the use of alternative building materials in an urban context, and 3) provide a collaborative and interdisciplinary design experience. Several hundred meetings later, students were sitting down for their first studio session with faculty adviser extraordinaire, Brian Gerich.

Thanks to the college, different departments within the college, and Architects Without Borders – Seattle, six graduate students from the Departments of Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning participated in a visioning studio for YouthCare. YouthCare is a non-profit organization that engages homeless youth in the Seattle area and helps them stabilize their lives in order to prepare them for independence. With several facilities across the city that serve either the living or learning needs of homeless youth, YouthCare was interested in exploring the potential for combining these programmatic elements into one project.

During winter quarter of this past year, preliminary research was done to explore precedents, materials, and sites. Once spring quarter began, the students underwent a rigorous site selection process that concluded with picking two sites. By choosing a large site in the Rainier Valley and a smaller site in the Central District, the resulting projects would give YouthCare a range of possibilities for developing a mixed-use project. Following site selection, students organized four client workshops, two with YouthCare staff and two with youth at the Orion Center, YouthCare’s emergency drop in shelter. From these workshops, students were able to better understand the existing facilities in YouthCare’s network and priorities for the new project. In addition to the workshops, the students and several volunteers spent a day on a design-build project constructing a replicable, mobile shelving unit and welcome desk for the Orion Center. When it eventually became time for the design phase of the quarter, collaborative student pairs worked at a fast and furious pace in order to accomplish as much as possible in a short time.

By the end of the quarter students had successfully accomplished the goals established at the outset and in the process, had a lot of fun. Ultimately, this project showed YouthCare different visions of what is possible with a combined, living/learning program and gave students the opportunity to work collaboratively with a real-world, non-profit client.

Written by Adam Stoeckle

YouthCare staff discussing spatial priorities with a custom, studio-designed board game.

Students listening to feedback from YouthCare staff regarding their spatial priorities.

Design/Build project underway at the Orion Center.

Finished mobile, storage unit/welcome desk at the entrance to the Orion Center.

Student design in the Central District

Student design in the Rainier Valley

Another student design in the Rainier Valley


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