Building Organic Movement

On Course
Title: Design/Build Studio
Department: School of Architecture
Semester: Fall 2010

The Design/Build Studio has given dozens of architecture students the chance to graduate with a built project under their tool belts. The assignment—design and build a full-scale project that meets the needs of a local nonprofit organization—teaches collaboration and community service, not to mention construction.

“These students have an advantage in the job market because they have some construction experience,” says Rocco Ceo, undergraduate program director, who with master builder and visiting critic Jim Adamson has been leading the studio since fall 2009.

Their latest endeavor involved creating a mobile organic kitchen from scratch, mostly out of recycled materials.

They started with a barebones trailer chassis salvaged by the client, an environmental group called Earth Learning.

“The important thing is students need to know the implications of their design,” says Adamson, a longtime member of the famous Jersey Devil architecture collaborative.

Whipping the ailing structure into a fully operational demo kitchen meant it first had to be gutted. Adamson and Ceo’s ten students also had to spend considerable time researching construction methods and sustainable practices before they could even begin the rebuilding process in the school’s construction yard. Vital instruction in craftsmanship and power tools came from Adrián Villaraos, director of the school’s model shop.

This particularly challenging project taught another key lesson. As the one-semester timeline quickly stretched into a year, Ceo, Adamson, and a handful of student volunteers had to work overtime through winter break and many weekends to finish what they’d started. “Once we get to building, it takes on a life of its own,” explains Ceo. “It’s not an abstract line on your computer. It really connects design concepts with construction.”

Recently delivered to its owner, the rolling kitchen, complete with green features such as a solar-paneled roof, is now hitting the road, ready to serve up organic fare with a side of community education.