March 30, 2018

Building Blocks

Building Blocks: Storefront Studio on Mainstreet charts the grassroots evolution of a community outreach studio offered by the University of Washington College Built Environments.  

Since 2003, Director Jim Nicholls has been leading groups of architecture, landscape, and planning students to partner with local small towns to study their main streets. The exhibit and book documents the process followed and the results achieved. A set of building blocks, or tools for community-engaged design, is illustrated with field-tested examples.

The Storefront Studio is dedicated to investing the academic capital of the UW Department of Architecture in close partnership with the social capital of local communities. Our goal is to strengthen the connections between the members of a community and their physical setting, providing anchors for authentic emergent identities, resilient economic growth and inclusive social interaction.

The exhibit is open through May 4, with a special reception and book release on April 25 from 5:00 PM – 6:30 PM.  (RSVP at this link. Also, check out Jim’s recent interview for UW’s Faculty Friday, here, as well as the Seattle Weekly’s coverage of the story, here!)

“UW’s Storefront Studio has taken a unique approach to revitalizing main streets both in urban neighborhoods and in small towns. It operates on the belief that the solutions can be found in the community itself. Students contribute their design expertise, but they also help the community to focus on its own strengths.”

     – Jim Diers, Community Organizer, Author ‘“Neighbor Power: Building Community the Seattle Way”


“Since its inception in 2003, when Professor Jim Nicholls and twelve UW architecture students set up studio in a vacant storefront on University Avenue, Storefront Studio has served as a dynamic tool for revitalization of historic main streets and downtowns from Roslyn to Gig Harbor, Bothell to Auburn, and many places in between. … Storefront Studio has become a showcase of public exhibitions and a teaching laboratory for community-based architecture, urban design, and preservation, realizing its goal to bring a visible economic and social vitality to the historic main streets in our communities. “

     – Jennifer Meisner, King County Historic Preservation and Economic Development


“(The Storefront Studio) has worked across the state of Washington, helping small urban communities re-imagine their downtown, their neighborhood, or just a street – in new and often unexpected ways. As such, the Storefront Studio has impacted the lives of many, many people in our State, directly and by design. This book testifies to that legacy.”

     – Vikramaditya Prakash, Author, Professor & Former Chair, UW Dept. of Architecture