July 26, 2016

NDB 2016

Neighborhood Design | Build Studio 2016

Contributed by by Elizabeth Kelley, M.Arch 2017 Candidate

This year’s neighborhood design/build studio took on the task of designing and constructing a courtyard project for the local nonprofit organization New Beginnings, from start to finish in the span of just ten weeks. The courtyard (which is used by a range of kids and a community of adults), needed a covered seating area, a toy and bike storage area, a play structure, and enclosure to keep toy balls from escaping into the neighboring yards.



The design phase was brief and intense. We began with a site visit to the project location and a client meeting, where we learned about the conditions of the site and together identified the user needs of those who occupy the space.

We needed to develop a cohesive proposal to present to the client before we could proceed with any building, and these design decisions came in the form of many rapid studio charrettes. We started out in large groups, and as a unified vision emerged we broke into smaller focused project groups. By the end of the design phase (which lasted just a couple weeks), we proposed four affectionately named programs: a covered seating area – “The Corner Cafe,” a truss roof enclosure – “Fun Canyon,” storage – “Cubby Corner,” and a play area – “The Climbing Nook.”

Our design proposal used a material palette of exposed cedar wood to warm up the space in the bleak concrete courtyard. The form of each program directly connected to the unique conditions of the site. For example, the trusses of Fun Canyon were curved to bridge the differing heights of the structural mounting points between two buildings, and the Climbing Nook’s wavy form allowed us to keep window views unobstructed.  At the end of just a few weeks, we presented our final design proposal to the client through small scale physical models & renders.


Presentation model for clients


While finalizing the design, we simultaneously began developing construction documents. After all, it didn’t much matter how great the intended design was if we weren’t able to construct and execute a finished project; detailing and problem solving through meticulous construction documents was critical to the project’s final success. In another short and intense time period, we drafted all the details in Revit and worked with our instructors to make sure the details made sense and would work in practice.


An example of construction documents for the truss, these would consistently be updated as working documents until the project was built and complete.


Once the design was presented and the construction documents were mostly complete, we reached the building phase. This part made up the majority of the quarter, but at this point we were left with less than a couple of months to construct, deliver, and install the entire project. To meet the deadline we needed to stay productive at all times, while keeping studio contained within class hours (since using power tools unattended in the middle of the night is usually a terrible idea). But, to keep these regular hours we started earlier than the typical architecture studio does… and did I mention Saturday studios? Yes, every Saturday morning we were there and we were building. However as a treat, after weekend build days we would share a meal at the end of the day to celebrate a good week’s worth of work and keep our spirits up. Though we worked hard, the studio culture of design/build is a humorous and light-hearted one, it’s a great environment to learn in and be a part of. The highly collaborative environment pushed us to learn about all aspects of the project. From choosing a good piece of lumber, to making a proper sanding block, when to use which types of screws, putting up scaffolding, and how to use an assortment of power tools.

The majority of construction was done in the studio space and then transported to our site where we completed installation work over the final couple weeks. We made the deadline and completed the project ahead of schedule and under budget! The clients were great to work with and so happy with the completed project.



Students in studio working on the Climbing Nook.


Cubby Corner


The Corner Cafe.


Project in transit from studio.


Installation of the trusses for Fun Canyon.


Completed Climbing Nook.


Completed Cubby Corner.


The Corner Cafe connecting to Cubby Corner.


Instructors Steve Badanes and Jake LaBarre

2016 Design | Build Students
Allison Acosta, Ralaine Angeles, Michael Carrizosa, Riley Coghlan, Brad Ecklund, Tim Hanlon, Joyce Hsu, Elizabeth Kelley, Atif Khwaja, Ben Kim, Ariana Maes, Khue Nguyen, Hanna Sander, Nicholas Ward, Melanie Wicklund, David Witte