School of Architecture College of Design

ARCH 3250: Exploring Uncertainty: Community Design + the Citizen Architect

Exploring Uncertainty: Community Design + the Citizen Architect


Adjunct/Visiting Faculty‎
James Wheeler

Uncertainty is not a problem to be solved. It is the working space of our time.

In a recent issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, Thomas Fisher, the Dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota and current president of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture calls for architectural education to respond to the growing need for designers to take on the challenge of working beyond the traditional paying client model. Fisher states, “The world desperately needs a design version of public health, and so do architecture schools and the profession itself. . . This design-for-all philosophy would certainly demand a new business model and new forms of architectural education.” We can expect the new business models to be subsidized to varying degrees, supporting architects and planners to extend the reach of design beyond meeting the program needs of paying clients.

The opportunities and challenges for such new modes of practice are in every city. Many service organizations that work in partnership with architects and planners are well versed in subsidized work and can be collaborators and guides. The current generation of community design activists should learn to combine the familiar design school encouragement to have a broad view of a project, with the pragmatic function of subsidization to address today’s complex problems. The work of such community design practices would be propelled and funded by explicit social and environmental objectives that would be able to advance beyond the self-interests of typical clients. These new models of community design practice would do more than merely provide design assistance to underserved populations; they would lead the effort to invent ways to use design to address the risks and uncertainties of our time. -David Perkes, Batture, Volume 5

Exploring Uncertainty: Community Design + the Citizen Architect

Community design is a movement focused on the creation and management of environments for people. This process promotes change to the built environment from the neighborhood to regional scale, and aims to meet community needs through participatory decision-making at all levels. Community Design helps to establish active partnerships with community residents and institutions and to advocate and develop strategies for strengthening neighborhoods through.

This workshop will provide opportunities to engage in design projects with active partners that are addressing needs in their neighborhood and communities with an emphasis on partners in North Minneapolis, the Central Corridor, and the University District. We will partner on projects that will range in scale and scope as well as vary in the stage in which the project will be developed. Students will be introduced to the partners and projects and then work in groups of two to three to develop a scope of work and deliverable schedule with the client group to address the needs of the project during the course of the eight-week course and in some cases helping to plan for implementation beyond the end of term.

Community Design is an incredibly fluid process that can be very intense and requires a good deal of effort, patience, and commitment. We have the opportunity to engage in partnership with a number of amazing organizations and institutions to make these design projects happen. We have the responsibility as designers to make sure that we are clear about our intentions, abilities, and assets we are bringing to the project and looking to our partners to help strengthen the aspects of the project that we are unable to provide through the development of partnerships through collaboration.

School of Architecture
145 Rapson Hall
89 Church Street
Minneapolis, MN 55455

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