In collaboration with Rusty Smith. In today’s future, knowledge is indeed valuable. But know-how is invaluable and the architecture students at Auburn University have the know-how to get things done. As a direct reflection of the stated mission and values of the architecture program, we believe in the importance of action. Therefore we also believe that the best way to learn how to do something is by actually doing it. As a Land Grant institution, our architecture program is deeply rooted in the ethos of outreach and service learning. In close collaboration with architectural and industry professionals, consultants, and community leaders, our students work on meaningful, public interest design projects that have real life impacts. Through this context-intensive work, our students come to understand that design is a material act that bears profound social consequences. As such, the issues of making, craft, manufacture and assembly all have meaning that resonates much deeper than a simple understanding of form and aesthetics. Thus the development of “know-how” (the embodiment of knowledge through the act of making and building) becomes the unique characteristic that enables our students to emerge as socially engaged, active and truly impactful design professionals. These are our core values.
Ours is a design-build program and from their first year to their last, our students are immersed in an education in which they are instructed in the value of impact. Learning through their respective collaborative, community-based design-build projects, they quickly come to understand that they don’t need to wait until they are professionals to make a resonating impact upon the place in which they find themselves. The Architecture Program as a whole embeds in each year level some aspect of community-based collaboration and design-build strategies as a pedagogical framework in an effort to push the educational ethos of learning by making out of the representational mode of the architectural model and into the material discourse of actual-sized architectural fabrications and assemblies.
Our principles of community-based design-build education are rooted in the Vitruvian virtues of architecture, “firmitas, utilitas, et venustas.”1 These virtues translate directly to “firmness, commodity and delight.” Within the scaffolding of our pedagogical framework, we think of these architectural virtues as part of our core principles and translate them as follows: firmitas as building performance, utilitas as environmental stewardship and venustas as social relevance.
This paper seeks to discuss four frameworks countering the Foundation Unit community-based, design-build project, South’s BEST with the resulting Rural Studio projects designed by these student cohorts as Fifth Year Rural Studio students through the lens of the three principles, firmitas, utilitas et venustas. The frameworks are: 1) mediating through scale, texture and pattern, 2) component-based architectural assemblies, 3) material repurposing and 4) the dynamic nature of architectural systems.
1. Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture, Vitruvius Pollio, M.H. Morgan, H.L. Warren, 1960.