In recent years, CED has increased its emphasis on interdisciplinary studios. These types of studios benefit students in multiple ways, exposing them to perspectives and issues outside their main discipline, helping develop collaboration skills, and often, most importantly, allowing them a glimpse into the real-world experience beyond the doors of Wurster Hall.
“The real world is interdisciplinary,” says Daniel Simons, principal in the firm David Baker Architects (DBA). “As architects, we deal with city planners, clients, developers — we’re constantly negotiating various people’s priorities and bringing them together in a building.” DBA principal and founder David Baker added, “Students are typically not exposed to that in architecture school. That’s why this type of studio is so valuable, and why the work that came out of this studio was so compelling.”
In spring 2018, David Baker (M. Arch. ‘82) and Daniel Simons co-taught the James R. Boyce Affordable Housing Competition Studio. Led by Carol Galante, I. Donald Terner Distinguished Professor of Affordable Housing and Urban Policy in the College of Environmental Design and Faculty Director of the Terner Center for Housing Innovation, the James R. Boyce Affordable Housing Studio aims to give students the opportunity to work in interdisciplinary teams and learn from leading practitioners to design solutions targeting the affordable housing crisis.
Generously funded through a gift from CED alumnus James R. Boyce (M. Arch. ’67), the studio is a realization of Boyce’s vision to promote the design and construction of low-cost housing worldwide through student competition. The spring studio was the second time the course had been offered.
This year’s studio connected graduate students in architecture and city planning to design a comprehensive affordable housing project, with some component focused on housing for homeless people. Through lectures and tours by architects, planners, developers, and other real estate professionals, students gained knowledge on a wide range of topics, from services provided to formerly homeless people, to affordable housing finance, to interior design of common areas in affordable housing. “We exposed the students to a lot of information — we wanted to create a very content rich experience,” explained Baker. Simons continued, “Our goal was to give the students a window into the complexity that goes along with an affordable housing development.”
Six teams of four to five students each focused on one of two potential sites selected for development — in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood and in Downtown Oakland. As they developed their proposals, which included intermediate deadlines for sub-scopes of the project such as interior common area designs and unit plans, staff from DBA provided feedback through desk critiques, and a jury of experts reviewed mid-term presentations.
The studio culminated in a symposium on May 2, 2018 held at the Bancroft Hotel in Berkeley, where the teams presented their designs to a group of judges made up of experts in the field. “The students were impressive,” commented Simons. “We had an incredibly broad range of perspectives in the jury panel, and there wasn’t a single question from the jurors to which the students didn’t have a coherent answer. They had thought about so many different aspects of the project, to the level of how available financing impacted decisions on unit-size design.”
The symposium also included a panel discussion — We Can Do This: Solving the Crisis of Homelessness, moderated by Professor Galante — with presentations by Angela Brooks, FAIA, Managing Principal at Brooks + SCARPA, Los Angeles; Brad Wiblin, Senior Vice President at BRIDGE Housing; David Baker, FAIA, Principal at David Baker Architects; and Tomiquia Moss, Chief Executive Director of Hamilton Families.
The jurors selected two winning presentations. Designed for the South of Market site, “Keystone Commons” by Cynthia Armour (M.C.P. ’21), Julie Mendel (M.C.P. ’20), Weinan Huang (M.Arch ’19), and Yang Liu (M.Arch ’19) includes a total 263 affordable housing units, with units dedicated to veterans and transitional-aged youth.
Sited in Downtown Oakland, “The Ebell” by Matt Fairris (M.C.P. ’20), Fang Fang (M.Arch ’20), Fiona Ruddy (M.C.P./M.P.H. ’18) , and Matt Turlock (M.Arch ’20) is a supportive housing development for 79 pregnant women and families with children under five experiencing homelessness, inspired by the values of the Ebell Women’s Club.
Cash prizes of $5000 were awarded to the two winning teams. In a nice twist, the Ebell Team members all pitched in and donated $1000 of their prize to the Homeless Prenatal Program whose staff were helpful as they developed their scheme.
Reflecting on the experience, Carol Galante commented, “The students did remarkable work in this studio — work that will actually significantly inform the development of the two sites. By the end I felt like I was simply coaching professional project managers! Most importantly, they learned the importance of different disciplines and skills in the development process from finance to architecture to planning to understanding construction techniques.”
“It was fantastic to see how the students really pulled together as teams — the quality of their ideas and the depth of their research, it was just really exceptional,” said Baker. “We’re looking forward to teaching it again next spring.”
The following student project teams also competed in the spring 2018 James R. Boyce Affordable Housing Competition Studio:
- 600 Jessie — Ali Mills, Malen Leon Farrera, Miao Li, James Perez, and Kristin DeMarco
- Gateway on Mission — Sean Doocy, Paige Dow, Kevin Gao, and Michael Marks
- Lakeside Collective — Brian Goggin, Can Ge, James Conlon, and Xiaoyu Ma
- The Beacon — Shiyuan Chen, Erin Lapeyrolerie, Mercedes Harris, Megan Stenftenagel, and Christiana Whitcomb
For more detail and to view each of the projects, visit the Turner Center for Housing Innovation website.