Global flows of goods, services and capital have wrought tremendous changes in our culture. Amidst these sweeping transformations, which seem destined to continue, we tend to lose interest in local or regional marketplaces, and lapse in our commitment to locally shared values and our own sense of place. Community life suffers; we neglect the public realm. The architectural profession is likewise affected by these changes, as it seeks to secure its future in this changed landscape. If architecture can’t serve the greater good, what value does it have? Can we really be satisfied by serving the 2% of the market that can afford “design”?
My research works to catalyze means and resources in order to create an architecture that serves the greater good. To do so, my research investigates how we make buildings and communities, and develops processes and strategies to enable an entity—whether an individual or institutional client, a neighborhood, or a community—to build for itself what it could not do on its own. Architecture can promote the larger public welfare at a variety of scales: from the scale of the materials we choose to build with, to the ways in which we consider new (and re-used) individual buildings, to the means by which we form the larger public realm.
In each of these scales of development, establishing an enduring design is essential. The endeavor requires that we think beyond the singular architectural object and develop deep, long-term, loose-fitting principles to guide the work we do as architects; developing strategies that make the architectural object the right fit, for many people, for a long time. Good design is enduring design.
This premise requires collaborative thought and work. Unfortunately, in academia we give priority to single-minded approaches and design solutions. We praise the novel, individual genius at the expense of collaborative, holistic, diverse design solutions. In practice, we mostly build for single clients, (individual or institutional committees), concerned for the architectural object within defined, property-line boundaries. This insulated thinking and action (perhaps unconscious for many) limits the potential of architecture to act in useful and productive ways in society. In almost every research project, I attempt to include others, be interdisciplinary, and be public. The research is strengthened by dialogue, diversity of view, and by the less-tangible elements that test the physical object (whether efficiency, durability, healthy human relationships, or possession). Along with working in collaborative ways, I have felt it critical to make my work, our work, as architects, public.
Since beginning this inquiry in graduate school, my research has continually evolved, starting with understanding the public realm—at the larger community scale. Much of this work has been an attempt to understand how the public realm, with individual buildings placed within this realm (places of commerce, housing, daycare) can best support an inspired and enduring community life and making those efforts public. Directly working with the citizens in a community and building actual constructions has tested design methodologies by working directly with materials, on actual sites and with real people. Through these sorts of public-realm projects in fringe communities, I have found a great need for infill housing, affordable housing and childcare as part of the larger community-life matrix. My research attempts to fill this need. So much housing, particularly the nominally “affordable,” is plunked into neighborhood without considering non-traditional family life, work/living arrangements, affordability as defined by durability maintainability, limiting energy consumption, lasting and healthy materials, connection to public transportation, and the like. Current research and proposals indicate a strong future in this area. And finally, this research challenges my teaching methodologies and has contributed to a national discourse on the value of teaching community design and service learned.
Areas of Expertise
- Sustainable Design
- Community Design
- Recycled-Content Architectural Products
- ARCH 201, Undergraduate Architectural Design II
- ARCH 500, Undergraduate Design Studio VII
- ARCH 703, Graduate Architectural Design III
- ARCH 680, Building with Intelligence: An Introduction to Sustainable Design
- ARCH 681, Defining Community
- B.Arch., Kansas State, 1985
- M.Arch., Harvard, 1992