Shannon Criss, M.Arch

School of Architecture, Design & Planning - Architecture
Associate Professor
Primary office:
785-864-3861
Marvin Hall
Room 102
University of Kansas
1465 Jayhawk Blvd
Lawrence, KS 66045
Second office:
785-766-0069



Summary

SHANNON CRISS is a licensed architect and an Associate Professor in the Architecture Department at the University of Kansas. Through her work at KU she is able to bring focus to community engagement processes and service learning opportunities to create an architecture that serves the greater good. 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. In order to be effective, this premise requires collaborative thought and work, where students identify and examine ideas driven by their empathy for others’ needs and their own natural curiosity to explore and offer new insight to a given problem, with the premise that good design is enduring design. Through externally funded research projects that incorporate design courses, she is able to engage urban communities of need in Wyandotte County. Shannon believes that by meeting people where they are, “these real-world experiences enhance the student perspective on what can be achieved when working with community insight as a guide to plausible, well-designed solutions.” Shannon is a strong advocate to help students see their role as agents to connecting communities with design that promote environmental sustainability, social equity and community resilience.

Her work has been awarded an Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture Collaborative Practice Award in 2017 and 2002, the Kansas Alliance for Wellness 'Health Innovator Award' among other awards and she has received the University of Kansas Steeples Service to Kansas Award. Her work has been published in Routledge 'Designbuild Education in North America', The Plan Journal, PUBLIC: A Journal of Imagining America, in 'Good Deeds, Good Design, Community Service Through Architecture' published by Princeton Architectural Press among other publications. She is a graduate of Kansas State University and the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and has taught at the Boston Architectural Center, The Harvard Graduate School of Design, Mississippi State University and the University of Kansas.

Teaching Interests

  • Public Interest Design, Participatory Design, Resilient Design, Community-Based Participatory Research, Impact Design, Sustainable Design, Visualization, Design Process, Human-Centered Design, Building Design

Research

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.

Selected Publications

Criss, S. & Gore, N. (in press). Taking "Engagement" Seriously: Mobilizing Community for Better Parks and Public Health. In F. Ferdous & B. Bell (Eds.), All-Inclusive Engagement in Architecture.

Criss, S. (in press). Shaping New Forms of Citizenry. through Community Co-Creation and Participatory Design Processes. In Proceedings from the 106th Annual National Conference: The Ethical Imperative.

Criss, S. Sanguinettie, P. Gore, N. Schultz, J. Lupino, T. Rao, P. Dinakarpandian, D. & Marciarille, M. (2017). Connecting Communities and Promoting Health with Smart Participatory Parks. In 2017 Smart Cities Connect Conference.

Criss, S. (2017). Proceedings for Building for Health and Well-Being Conference, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Criss, S. & Kleinmann, M. (2017). Dotte Agency: A Participatory Design Model for Community Health. The Plan Journal, 1(2), 213-237. DOI:10.15274/tpj.2016.01.02.09 http://www.theplanjournal.com/system/files/articles/tpj_v1_i2_Art_Criss.pdf

Criss, S. & Gore, N. (2017). Embracing Uncertainty: Community Designbuild. In C. Kraus (Ed.), Designbuild Education in North America. New York: Routledge.

Criss, S. & Gore, N. (in press). Mobilizing for Better Health through Prototyping Park Infrastructure. In Proceedings for Building for Health and Well-Being Conference (Honolulu, Hawaii).

Criss, S. (2015). Diagramming, Scaffolding and Transforming the Architecture Curriculum. In Center for Teaching Excellence.

Criss, S. Bell, B. & Ortenberg, D. (2014). Value Proposition to Universities. In Proceedings for 102nd ACSA National Conference: Globalizing Architecture/Flows and Disruptions.

Criss, S. R., & Gore, N. N. (2014). Architecture as Acupuncture. Public, 2(2). http://public.imaginingamerica.org/blog/article/architecture-as-acupuncture/

Criss, S. & Bowne, L. (2014). Drawn Through: The Sectional Perspective as a Tool of Engagement. In Proceedings from 102nd Annual Meeting: Globalizing Architecture, Flows and Disruptions.

Criss, S. (2012). Recycling the Margins. In S. Grabow (Ed.), Vitruvius on the Plain: Architectural Thought at Kansas.

Criss, S. & Bowne, L. (2012). Perspections. In Proceedings at the 2012 Biannual National Conference: Design Communication Association at Stillwell, OK, 21-24 October.

Criss, S. (2011). Embedding Sustainable Design Thinking into the Design Curriculum. In Proceedings at the 2011 National Conference on the Beginning Design Student at Lincoln, Nebraska.

Criss, S. (2011). Working with Contradiction. In Proceedings at the 2011 National Conference on the Beginning Design Student at Lincoln, Nebraska.

Criss, S. (2009). Finding Discipline Through Authentic Experience. In Proceedings at the 2009 National Conference on the Beginning Design Student at Baton Rouge, LA.

Criss, S. (2008). Working Against and With Translation. In Proceedings of the Annual Beginning Design Conference.

Criss, S. (2006). Recycling the Margins. OZ Journal: Beyond Aesthetics, 20-23.

Criss, S. (2005). Public Space Making in Okolona, Mississippi. In B. Bell (Ed.), Good Deeds, Good Design, Community Service Through Architecture. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

Criss, S. (2003). Public Space Making in the Argentine Neighborhood, Kansas City, Kansas. In Proceedings of the International Eco Design Conference, Berkeley, CA, 2003.

Criss, S. (2003). Ten Criteria for Selecting Recycled-Content Products. In Proceedings of the International Eco Design Conference, Berkeley, CA, 2003.

Criss, S. & Gore, N. (2002). Okolona Downtown Park: A Collaborative Design-Build Project by Third-Year Architecture Students. In Proceedings from the 90th Annual Meeting of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA).

Criss, S. & Mastran, S. (2002). Case Study: Highway 61 Through the Mississippi Delta (S. S. Mastran). Your Town: Mississippi Delta, 29-36. Washington, DC: National Endowment for the Arts.

Criss, S. & Mastran, S. (2002). Case Study: Mound Bayou, Mississippi (S. S. Mastran). Your Town: Mississippi Delta, 43-47. Washington, DC: National Endowment for the Arts.

Criss, S. (2000). Working with Chance: Community Outreach in the Small Town. In Proceedings from the 88th Annual Meeting of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) (pp. 557-561).

Criss, S. & Perkes, D. (1998). Working Space: Notes on Design Studio Work in the Public Realm. In Proceedings from the 86th Annual Meeting of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) (pp. 155-158).

Criss, S. (1995). Little Friends Farm Childcare Center. In H. Sanoff (Ed.), Creating Environments for Young Children (pp. 75-76). Mansfield, OH: BookMasters, Inc.

Criss, S. & Gore, N. (1995). A Home for the Motorhome. In Proceedings from the 83rd ACSA Annual Meeting and Technology Conference.

Criss, S. McCann, R. & Watson, J. (1994). Colloquy. In Proceedings from the ACSA Southwest Regional Conference (pp. 85-93).

Selected Work

Selected Presentations

Selected Grants

Research

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.

Academic Areas

  • Architecture

Areas of Expertise

  • Sustainable Design
  • Community Design
  • Recycled-Content Architectural Products

Courses Taught

  • 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

Education

  • B.Arch., Kansas State, 1985
  • M.Arch., Harvard, 1992

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