Studio project to help school

Outside of Dow Elementary School, construction equipment, orange border tape and two old displaced refrigerators are the growing pains of a new lock.

This is just the first step for eight second-level graduate students who are building an outdoor stage for the school children. The project is part of the Multicultural education and Counseling through the Arts program.

"This project is an Outdoor Amphitheater Stage for MECA, a thirty-year-old community focused institution which has a highly regarded and extensive visual and performing arts education program," Patrick Peters, the director of the graduate Design/Build Studio, said. "The project is designed to serve as an outdoor teaching facility."

Peters, who is also an associate architecture professor, said each class of graduate-level architecture students involved in the project gets its assignment "by word of mouth."

Students meet with prospective clients and then decide which project suits them best.

The course is required for all graduate architecture students to obtain their master’s.

"The importance of this project to the students is that they can now better understand both the link between design thinking and physical making-very rare for young architects," Peters said. "Also, they can see a project of their own design all the way through to completed construction."

Although the project is still in progress, students said they were grateful for an opportunity to contribute to the community.

"We heard that other groups were slackers, and that motivated us to finish," architecture graduate student Joanna Cheung said. "We work ten to twelve hours a day."

For the students, this is their first opportunity to experience architecture hands-on.

"It’s like taking a kid and pushing him into a pool and telling him to swim," architecture graduate student Jason Cantu said. "Blood, sweat and tears really go into it."

The architecture students come from a range of undergraduate degrees from fashion merchandising to political science.

"It’s been the most amazing experience of my life," architecture graduate student Cate Black said.

Unlike other graduate architecture assignments, the course allows the students to gain some on-the-job training, Peters said.

"The opportunity for our architecture graduate students to design and build a project of this kind in their first year of their intensive three-year professional degree program allows them to test the quality of their design ideas against the rigorous standard of built reality," he said.

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