Studio / Practicum

The studio environment is structured more as a professional office than an academic design studio. We are working with clients who have specific needs. We meet with them often to clarify our direction and work, adjusting and readjusting as we learn more; we are responsible for their desires, not only our own. Part of what we will learn is “how” to work with clients, how to be effective in the use of their time and yours, how to read and understand group behavior and yourself in relationship to it. Part of our instruction will be on “intervention theory” – that is, what do we know about working with clients and how can we be better at it.

You may be asked occasionally to jump from one project to another just as if you were in an office. You may have primary responsibility for one project, but when we need people to switch or to assist, you are expected to move quickly. This means everybody has to be aware of everyone else’s work so that the movement is possible. And as you assist on other projects, so you can expect others to work with you.

It is probable that everyone will be doing “hands-on” work in addition to design work. You’ll be using your hands, swinging hammers, digging in the dirt, and so on. This is a part of our service to the community and a part of learning the techniques and skills of architecture and landscape architecture.

This is a lot of new territory. Sometimes it will be a breeze and other times, you may find you are having a difficult time. Please keep us informed. We’re there to guide you through this experience and will help in any way we can. We want everyone to have an incredibly stimulating educational experience, a challenging cross cultural encounter, and lots of fun!

This course is an upper level design studio that focuses on intervention theory. The studio engages students in traditional design activities such as problem framing, programming, site analysis, concept development, basic design, and graphic representation. This work is done in the context of service learning, on projects proposed by the local community. Students are exposed to intervention theory and practice, and then work with a “client” under the direction of a faculty member. In addition to the design studio requirements, students meet with community groups on an on-going basis to test ideas with the goals and visions of local stakeholders.

This studio sets out to:

  • Develop students’ ability to incorporate site characteristics, client desires, programmatic needs and relevant codes and laws into a feasible design proposal. Students must synthesize a multitude of complex and often technical information.
  • Utilize research as a tool to develop specific program requirements.
  • Work at the scales of site master planning, and conceptual building design.
  • Integrate designed outdoor spaces into site and building proposals.
  • Incorporate issues of designing for users of very different ages and physical abilities into site and building proposals.
  • Employ an overarching frame of sustainability, seeking proposals that support ecology, economy, and equity at all levels—from the broad and conceptual approaches to the technical details.
  • Provide meaningful and useful design input into two real projects for the community of Monteverde, Costa Rica.

The course will be completed over 9 weeks totaling 180.0 contact hours.
The course will meet M,T,W,TH,F from 1:00PM – 5:00PM.
Please see the program Google calendar for specific information about weekly meeting times, trips, site visits, and major deliverables.

Week 0: Orientation
Week 1: Project introduction, site visits, client meetings
Week 2: Research / Preliminary design concept proposals
Week 3: Refinement of design concept proposals
Week 4: Production for community presentation
Week 5: Vacation
Week 6: Project course correction, client meetings
Week 7: Design development
Week 8: Design development
Week 9: Production for community presentation


During studio students and faculty will do all or some of the following: make site visits, gather data, meet with clients, work in studio, take appropriate field trips, and so on.  Students will present their work at various times during the semester to the larger community.  Students will work in teams, and each group will prepare an illustrated written report documenting their work.   In addition to being reviewed by faculty, these reports will be added to the Institute’s library, and become resources for subsequent Sustainable Futures groups.


  • You can expect that studio faculty will structure the studio in such a way that facilitates your productive grappling with the issues in the projects at hand.
  • You can expect that studio faculty will be in studio during studio work times listed on the program’s Google calendar.
  • You can expect to produce and show work that receives feedback from studio faculty and peers on at least a weekly basis.
  • You can expect that the studio will use a range of research and design methods: site visits, client interviews, user group meetings, group charrettes, individual or small group desk critiques, peer review presentations, and public presentations.  You are expected to participate fully in these.
  • You can expect that faculty will be receptive to novel design ideas aimed toward better satisfying design objectives.
  • You can expect that most days you will wrap up studio work by 5pm, and you are not expected to devote your weekends to studio work. However,
  • You can expect to work longer hours in the week preceding each community presentation.
  • You are expected to be in studio, productively working, during the studio times listed on the Google calendar.
  • You are expected not to be on Facebook, Skype, or other forms of social media during studio times except as needed to collaborate on studio work.
  • You are expected to demonstrate understanding of issues from other Sustainable Futures courses in your design work.
  • You are expected to maintain responsible relationships with faculty, classmates, and the community.

You are required to produce thoughtful work for daily studio sessions, discussions, critiques and all reviews.  All studio faculty will review the work of all students; you will receive written or oral comments by your faculty member mid-semester and a grade at the end.  Faculty will be looking for the following:

  • Substantial new creative work each day
  • Resourceful design problem-solving and liberal intentional exploration.
  • Responsiveness to feedback, group discussion, and other program coursework.
  • Ability to initiate a workable idea and develop it in a coherent and elegant manner.
  • Active collaboration with peers, both in giving and receiving feedback.
  • Attendance and promptness, ability to meet deadlines
  • Respectful and engaged participation in community-related work
  • Enthusiasm and intensity for learning
  • Healthy self-criticism

A: Indicates exceptional work and coherently developed ideas.  The student exceeds requirements and given criteria.  The student constructively engages, challenges, and addresses issues raised in the studio.  The student is constructively self-critical, and assumes responsibility for self-development while also encouraging development in colleagues.  The student understands how to seek feedback and how to provide it for others.  The student completes work on time or ahead of schedule.  All curse objectives are fully met.

B: Indicates strong work and thorough understanding.  The student addresses the issues raised in the studio, but may not resolve or follow-through on nascent ideas.  The student is self-critical, but may struggle to resolve weaker parts of a project.  The student generally meets all of the project requirements, and understands the concepts and materials.  The student generally completes work on time.  All course objectives are fully met.

C: Indicates mediocre work and latent understanding.  The student struggles to address the issues of the studio, and does not follow through on ideas well.  The student does not easily incorporate feedback, and needs improvement in critical thinking and communication skills.  The student meets minimum requirements for the projects and the studio.  The student struggles with deadlines.  The vast majority of course objectives are fully met.

D: Indicates unacceptable work.  Indicates difficulties in understanding concepts and / or productively engaging with them.  The student does not meet minimum requirements for advancing.  Several course objectives are not fully met.

IU: A grade of “Incomplete” will not be given except in the most acute circumstances where all of the following criteria are met: (a) the student experiences an unexpected setback in the course due to a medical problem, family problem, military duty, or other uncontrollable outside circumstance, (b) the student is in good standing in the course at the time of the aforementioned circumstance, (c) it is in the best interest of student and instructor that the student receive an incomplete, and (d) the student and instructor agree upon a timeline for fulfilling the requirements of the course.

Undergraduate students must have completed three years of studio and graduate students must have completed two semesters of design studio.

Comments are closed.