The University of Houston Magazine

Design StudioDesign/Build Studio Turns 20

Architecture program helps to build ideas into reality.

For 20 years, graduate architecture students have been spending their summers under the hot Houston sun — at construction sites, not at the beach. They’re part of the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture Graduate Design/Build Studio.

“Graduate Design/Build Studio measures the quality of students’ design thinking against the rigorous standard of built reality,” says Patrick Peters, GDBS associate professor and director for the last 16 years. “When students are here learning how to connect a column to a beam or develop a foundation, it’s with an exposure to the whole process.”

A green-building initiative, students begin researching and designing their projects in the spring and spend the summer building it. They see their design ideas evolve from a concept to reality. For many, this is their first foray into architecture, design or construction.

This year, students are working in support of Pat Neff Elementary School. UH students will design and build “The Solar Shade Tree,” a structure that will give children shaded access to an outdoor amphitheater. Students from the arts-focused program also will display their artwork in the outdoor area and use the space to perform plays. The project includes a standing-seam roof, trellis for additional shading, solar power from photovoltaic panels and basins for plants and rain collection. The structure also will have the capacity to “tweet” climate information on Twitter.


Sparking Creativity in Young Audiences

UH takes the arts to area elementary school students.

Elementary school students in Houston’s Fifth Ward are discovering the power of the performing arts thanks to the creative minds at the UH School of Theatre & Dance. With the assistance of a two-year, $260,000 planning grant from Houston Endowment Inc., UH is working with the Houston Independent School District to introduce theater curriculum to students at elementary schools in Houston’s inner city.

Summer Camp“This grant is the largest that the School of Theatre & Dance has ever received,” says Steven Wallace, the school’s director. “It supports the university’s commitment to community partnerships and funds a pilot program that will be the seed for an ongoing arts education relationship between UH, HISD and the Fifth Ward.”

UH’s teaching artists will work to create performing arts and after school programs that spark creativity, while promoting personal and academic growth.

“Theater has a transformative power in an educational setting because it is a place where kids are allowed and encouraged to experiment, take risks and are safe to make mistakes and try again,” says Jackie deMontmollin, UH assistant director of theatre education. “That is how all of us learn best.”