The bridgeSTUDIO: Building bridges between education and practice, affordability and sustainability, and architecture and community

The Bridge Studio is an interdisciplinary upper level elective studio at Iowa State University for undergraduate and graduate students that engages aspects of design practice not typically encountered in design studios while also serving unmet needs of local communities. Students work in collaborative teams with interns from local firms, consulting practitioners, and a range of building industry professionals to develop projects for organizations and communities not normally served by the design professions. Integrating environmentally and socially sustainable design within economic realities is the primary mechanism through which this work occurs. 

Through their semester-long projects, students develop their design ideas through the practical lenses of constructability, sustainability, affordability, and livability. Students meet with clients, present to neighborhood groups, estimate project costs, and create construction documents. Recent graduates now working as interns in local firms develop leadership and management skills that they have observed in practice by acting as student team mentors.  Students and interns also learn to identify potential client-partners and assess their needs, evaluate alternative design delivery approaches, and develop a pro-active approach to design practice as an instrumental force for community improvement.

Since the fall of 2007, the Bridge Studio has worked with the affordable housing community to bring sustainable building and living into lower income neighborhoods and in turn affect the financial and philosophical mechanisms that govern the affordable housing industry.  The studio has worked with non-profit housing developers, urban and rural communities, and a state finance organization to develop prototype housing projects to serve as models of sustainable, affordable housing in response to recent natural disasters and financial crises.  In all cases, local community organizations, financial institutions, design professionals, and contractors have been closely involved in the projects to make them not only learning opportunities for students but also models of affordable, sustainable design for the broader public.

Nadia Anderson


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