DesignBuildBLUFF (DBB), the non-profit design-build studio of the University of Utah's (U of U) College of Architecture + Planning modeled on Samuel Mockbee's Rural Studio, is broadening its horizons and opening its program to architecture students from other universities.
According to founder and leader Hank Louis, auxiliary faculty member at U of U, offering DBB's curriculum to universities that don't have their own design-build studios benefits everyone involved: the partner universities and students, the studio and its staff, and the families who receive the homes DBB constructs every year for the Navajo Nation in Bluff, Utah.
"What we're doing right now is one house a year, and that, for one, doesn't seem adequate to me. That's just putting a small dent into the housing problems they face on the reservation," Louis says. By expanding DBB's pool of students outside those enrolled at U of U, the studio will be able to build more houses each year. Louis says he hopes to grow studio participation to 20-25 students, which would provide enough workers to build two houses each semester.
"I like the idea of cross-pollination between the schools," adds Louis. "Students from one school can share what they've been learning with those of another school."
In addition to growing DBB's project load each year, expanding the program will also help Louis provide enough work to occupy his staff for more than five months out of a year, improving the sustainability of the organization itself. Tuition from the additional students also will help support the operation and reduce the need for constant fund-raising.
Other universities and their architecture students have been enthusiastic when offered access to the DBB curriculum, says Louis. "Students are really interested in design-build right now," he says, but many schools don't have the resources or experience to develop their own design-build programs. "We offer these universities something that's already in existence, and they don't have to reinvent the wheel."
There are still many details to work out regarding tuition rates and class credits for outside students, Louis notes, but he's already engaged Arizona State, the University of Arizona, the University of New Mexico, and the University of Colorado in discussions about partnering.