Building to Learn, Part II
Reflections on a decade of developing a design/build program.
By Daniel Winterbottom, ASLA
Over the past 10 years of teaching landscape architecture at the
University of Washington, I have been developing a design/build
studio that teaches construction and materials while integrating
skills and understanding from throughout the curriculum. The learning
experience is hands-on and intensive and aims to support landscape
architecture students in their transition into professional work.
Each new project is a commitment to a new array of challenges, and
each has been at some point in near overwhelming disarrayyet
each has been successfully completed. As a result, I remain a devoted
advocate of this learning model. The reflective dialogue between
designing and building gives students the opportunity to test ideas
and teaches the flexibility needed for the design process.
I grew up in suburban New Jersey, near enough to New York City
to be continually recharged by its diversity and vitality. On family
visits to the city, I was indelibly impressed with the finely crafted
and expressive architectural forms and materials: ceramic, wrought
iron, stone, and wood. I sought out work that explored many materials
in apprenticeships to craftsmen, in art school, and later as a builder.
My own process of learning has been and continues to be a hands-on
one. Even as I was attending art school in the era of conceptual
art, my mentors reiterated the value of craftsmanship and simultaneously
encouraged innovation. Robert Smithson, Carl Andre, Michael Heizer,
and Nancy Holt were using tools of constructionthe crane,
the backhoe, or the earth itselfto create works of art. My
own work moved out of the studio into the landscape to carve space
and use the site as inspiration.
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