Students at the University of Nebraska’s College of Architecture were given the unique opportunity to work one-on-one with design experts during 2016 fall semester’s “Learning Spaces” Collaboration Studio. The studio consisted of 4th year interior design and architecture students and was co-facilitated by Vanessa Schutte, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, principal and K-12 education leader at DLR Group, and Nathan Bicak, assistant professor of Interior Design at UNL.
“Innovative learning spaces should be designed with an approach that encourages architects and interior designers to collaborate and engage students, teachers, administrators, parents and education researchers,” said Schutte.
The class allowed students to plan and design K-6th grade facilities to better understand how design impacts learning. Students in the Collaboration Studio focused on two DLR Group elementary school projects: a rural K-6 facility located in Adams County, Neb., and a PreK-6 school located in Omaha, Neb. As part of the project, participants were assigned teams and then met with staff from each school to evaluate educational space and programming needs before going on to design facilities to meet those needs. Throughout the semester, teams received insight from Doctoral students in UNL’s College of Education and Human Sciences.
Schutte, who has more than 10 years of experience in educational design, believes classes like this are crucial in preparing college students for a collaborative mindset as they transition from education to practice.
“These students have been working together to determine best-practices and to gain an understanding of the challenges we face in educational design,” said Schutte. “They’ve had the opportunity to see how important it is to build consensus around a project both internally within their team, and externally with community stakeholders – something designers at DLR Group do on a daily basis. Unlike professional designers, however, our students didn’t have to consider budget constraints.”
Even though the students didn’t have to deal with a real budget, it was still invaluable collaborative experience which exposed them to various disciplines and gave them practical experience working with a “real” client.
“The collaborative nature of this course simulates a design office and being able to work with Vanessa and others from DLR Group adds a rich layer of professional culture to the studio,” said Nathan Bicak. “It has been particularly rewarding to see the students develop such strong interdisciplinary relationships in which their knowledge and capacity cross disciplinary boundaries.”
by Erin Van Zee