Undergraduate architecture and graphic design students came together for a real-world project that added a permanent structure to a southeast side community. The team work of the Collaborative Design/Build Studio researched, designed, created a shade structure for the Park at Palm Center.
"We had 11 architects and 22 graphic-communication students working on this," said Patrick Peters, co-director of the project. "Their designs provide within the shade structure itself, lessons about healthy food choices, ways to create successful gardens in the Houston soils and climates, and what kinds of plants do well in Houston."
"I got to learn about foundations and soil testing, which we always draw in our projects, but you don't fully understand until you actually talk to the engineers and they give you feedback," said architecture student Leticia Lopez. "We worked with actual clients who are asking real-use questions about how this is going to be used, rather than very theoretical questions we're normally used to."
Graphic communication student Louis Pitre researched the southeast side community to ensure their design would compliment the neighborhood.
"One of the themes that influenced our design was the culture of the community in the 1950s," he said. "The gas station was a symbol of the community and that was one element that we want to bring to the design. We wanted an open feel to it—having a roof, but being open—with a reference to the 1950s gas station motor culture."
Prefabricated from high-strength steel, the structure will have four photovalic solar panels (800 watts) on its roof to power a ceiling fan, lighting and electrical outlets (that can power appliances for cooking demonstrations). It also will contain cisterns to harvest rainwater for use in plant and garden irrigation. Informational signage will be placed on the structure and offer short facts on health, nutrition and sustainability.
"This is the last academic work for these students. It's also the first professional work," Peters said. "It's a point of great strength for them to springboard into professional life with this project in their portfolio."
The Collaborative Design/Build Studio is part of what's happening at the University of Houston. I'm Marisa Ramirez.