UH Moment

UH Moment: “Graduate Design/Build Studio”

For 20 years, students with the University of Houston’s Graduate Design Build Studio have been spending their summers building structures for area non profit organizations.  Listen to this week’s UH Moment.


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Many college students spend their summers at the beach.  A team of students from the UH Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture will spend their summer working construction.  They’re part of the college’s Graduate Design/Build Studio (GDBS), celebrating its twentieth anniversary. 

UH Associate Professor Patrick Peters“Graduate Design/Build Studio measures the quality of students’ design thinking against the rigorous standard of built reality,” said Patrick Peters, associate professor and director of the GDBS for the last 16 years.  “When students are here learning how to connect a column to a beam or develop a foundation, it’s with an exposure to the whole process.”  

The program places graduate architecture students in an environment where they see their design ideas evolve from concept through completed construction.  A green-building initiative, students begin researching and designing the project in the spring semester and spend the summer building it.  For many of the students, this is their first foray into architecture, designing or construction.  

“When a student has the opportunity to make a decision and then see immediately the implications of that decision in real concrete materials, it will affect the next design decision,” Peters said.  “If that can happen multiple times, their design decisions will be richer.”

This year, students are working in support of Pat Neff Elementary School in southwest Houston.  Titled “The Solar Shade Tree,” students will design and build a structure that will give children shaded access to an outdoor amphitheater.  Students from the arts-focused program also will display their art work in the outdoor area and use the space to perform plays. 

Past projects have included a 400-square-foot luminous venue for outdoor film projection and performing arts at Alexander Hamilton Middle School in the Heights, an 84-foot outdoor entrance canopy connecting two buildings belonging to the Girl Scouts’ San Jacinto Council headquarters and The Outdoor Reading Theater at Mark Twain Elementary.

“I’m very affected emotionally and deeply touched by the kind of transformation I perceive taking place in our students’ lives,” Peters said.  “At the top of our syllabus every year is a quote that says ‘The quality that we call beauty must always grow from the realities of life.’  It’s not important that every student become an expert steel fabricator or detailer, but rather learn about making architecture that is richer and more elegant.”

The Graduate Design Build Studio is part of what’s happening at the University of Houston. I’m Marisa Ramirez.

Telling the stories of the University of Houston, this UH Moment is brought to you by KUHF, listener supported radio from the University of Houston.

View photos on Flickr