LAWRENCE — The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) has given University of Kansas Department of Architecture associate professors Nils Gore and Shannon Criss and graduate student Matt Kleinmann one of its 2017 Collaboration Awards. It recognizes programs that demonstrate how faculty, students, and community and civic clients can work together to realize common objectives.
In 2015, the three formed the Dotte Agency, a multidisciplinary design collaborative that engaged multiple community partners to develop pragmatic solutions for community problems using design.
It occupies a storefront provided by the Community Housing of Wyandotte County in Kansas City, Kansas, where the trio of educators holds classes each semester. Their students experience what it is like to work with citizens and nonprofit organizations such as the Community Health Council of Wyandotte County (CHCWC) and the Kansas City, Kansas, Neighborhood Business Revitalization partners.
“Architects have the opportunity to be the bridge between authority and the grass-roots movement,” said co-founder Kleinmann, explaining why the experience of collaborating with groups like CHCWC is so valuable for students. Several of their recent projects aim to improve access to fresh food, which is problematic in areas in Wyandotte County, and to increase safe and walkable places through design.
Students in Gore’s design-build courses also have used the School’s East Hills Design Build Center to create the necessary elements for projects such as exercise benches for the Jersey Creek Park.
For the Armourdale Levee Hike-Bike Trail and Jersey Creek Trails, the students developed physical prototypes including entry signage, a bike rack, informational message boards and exercise stations. The students identified these as four crucial elements for improving awareness of and access to the trails.
“We aim to innovate to meet real-world challenges,” Criss said.
Criss, Gore, and students previously converted an Airstream trailer into the KU Mobile Collaboratory, or moCOLAB. It is often taken to events they create with community partners so that students have the unique experience of interacting with community members and finding collaborative design solutions.
The Dotte Agency is also supported by grants from Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Wyandotte Health Foundation and the KU School of Architecture, Design & Planning.
The ACSA represents educators and schools of architecture. With more than 200 member schools, it provides a forum for ideas at the leading edge of architectural thought.