Montana State University School of Architecture is situated within a very unique rural context – offering an excellent cross comparisons to all the other live projects I am visiting – all of which are all situated within urban sites. Another defining characteristic of the Montana Architecture School program is that live project are offered within a range of different architecture courses. Interim director, Steven Juroszek arranged a group workshop for my visit enabling many of the staff involved in live projects to attend and share their experiences.
The most established and formalised is the University’s Community Design Center directed by Tom McNab. Now in its 36th year, the Community Design Center works with non-profit organizations and government agencies to provide visioning, planning, and conceptual design – what we might typically describe in the UK as feasibility reports or RIBA workstages A-D. The CDC’s aim is to foster a collaborative interdisciplinary community/university partnership, that serves the people of Montana in research and design of the built environment whilst developing the consultation and community-design capabilities of 4th year students.
In addition to the CDC, a number of live projects feature in in other areas of curricula. The technology course run by Chris Livingston, is an excellent example. Past projects include a project built on campus for the University’s agriculture course and a food bank extension in town. Both projects were not without their challenges, and Chris’ experiences constitute invaluable knowledge regarding the difficulties and issues that can arise when running live projects, and the conversation about the potential of this experiential insight is ongoing.
Finally, assistant professor Bruce Wrightsman established and ran a live project within the Gallatin National Forest known as the Blackmore Pavilion in 2009. On visiting the site, it seemed an entirely idyllic facility, delivered to an incredibly high standard although the students had run into considerable obstacles during the summer construction phase including extreme weather conditions. Local contractors and joiners were involved to support the project however their participation was highly facilitative & demonstrative and enabled the students to gain excellent hands-on skills as well as crucial construction team experience.
with such a wealth of experience, the group discussion covered a lot of ground and included topics as wide ranging as risk versus health & safety, reflective practice, educator versus facilitator, client feedback versus design crits amongst others. The aim is to continue developing many of the ideas and shared interests discussed in the long as well as short term.