• Graduate student W. Victoria Lee's design for a North End rooftop house is among the architectural models on display in the Wiesner Gallery of the Student Center. The tall center tower belongs to another model on exhibit, built by senior Harini Rajaraman.

    Photo / Jan Wampler

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Student design exhibit highlights creative process

With models that include a homeless shelter created from a used billboard and a children's AIDS center in Zambia, the MIT Undergraduate Architectural Design Program's exhibit, "Process of Designing," now on display in the Wiesner Gallery in the Student Center, showcases how architects can explore social issues through their designs.

"We want to get them thinking socially and politically as well as architecturally," said Professor Jan Wampler, director of the Undergraduate Architectural Design Program.

The first of its kind, the exhibit officially opened Sept. 8 with a packed reception in Wiesner and speeches from Wampler as well as Professor Les Norford of the Department of Architecture and J. Kim Vandiver, dean for undergraduate research. "We wanted to give some life to the student center," said Wampler, who was pleased with the turnout at the reception. "We had a very good opening."

The exhibit was created by Wampler along with Rebecca Luther, a lecturer in architecture; Chris Dewart, a technical instructor in architecture; and architecture student Victoria Lee.

More than 20 students contributed work from their 2005-2006 courses for the exhibit, which shows more than just the finished design model. Most of the models feature the designer's process, the series of steps each followed to arrive at the final product, Wampler said.

The exhibit features the process Wampler calls "a building up of design." Wampler said he wants to move away from the idea that design is "a flash of brilliance in the middle of the night."

For many of the students whose work is featured, the projects were about more than design. Wampler tries to expose the students to more international work. In that vein, one student created a quick-build shelter for victims of the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan.

Before the student could design the shelter, she had to study the region and its problems. She had to research feasibility and how it might work.

For Wampler, this is the direction in which he hopes to see the program move. In his foreword to the exhibit, he mentions that he wants MIT's undergraduate architecture students to be known as creators, collaborators, translators, craftspeople, designers and communicators.

"Our students, who are the best and brightest in the world, need to have opportunities to explore ideas that are truly creative," Wampler said.

The "Process of Designing" exhibit will be on display at least through the middle of October in Wiesner Gallery in the MIT Student Center.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 20, 2006 (download PDF).

Topics: Architecture, Students


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