September 29, 2008

Architecture students to present design plans

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- They learn in the classroom, honing their skills. But can they take what they’ve learned and bring it into the real world? Students in the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Urban Design and Community Development senior level architecture class will do just that during a public presentation at 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 2, in Room 119 at Quigley Hall on the SIUC campus.

The students are gearing up with their Delta Studios projects, where they’re working with residents of Cairo, New Orleans and Memphis, Tenn., to assist in revitalization and improvement efforts. Their preparations have included working on a couple of “charettes” in Carbondale, said Craig K. Anz, assistant professor of architecture at SIUC.

The idea of a charrette is so-called due to its pre-1900’s origin in Beaux Arts School in France. Students were given a design problem to solve very quickly, often finishing their drawings as they jumped in a “charrette,” or cart as we would call it today, on the way to the studio. The cart’s name soon became synonymous with the intense design process itself. Indeed, Anz’s students have undertaken a couple of those intense design projects in Carbondale.

They’ve already presented to Carbondale city officials and interested parties their proposals for future uses of the old Carbondale high school area. Now, they’ll show their design plans and sketches for the downtown area in the vicinity of Washington Avenue, Illinois 13 and the old glove factory. Anz said that despite the rather quick turnaround on the projects, the architectural ideas were created with very careful thought and study, not only as to the physical area but also to the other aspects of the community that come into play.

“We want them to show how their upgrades can benefit the taxpayers in terms of social, intellectual, economic and other factors,” Anz said. “We’re looking for viable, long-term ways to regenerate the area and promote the growth of shops, offices and various types of mixed use, mixed income housing development.”

As part of the conceptualization process, the students also heard from faculty within various other relevant fields, including public policy and social work.

“This is really a good hub for interdisciplinary interaction,” Anz said. He said as future architects, he wants his students to garner real world experience and to actively engage their community as a whole. Anz said that’s already included his students engaging with Charles Leonard, political science visiting assistant professor with policy and with junior architecture students under the direction of Christy Poggas, assistant architecture professor. He anticipates even more interdisciplinary efforts to foster those goals.

“We would like to see even more people across campus get involved,” Anz said. “The more we get on board the better.”