Controlled chaos: Modeling interdisciplinary practice for architecture and engineering students in a real world community engaged design project

Sinead MacNamara, Larry D. Bowne

Research output: Contribution to journalConference Articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This paper describes, analyzes and assesses "The Berg", a design project undertaken by engineering and architecture students at Syracuse University in collaboration with the city of Syracuse. The students created designs for the conversion and expansion of a defunct Field House into a recreational facility and community center suitable an urban park in an impoverished near west side neighborhood. The authors, a structural engineer and licensed architect who served as advisors on the, assert that community-service design has the potential to ignite debate about design both outside and inside the professions. Who is entitled to good design? Do underserved constituencies, such as physically disabled children and lower income citizens, need good design? Does design for the socially and economically challenged need merely to meet minimum legal standards? What does design for such non-profit clienteles look like? What role do the values of so-called high architecture play in such community-engagement designs? The Berg was realized in two courses: a comprehensive design studio for fourth year architecture students and a professional elective taken by mostly engineering students and a small number of architecture students. In consultation with multiple community and institutional stakeholders, the project afforded an opportunity for students and faculty alike to consider the issues outlined above and present their own responses. The multidimensional collaborations and design iterations represented an opportunity for the students to model modes of contemporary practice in engineering and architecture. For the architecture students it was a first experience in having to request, manage and appropriately integrate outside technical knowledge into their design process, for the engineering students it was their first exposure to the design process and the multifaceted way their highly specific skills are deployed in a real world process. The teaching, evaluation and assessment of the courses represent an opportunity for educators to think about the role of service learning in architecture and engineering education. The Berg compelled students to integrate technology and structure in the design process, required structural engineers to and as such can be seen as experiments in advancing design pedagogy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
Volume122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Making Value for Society
Issue number122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Making Value for...
StatePublished - 2015
Event2015 122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Seattle, United States
Duration: Jun 14 2015Jun 17 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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