by Emily Adams Keplinger
Students in the Department of Architecture at the University of Memphis are accustomed to making site visits and sketching their ideas for building plans. But last summer they used their talents to construct much more than a proposed building — they helped to build a better neighborhood.
For the last two years, undergraduate and graduate students have been joined by faculty from the university’s Architecture Department to work with the Carpenter Art Garden in Binghampton, established “to promote individuals’ creative potential and self worth, through exposure to artistic, educational and vocational programs.” The group of 16 students was led by university faculty Michael Hagge, chairman of the Department of Architecture, and Sherry Bryan, director of architecture and director of graduate studies in architecture. The goal has been to design projects based on the art garden’s needs.
“This May, our collaborative partners from the University of Memphis began working on-site at the Carpenter Art Garden to help us complete a series of projects,” says Erin Harris, founder and executive director of the Carpenter Art Garden. “The work they have completed for us has served as actual coursework for the studio design and build class of their degree program.”
Harris says their U of M partners have worked every Friday and Saturday since May, despite the summer’s heat, to construct a learning pavilion in the community garden. The crew also designed and built enhancements to the garden’s stage.
“This amazing bunch of people constructed these beautiful and useful projects, including the most creative traveling vegetable cart you’ve ever seen,” Harris says. “Through this collaboration, they have become family to all of us here at the Carpenter Art Garden.”
“Community Engagement is a major part of the mission of the Department of Architecture and the University of Memphis,” Hagge says. “This collaborative model exposes students to a more realistic, practice-based situation similar to what they will find in the professional workplace after graduation. Over the years, students and faculty from our department have worked with a variety of nonprofit community partners.”
For the AIAS (American Institute of Architecture Students) Design + Build Studio at the Carpenter Art Garden, Hagge and Bryan tapped three graduate students to serve as team leaders. Master of Architecture students Barry Allmon, Oscar Andrade, and Martin Tantik each had extensive construction experience and were each assigned to be in charge of one of the three projects.
“Our students loved participating in this project — they loved what they learned and they loved having an opportunity to give back to the community,” Bryan says. “They knew what they had done would have an ongoing, positive impact on the children of Binghampton. We hope to continue our community engagement with the Carpenter Art Garden for many seasons to come. Our plan is to offer a Design + Build Studio every summer for the foreseeable future as part of our curriculum.”
In addition to the tangible products resulting from the fruits of their labor, Harris says that the students from the Binghampton area reaped something as well. “Our children who participated in these endeavors gained invaluable experience while working side-by-side with the U of M students and faculty,” Harris says. “One of our high school kids has a personal goal of being an architect. The first-hand experience and knowledge he gained is fueling his desire to go to college and build a better future for himself.”
And that is exactly what the Carpenter Art Garden is all about.
“Our mission at the Carpenter Art Garden has always been larger than our plot of ground,” Harris says. “We hope to enable our participants to create and grow their best futures. This partnership with the University of Memphis is another means for us to reach that goal.”
For more information, go online to carpenterartgarden.com or follow the Carpenter Art Garden page on Facebook.
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