Partnerships: Tulane Small Center redesigns Writers' Room!

This year, Big Class has had the privilege of partnering with Tulane Small Center for a total renovation of our Writers' Room at Sylvanie Williams College Prep!  Read on to see photos of the renovated room, press about Tulane Small Center, and a Q&A with both Professor Emilie Taylor and her students. 

Read & watch more about the project:

Adam Savage's Maker Tour:
Albert and Tina Small Center For Collaborative Design

Adam stops by the inspiring Tulane School of Architecture's Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design, which marries its students with real-world projects in a post-Katrina world. After watching student works on their current project, Adam visits a local homeless shelter to learn about one of the center's recent builds: an outdoor space that the class conceived, designed and built in just 16 weeks!

Read a Q&A with Professor Emilie Taylor and a few students from the Design Build class:

Q&A with Design Build Manager, Emilie Taylor

What is Tulane's Small Center, and how did you get involved with Big Class?

The Small Center is Tulane School of Architecture's community design center - we advance community-driven ideas through collaboration, design education and scrappy problem-solving. Once a year we have an open Request for Project Proposals, where community-based groups in New Orleans write to us with ideas about design projects they would like to pursue. Last year Big Class's proposal for a writer's room at Sylvanie Williams was one of the projects chosen for our spring semester design build project! What that means is that a team of 13 architecture students has 15 weeks from the first conversation/interview with Big Class In-School Programs Manager Ashely Teamer to having a complete built project. 

In what ways do you think this project affected students to be better architects and members of the design community?

For many of our students this is the first time they are working with a client, which is a big moment for them - it's also the first time they have a budget, first time making something with tools, and often the first time their design ideas are being built and having real-world consequences. So there's a lot to learn and a lot of pushing against comfort zones in that bundle. The students have to learn quickly how to communicate, collaborate, and be creative problem solvers. My hope is that the engagement with Big Class staff and their students as well as discussions about design process and access to design that are happening throughout the semester make the students think more critically about what they do, who they do it for, and how they each can be a force for good and design equity in their corner of the world.

Q&A with Students from The Design Build Class

Tell us a little bit about the creative process for this project. What did you learn by visiting the Writers' Room, and how did you determine the final design?

Camille: In visiting the Writer’s Room, I learned a lot about the general mood of the class, like what the kids are interested in, what sort of things they would like to see in a space and what sort of things they wouldn’t enjoy. The Big Class kids that we interacted with were a funny, creative, and sometimes crazy bunch, and talking with them made me think they would enjoy a playful, vibrant space. 

Paula: Visiting the school gave us the chance to talk to the teachers and the students about what they would like to see in the space and get some one to one feedback. This preliminary studies helped us narrow down to a few key needs and wants for the space which we carried through to the final product. 

What were your favorite parts of working on this project?

Camille: I had a lot of favorite parts of this project. One thing that was great was working with an actual client, and having my first experience with a client be such an easy, collaborative one. Big Class was awesome, they were communicative and excited and I think that having this being my first interaction with a real client was a really positive experience. Building off of that, not only was it awesome to have that interaction, it was also awesome to be able to make something for someone and watch them see a little dream realized. Seeing the reaction of our final design felt really, really good, it felt like we had done our job and served Big Class well, and I can’t wait to see what the kids think. 

What were some of your biggest challenges when working on this project?

Paula: I think one of the biggest challenges we faced were building the actual structure, because no matter how many times we drew it and planned out how everything was going to work something wouldn't quite work out the way we had hopped.