Iowa State University architecture class wins national prize

AMES, Iowa -- The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) has recognized an innovative Iowa State University architecture course for integrating education and professional practice.

The Bridge Studio, developed and taught by ISU architecture lecturer Nadia Anderson, won the 2009 NCARB Grand Prize for Creative Integration of Practice and Education in the Academy. The $25,000 cash award was announced at the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture Annual Meeting in Portland, Ore., at the end of March.

The NCARB Prize honors excellence and innovation in applying concepts learned in the classroom to real-life projects. In a blind review process, the prize jury evaluated 35 entries from 29 different colleges and universities to select the grand prize and four other winners.

The Bridge Studio is an interdisciplinary elective studio class for advanced undergraduate and graduate students. Anderson has taught the studio four times since fall 2007. To date, 50 students from architecture, landscape architecture and interior design have participated.

"It's named the Bridge Studio because it builds bridges between education and practice, architecture and community, and sustainability and affordability," Anderson said.

Students work in collaborative teams with interns from local design firms, consulting practitioners and a range of building industry professionals to develop projects for organizations and communities not normally served by the design professions. Students meet with clients, present to neighborhood groups, estimate project costs and create construction documents.

During the first two semesters, the studio worked with the nonprofit Community Housing Development Corporation (CHDC) in Des Moines to help integrate sustainable systems into the organization's single-family affordable homes. A home designed by students in the spring 2008 class is under construction.

Last fall, students worked with the Iowa Finance Authority and the Oak Hill Jackson Neighborhood of Cedar Rapids to develop prototype modular housing options for people whose homes were badly damaged or destroyed during the 2008 floods. This spring, the class is developing "green community" proposals for the cities of Newton, Des Moines, Iowa City and Waterloo. This course is co-taught with Carl Rogers, ISU assistant professor of landscape architecture.

In addition to educating future design professionals, the Bridge Studio facilitates the networking of practitioners, nonprofit and government organizations, communities and the university, Anderson said.

"We hope this will help designers be more aware of ways they can serve organizations and communities, and help organizations and communities understand how designers can be of service to them," she said.

For example, Anderson said, "CHDC now knows what it can do to incorporate sustainable materials and systems with the budget it has, but more important, staff members there now have the information they need to advocate for more funding for green features that may cost more up front, but reduce energy costs and make living in the home more affordable in the long term."

Students often see a built project as a success, but the Bridge Studio's potential impact on housing policy is even greater, Anderson said.

"Bringing issues of energy efficiency, stormwater management and green design into affordable housing and community design is really important," she said. "This is a pretty significant effort that the College of Design can do that uses our knowledge and expertise in a proactive, service-oriented way.

"I hope our winning the NCARB grand prize for this program gives greater legitimacy to issues of affordable housing, community design and development in the architecture profession and in education," Anderson said. "I'd like to use the money to continue work that engages both local practice and communities in these issues."

The Bridge Studio was developed with support from an American Institute of Architects Practice Academy grant. Jason Alread, ISU associate professor of architecture, collaborated on the grant proposal.

For the NCARB competition, architecture schools with accredited degree programs were eligible to submit projects completed or in progress by the end of the fall 2008 term. In addition to Iowa State's grand prize, four other schools will receive $7,500 each. They are Ball State University, Boston Architectural College, University of Detroit-Mercy and University of Kansas.

All five prize-winning submissions will be exhibited at the NCARB Annual Meeting in Chicago in June and published in the NCARB Prize Book.

More information on the NCARB Prize and 2009 winners can be found at