December 15, 2010


by: Evan Ward

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Today’s post is by Evan Ward, a member of a new team of designers and architects called STUDIO 1to1.  STUDIO 1to1 actually started as an architecture thesis studio at ASU and has gone on to do some remarkable work with Transit Oriented Development planning around the Light Rail.  I was excited to meet Evan recently and asked him to write about the work of STUDIO 1to1.

Evan Ward grew up in Holland, Michigan and has lived in Arizona since 2001.  He recently earned his M.Arch from Arizona State University.  Prior to grad school, he spent 5 years working for the local firm of Holly Street Studio.  Recently, Evan has spent time as a member of STUDIO 1to1, along with Kevin Kellogg, the City of Phoenix and the Sustainable Communities Working Group on the Connecting Phoenix project.

STUDIO 1to1 is a collaborative team of designers and architects who have dedicated themselves to the discovery of latent design opportunities within communities.  We hold a strong belief that good community design requires a deeper consideration of the unique history, culture and social structure of a neighborhood by the designers. We specifically focus on including the voices of individuals within communities in the design process. In this sense the architect becomes an instrument to the design process rather than its author, while the community accepts ownership over the shaping of their neighborhood. Through the use of ethnographic research and interaction with community members, we are able to better understand community complexities to design specific solutions for residents’ needs.

We began in the spring of 2009 as a group of architecture students planning our graduate thesis.  We wanted to have a collaborative thesis studio that focused on meaningful architecture.  Naturally we gravitated to the idea of a design/build affordable housing studio in a low-income area of Phoenix.  However, during the planning of such a studio, we realized that sometimes housing is not always the greatest need.  The process of discovering and identifying needs within a community would become the thesis to our project.

We chose Central City South as the initial opportunity site because a number of us had already worked in the area.  But this work was merely a simple start to what we would go on to discover. The area, located directly south of downtown Phoenix, is bordered to the north by industrial development on the railroad tracks and to the south and west by I-17.  It is fragmented into a number of smaller neighborhoods. CCS is one of the roughest, but also culturally rich and diverse areas in Phoenix, and thus was difficult at first to break into.  We found that through participating in multiple service projects with members of the community helped us to form personal relationships and gain trust of the community members. After spending months building relationships and making observations with residents of CCS, it was revealed that major needs included fitness opportunities, healthy food options and role models for youth growing up in the area.

The second phase of research was focused on the Harmon Park neighborhood, which includes the Memorial Towers, a low-income multifamily development for senior citizens. It was observed that residents in need make do with what resources are available to fulfill those needs.  A number of these observations were synthesized into what we call the Latent Opportunities for design.  These elements were given titles, mapped, photographed and diagrammed to become tools for design.  An example is the Provisional Garden, where gardens were planted in large, moveable pots in places where a permanent, in-ground garden is not possible.  The temporary qualities of the design are what allow for the permanence of the garden. This analysis led to “What if…” questions, which generated ideas for what could be possible solutions to the greater needs of not just the immediate users, but to the larger community. For example, the parking lot for the Memorial Towers is severely oversized for its use and is mostly empty, all of the time.  A number of residents regularly use the lot as an opportunity to get outside and exercise making laps around vacant parking spaces painted on the asphalt.  The entire facility is surrounded by chain-link and barbed wire separating itself from the surrounding neighborhood.  How could we adaptively re-use the parking lot to promote fitness, provide healthy food options and connect the seniors as role models to the larger community?

The final solution re-appropriated the use of the parking lot as a community gathering space where members of the neighborhood can interact with residents of the Memorial Towers.  The design includes both vegetable and flower gardens where elementary school children can come and learn about gardening from seniors and at the same time produce healthy food.  The design formalized the current condition with two walking tracks, one for fitness and one for storytelling.  The blank facades of the towers are perfect for projecting drive-in movies in the parking lot.  This was easily tested with a laptop, projector and a box of microwave popcorn.  The residents loved it, and even in its simple form, drew a small crowd of spectators outside the fence.  The design was submitted for a Pepsi Refresh grant, which would fund construction and maintenance for the project.  Unfortunately, we did not win, however we did score in the top 25% of projects submitted.  This work has also been recognized by the Arizona chapter of the American Institute of Architects as a  finalist in the 2010 Pecha Kucha style competition for innovative design processes. It is the first time student work has earned such recognition in Arizona.

This is a documentary video created as a part of our final thesis project:

Studio 1 to 1 from Spraygraphic on Vimeo.

And this is a time lapsed video which documents our testing of the Drive in Parking lot.

Studio 1to1 has recently completed Connecting Phoenix, a research and design project with Kevin Kellogg that discussed the possibilities, value, and challenges of implementing Transit Oriented Development in Phoenix.  Connecting Phoenix focuses on the Light Rail system as an opportunity for the city to provide transportation options to everyone and to allow for appropriate development of the urban core.

Studio 1to1 is:

Peter Rasmussen

Andrew Foster

Mark Thackrah

Kelly Vanyo

Matt Krise

Ian Dickenson

Joe Pritchard

Tyler Quinn

Andrew Walker

Ben Walker

Evan Ward

There will be a showing of the Connecting Phoenix movie that was created by Studio 1to1 and Kevin Kellogg this Saturday at the Places, Spaces and Faces Community Dinner which will be held at the Phoenix Urban Research Laboratory.  Click here for details.

Photo Credit: The parking lot at the Memorial Towers.  Photo by the author.

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  1. STUDIO 1:1 says:

    […] A very nice note from Taz Loomans in our favorite valley architecture & urban planning blog Blooming Rock – I’m a big fan of community-based urban planning and architecture. Last year I kept hearing about the tremendous work Studio 1to1 was doing in this very arena. I was delighted to meet Evan Ward recently, a designer at Studio 1to1, and he was gracious enough to write a post about their community-based design philosophy. Read all about the group’s innovative design process in Studio 1to1. […]

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