Since the fall semester of 2012, University architecture students have had the opportunity to get to know the Baton Rouge community through design.
The Mid City studio is a
six-hour service-learning studio class for fourth and fifth year architecture students. It’s taught by William Doran, LSU School of Architecture professional in residence, and Jason Lockhart, associate professor. This semester, students are designing for the old Entergy buildings on Government Street, recently donated to the East Baton Rouge
While the projects will not be constructed because the students are not licensed architects, the redevelopment authority can use the students’ plans to fundraise or it can further build on the designs.
Community design and outreach has always been a part of an architect’s education, and this studio uses spaces in Baton Rouge for students to apply their skills to real-life situations.
The Mid City Redevelopment Alliance and the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority serve as liaisons for the studio class to identify what architecture projects need work. The students gain hands-on experience while identifying what the community needs and wants from their new space.
This class serves as a stepping stone for students. It’s the first time their plans are not theoretical ideas in a classroom, but designs with the potential to affect community
“We’re out there in the streets with the students and making things happen. It’s not theoretical right now,” Doran said.
Students talk to community members and work with them to find out their priorities— and sometimes run into road bumps along
Doran said there is a need for hands-on learning, even for small scale projects.
Andrew Pharis, a fifth year architecture student, took the studio class the first semester it was offered and described the class as an architecture firm as
opposed to a classroom. In the beginning of the class, students worked to design the same project, splitting up into groups of three to work on specific parts of the project.
Pharis said group work often takes place in the real world of architecture, but it’s not seen as often in schools, and real clients are rarely seen in classes.
Pharis said the assignment stretches beyond the grading rubric when students try to respect and understand the history of the area they are designing for.
“The client is fiction and all of a sudden the client was real,” Pharis said. “You really understand the people or place you are