View Map showing locations of projects in a full screen map
The Citizen Architect Studio is part of a consortium of three upper level art, architecture, dance and design studios that explore how multidisciplinary design practice can engage professionals, academics and local cultures and communities. The Fall 2014-15 project focused on Washington Park, a racially, economically and culturally diverse neighborhood known for its artist communities and active neighborhood groups. The studio participants engaged with local residents and business owners, carefully examined the house stories and oral histories collected during the 2014 Summer field school, and worked with architects, planners and landscape architects from Quorum Architects. Quorum Architects is a leading proponent of civic practice in the city of Milwaukee. The firm’s philosophy “begins with an understanding that our clients possess a comprehensive knowledge of how their facility operates. We listen. We care.” This ability to listen has influenced their engaged-practice and is central to the core values of this studio. Quorum Architects staff served as mentors for students and committed to attend design reviews. Design projects were defined and generated together with Quorum Architects staff members and staff from the Washington Park Partners.
The studio suggested 4 strategies for development that reflect the desires of many local residents, respect the heritage and history of this community, and respond to the unique social, cultural, demographic, and ecological character of this neighborhood. These strategies are
1. New Programming that responds to the unique needs of this community.
2. Rethinking Infrastructure that recommends that we work towards optimizing already existing assets in this neighborhood.
3. Flexible Prototyping, a process that replicates successful design models across the neighborhood by using novel technologies, paying attention to local details, and employing nimble practices.
4. Catalytic Insertions a strategy that promotes small-scaled design interventions that enable local residents to determine future growth.
Goals of this studio
According to American Institute of Architects, a “Citizen Architect uses his/her insights, talents, training, and experience to contribute meaningfully, beyond self, to the improvement of the community and human condition. … The Citizen Architect advocates for higher living standards, the creation of a sustainable environment, quality of life, and the greater good.” This studio examined methods and traditions to train a civic-minded architecture student to communicate, hear, listen and work with local partners at the Washington Park neighborhood of Milwaukee. Our learning goals were:
Clarify Methods and Evidence: Traditionally design studios produce “ideas” in the form of design proposals, development ideas and drawings. This is not adequate. In this studio we articulated the “design methods” and research information that underpin design responses.
Along with our design explorations we considered ethical values and practices that guided our work. New ethical challenges confront architectural scholars and practitioners in the 21st Century. First is the issue of equitable engagement in which design addresses the myriad needs and expectations of end-users. In the context of increasing social and economic inequities, declining urban communities, and crumbling built infrastructure, cities like Milwaukee (also called legacy cities) serve as examples or case studies where architects and designers can find innovative and resurgent solutions.  The studio participants concluded that architecture has to be resilient and adaptable. If we are to survive economic, climatic, and social disasters in ways that are sustainable then we will have to design buildings that accommodate and adapt to change and diversity, a quality that N J Habraken calls building capacity.
We moved beyond the one-day design charrette or community workshop model as a mode of engagement with communities and explored deeper forms of interactions such as being involved in the community.
The studio suggested 4 strategies for development
1. New Programming
2. Rethinking Infrastructure
3. Flexible Prototyping
4. Catalytic Insertions
 This term was coined by the 110th American Assembly held in Detroit in 2011. The Lincoln Land Institute Policy Report was an outgrowth of the Assembly. One of the authors is a senior fellow at the CCP a co-sponsor of that Assembly. http://americanassembly.org/project/reinventing-americas-legacy-cities