Mastering the ABCs of perspective, scale, and hand-drafting are only part of what it takes to become an architect. You also need teamwork, compromise, and social responsibility.

That’s why Technion Assistant Professor Dan Price and teaching fellow Michal Bleicher of the Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning created Design-Build Studio 1:1 — a course that approaches architecture as a collaborative cultural undertaking emphasizing social responsibility. Its end goal is to design and build a structure that helps underserved communities.

Since 2018, Technion students have worked with localities to build projects such as a tandem cycling club for the visually impaired in Haifa, a workshop for adults with disabilities in Kibbutz Mahani, and a community garden for young children in the Arab village of Tira. Most recently, they built a women’s empowerment center in the Arab Israeli town of Jasar al-Zarqa.

“Many architecture students perceive the architect as a ‘design genius’ and as the sole person responsible for the architectural project,” said Prof. Price and Dr. Bleicher. “In our studio, they understand that architectural planning is a complex process based on teamwork, in-depth discussions, attention to details, negotiations, and compromises.”

Studio 1:1 accepts only students in their fourth year, and projects that come with community involvement. To encourage dialogue, students visit the target site and meet local residents during the first week. Then they develop individual designs based on the community’s needs, and the materials and technologies available. “The success of the Design-Build Studio projects stems from the shared objectives and mutual trust between the community and the students,” said Prof. Price.

In contrast to traditional courses in which students focus on their individual project, the budding architects of Studio 1:1 share their plans inside the studio to critically evaluate the work of their peers. Arguments break out and alliances form and dissolve, but eventually the group gets behind three designs that are presented to community representatives in Hebrew and Arabic if necessary.

Returning to the studio, the students analyze the community input and come up with a unified plan. Once the community gives its stamp of approval, students sacrifice their semester break to move into the local community and build the project. Not only do students learn from one another and the villagers, but local youth benefit by watching students cast concrete, weld steel, and construct wood frames.

“Only today, after nine projects within the studio have been completed, are we beginning to understand the magnitude of its impact on students and communities,” said Prof. Price and Dr. Bleicher.