Collaborative Practice - Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design

Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design

Ann Yoachim, Nick Jenisch, Emilie Taylor Welty, Tulane University


Our center works to connect student and faculty designers with non-profits, practitioners, and additional stakeholders on projects of consequence with communities who lack access to design services. Started in the wake of a disaster, in our 13 years as the community design center of a school of architecture we have completed 103 projects with over 90 community partners, over 500 students, and 35 faculty. Collaboration is fundamental to the center's work. Organizations bring their project ideas, and we bring our design expertise to bear, supporting them in projects that build their capacity to serve constituents. These projects while small in scope (1-3 semesters) scaffold on each other and our public programs and exhibits to strengthen neighborhoods and respond to critical community concerns. By centering the architectural studio around conversations of race, equity, and power, we ask students to design with, rather than for people

The following application uses a recent project, Parisite Skatepark, as an example of the design process indicative of all our projects. The project speaks to the body of work through its aims, layers of collaboration, and impact. The skatepark project started as a Do It Yourself effort by New Orleans youth which the city threatened to destroy for lack of due process and liability concerns. With bulldozers imminent, the youth approached the center for help. We supported the partner organization by interceding with the city and providing advocacy, design, and capacity building. At the end of our involvement, the park was designed, built, and fully embraced as the first official skatepark of the city. Through the process, students gained "hands-on" experience in collaborative project design, management, and execution. They led community engagement, engaged with multiple stakeholders, learned teamwork, and gained a clear understanding of what is required to bring a project from design to completion.