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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Student architects build a better Tucson


    College of Architecture, Planning & Landscape Architecture students know that many Tucson organizations are more than deserving of an architectural makeover.

    For four years, the UA chapter of Freedom by Design has been serving the Tucson community and just recently renovated the reception area of Literacy Connects, an organization that promotes child and adult literacy and education.

    “The ultimate goal of our Freedom by Design chapter is to improve accessibility and the physical environment for deserving residents in Tucson,” said Queston Kwolek, a fourth-year architecture student and the current director of Freedom by Design.

    “For me, architecture is a means in which I can collaborate with others to design thoughtful and meaningful spaces that contribute to the identity and beauty of a place and its people.”

    Coordinating a renovation is not a simple task and requires plenty of planning.

    “The [Literacy Connects] project took 8 months to complete, with two months to design, three months to fundraise and two months to fabricate and install the project,” said Nikki Hall, a fifth-year architecture and Japanese student and past secretary of Freedom by Design.

    “We have a design ‘charrette’, where we invite Freedom by Design members and local professionals to meet and brainstorm ideas.”

    Members work together in small groups to come up with initial designs, then come together as a whole to come up with a final design.

    “Sometimes our local professionals help critique our drawings throughout the process,” Hall said.

    These projects are not done in short-term windows. The club spends an entire year making sure the final result is perfect.

    “The first semester is usually spent developing a design for the client and finding funding for the project,” said Will Ruoff, a fifth-year architecture student and project manager for Freedom by Design.

    “Once we have defined the budget and the project, we can begin to fabricate the project at the [CAPLA] wood and metal shop.”

    The students try to make everything themselves and also fundraise to pay for the project. The chapter fundraises in coordination with the Arizona chapter of American Institute of Architecture Students.

    “Last year was our first annual Pumpkin Carving event during the week of Halloween on the [UA] Mall,” Kwolek said. “UA students and visitors were able to carve pumpkins for a small donation to Freedom by Design.”

    Not only does the chapter give invaluable experience with designing and planning, but it also gives members the satisfaction of making a difference in the Tucson community.

    “My favorite project has been [an] outdoor relaxing space at The Arizona State School for the Deaf and Blind,” Ruoff said. “The excitement on the student’s faces when they were able to use the outdoor space was heart-warming.”

    The chapter’s hard work does not go unnoticed.

    “[Literacy Connects’ new reception area] provides a sense of welcome and is a great improvement over what we had before,” said Leslie Pape, office manager for Literacy Connects.

    “Everybody had a very positive reaction and thought it was very attractive and functional, and it showcases our library here.”

    The club isn’t closed off to non-architecture students. The chapter can always use help with fundraising and building.

    “We would be extremely happy to make this an integrated club that brings together students from different degree programs,” Ruoff said.

    Follow Lauren Koch on Twitter.

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