School of Architecture Develops Design-Build Apprenticeship Program in Arcosanti, Arizona, USA

School of Architecture Develops Design-Build Apprenticeship Program in Arcosanti, Arizona, USA

The school of architecture, founded by Frank Lloyd Wright under the name of Taliesin Fellowship in 1932, underwent significant transformations. Two years after parting ways with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, TSOA landed at Arcosanti, an experimental desert community in Arizona owned and operated by the Cosanti Foundation. In line with the school’s values, Arcosanti’s program aims to provide students with a contemporary design education based on immersive, experiential and experiential learning. The program offers NAAB-accredited 2- and 3-plus-year Master of Science in Architecture degrees and a one-and-a-half-year Master of Science in Design-Build.

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One of the highlights of this experimental program is the Shelter program, the school’s design-build program. The idea behind the program is to provide students with a unique opportunity to design and build structures that can be used as accommodation for prospective students. These small, single-occupancy structures, designed and built by students in response to the desert landscape and climate, have been a hallmark of the program since its inception in the 1930s in Taliesin West.

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Shelter by Archie Kinney. Image courtesy of TSOA

From site selection to design, construction and habitation, students must formulate their entire shelter project themselves. Each year, students have the opportunity to remodel, rebuild or build new shelters under a specific procedure. The ability to initiate and execute a small, comprehensive project while still in school provides students with a rare and rigorous platform to investigate architectural ideas holistically, firmly grounded in facts, circumstances, and context. historical and cultural, informed by careful and thorough research.


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What sets our school apart is our hands-on approach to learning. We are original learning by doing school. The Shelter program is just that; it is a testing ground for your ideas. It tests you physically, mentally, emotionally, and intellectually, but it also positions you to fully manifest and realize your ideas. Ideas are revealed through the process, which I don’t think would otherwise happen if you were just doing a regular dissertation. The accommodation program evolves just as the school evolves. We push our idea of ​​”safe haven” to new limits, not just as physical constructs, but as fully fleshed out projects – Richard Sanchez, 2022 graduate student.

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Radical pedagogy workshop Joseph Becker, performing Larry and Anna Halprin Paper Ritual. Image courtesy of TSOA

Another unique element of the program is the Usonia 21 program, an interdisciplinary service-learning initiative inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s mid-century Usonian project. The program focuses on developing student-led design and build projects in underserved communities, with an emphasis on innovative and affordable housing and economic development.

This year, the Usonia 21 initiative focuses on Seabreeze, North Carolina, a black-owned beachfront resort community that responded to the Jim Crow segregation laws of the 1880s by providing East Coast blacks with a rare opportunity to celebrate and relax by the sea during segregation. The multidisciplinary team involved in the project is developing an immersive storytelling project to reveal the rich history of Seabreeze through a blend of traditional documentary methods with new technologies such as VR, AR and 360 audio and video. Additionally, students work with the community to co-design a new multi-purpose development. It will include commercial and culinary spaces, affordable housing and a small museum dedicated to the history of the community and the place.

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Joseph Becker Radical Pedagogy Workshop, Tetra Kite assembly, flying. Image courtesy of TSOA

The school of architecture was officially started as the Taliesin Fellowship in 1932 when twenty-three young people came to live and learn at Taliesin, the estate and home of Frank Lloyd Wright near Spring Green, Wisconsin. The School’s current curriculum and academic life builds on its heritage while adapting to the needs of a changing world. The school emphasizes learning by doing, developing new ways of looking and the ability to honor and build with the landscape.

Abdul J. Gaspar