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project #1 DESIGN + BUILD: PRIMARY SCHOOL IN GITA, UGANDA As a student, I was captivated by design as a pathway for public service. My final project at the University of Virginia School of Architecture was a studio collaboration designing a primary school in Gita, Uganda. The project was a partnership between Building Tomorrow, the UVA School of Engineering Capstone Program and UVA School of Architecture Studio ReCOVER. After a full semester of design work, followed by a summer to produce the construction drawing and the sweat equity of a motivated Ugandan community, the school is now open and serves 200 students. This project inspired a trip to Africa. I believe in the importance of first-hand experience and wanted to visit the community following the design project. The two experiences influenced my work process and ideas for the potential of design to improve the world.

the project I participated in this studio because it was multi-disciplinary, tangible and a public service oriented project: design a ten-room primary school in Gita, Uganda. The Design Team: 12 architecture students, 7 engineering students, 1 architecture professor, 2 recent alumnus and a graduate TA

follow-up This project solidified my interest in humanitarian-centered design. I was captivated by the power of design to empower the community through the construction of a new school. I also believed in its lasting impact as a longterm resource.

design principles The studio established design principles to guide the process and final product. An emphasis on sustainability including local building materials, utilizing the roof for capturing rainwater, passive cooling, daylighting and an interactive landscape for play and production were highlights of the design.

the trip After a semester working to design a school in a place I’d never been, I was left with the desire to experience the place I intimately knew in my design decisions, but had no feel for the community or culture. I wanted to understand the challenge Building Tomorrow was tackling. I traveled to Gita, Uganda in 2008 as part of a larger trip to Africa. I visited 8 countries, covering roughly 3,000 miles overland between Nairobi, Kenya to Cape Town, South Africa.

the process Representatives from the studio traveled to Uganda to conduct field research. They analyzed the site, interviewed community members and collected photographs to use in the design process. Using this research, the studio divided into groups focusing on different elements of the school. The groups switched regularly to provide a multidisciplinary approach to the project .

outcome The team produced final concept drawings for the school. Work continued over the summer to refine the drawings and prepare construction documents. A partnership with ARUP Engineers provided the final structural engineering. Partnerships with local Ugandan suppliers provided the building materials and the Gita community volunteered labor for the construction of the school.

project #2 The Charlottesville Trade School The Charlottesville Trade School is turning seemingly ordinary spaces into energized classrooms where friends, neighbors, co-workers, and strangers share skills and good company. We’re putting a twist on education with a work + play mentality. Bartering is back! Rather than paying for instruction, students sign up to learn new trades by meeting the teacher’s barter requests—anything from a dozen free range eggs, a good book, mixed CDs/TAPES, a random act of kindness, tools, to an original work of art! The trade school is a forum for exchange.

fundamentals of coffee brewing

concept DEVELOP THE CONECPT Inspired by the Brooklyn Trade School, a co-collaborator and I started a school in Charlottesville. We were captivated by the opportunity to promote skill sharing based on a barter system. It would be an experiment in the value of skills and the importance of continued learning.



OMG, printmaking!




We were 108% certain Charlottesville would love and support the Trade School because it is a community filled with skilled citizens who value learning and sharing. BUT, it is an important step in the development of any project to access the need and understand WHY you are committed to creating it.

I strongly believe in the importance of engaging others in your vision. Inclusiveness is a pillar of a healthy community and it’s likely there are others who have been spinning similar ideas. In this case: ideas around skills sharing, education and bartering. We invited community members to explore the idea with us!

spread the word

barter on!

fundamentals of hand stitching


camp stoves 101




After meeting with potential stakeholders and inviting others to join, we were able to create a council of partners. These partners assisted with the implementation of the Trade School.

We developed these partners into important long-term partnerships. This allowed us the street cred to reach out to organizations who may be interested in sponsoring classroom space. I believe relationships are the key to successful community-based projects and therefore require significant focus!








With successful partnerships established and a community supporting our vision, it was time to create our personality. I worked to establish a logo, website, newsletter, and network for classes. The Trade School was a living, breathing learning hub 2 months after the concept.

After we had settled on our personality, we set out to spread the word. We hosted an awesome LAUNCH PARTY to introduce community members to the Trade School. We asked for class ideas, recruited teachers, demo-ed some great skills and gave out Trade School swag.

After the awesome LAUNCH PARTY, we started hosting classes around town. It was a great format and opportunity for us to share community and skills. The Trade School hosts roughly 1 to 2 classes a month.

The success of any project is dependent on a smart maintenance plan. This means having a plan for keeping up the personality, continuing to spread the word, gathering feedback and persevering forward to a greater bartering future. We’ve also connected with the other Trade Schools around the country.

Partnerships with four community spaces including art galleries and concert venues 20 classes on 20 different topics Network of 230 members committed to sharing skills

project #3 THE MORVEN KITCHEN GARDEN When Thomas Jefferson imagined his ideal Academical Village, he believed in the importance of agriculture in higher education. Jefferson’s gardens at Monticello were living laboratories, where he experimented with 330 different vegetables and 170 fruit varieties. Over 200 years later, Jefferson’s values of agriculture are being reexamined at Morven Farm. Located on a reclaimed one-acre plot, which was once organically cultivated for John Kluge, the Kitchen Garden offers a hands-on learning opportunity to study food production cycles, design sustainable agriculture technologies, and develop a better understanding of the social, environmental, and economic implications of our daily food choices.

concept DEVELOP THE CONCEPT Three fold: 1). Revitalize Jefferson’s vision for agriculture as a vital part of higher education at the University of Virginia 2). Support the local food movement while providing a space for University students to explore the social and cultural importance of food





Food is essential to life. We should be an integrated part of the production and consumption of food. The global food system needs re-designing, more than ever we are disconnected from our food sources and the importance of good, quality food.

Stakeholders for this project were vital to its success. First, we met with leadership at the UVA Foundation for permission to create the garden on a reclaimed one-acre plot at Morven. After securing the land, we conducted a meeting with key members of the University community who were also working on issues of local food.





During this meeting, we were able to recruit partners (staff, faculty and students) to participate in the vision for the Morven Kitchen Garden.

Key partnerships emerged with our student leadership team, local farmers, the UVA Community Garden, City Schoolyard Gardens, Piedmont Virginia Community College, The UVA Food Collaborative and the Morven Summer Institute.

We also needed the guidance and wisdom of seasoned farmers, so we built a network of farmers in the area.

3). Learn how to grow food!


people power

growing roots

sharing our table







We had a lot of great material to work with after the initial vision and partner meetings. It was important to bring this personality into existence! I developed a logo, color palette, website and some initial marketing materials to promote our mission.

Without the support of volunteer labor, the Kitchen Garden would not exist. Initially, we corralled a strong bunch of volunteers to help reclaim the plot for our first season. We also were awarded several grants from the University to pay for necessary infrastructure for the garden plot (irrigation, fences, shed, rototiller). For the growing season, we hired a garden manager and two student apprentices.

After many hours of sweat equity invested in the plot, we were ready for our first season. We created a planning plan and went to work! We started a student and faculty CSA (campus supported agriculture) and delivered shares once a week to campus.

The garden is an opportunity for a hands-on experience in food production. Beyond this experience, it is both a catalyst and space to start a larger conversation about food issues including: food justice, food quality and food sources. Along with the UVA Food Collaborative, we host potlucks, movie screenings, garden tours and a variety of other events to build awareness about the issues.

2 full seasons (March - October)

The garden continues to bustle with growth and strong roots!

5,000lbs of produce 4 garden apprenticeships with accompanying research projects 5 courses utilizing the garden as a classroom Partnership with local public schools as a training group for volunteers in their schoolyard gardens

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