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Miami's Ghana program earns Presidential Citation from Ohio architecture group

10/03/2012

Written by Jillian Moran, news and communications intern

Miami University's department of architecture and interior design was recognized with a "Presidential Citation in Recognition of Exceptional Service to the Profession and Society" at the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Ohio awards conference in Cleveland last month. The department received the award for creating and facilitating the Ghana Design-Build Studio.

Miami students on site in Ghana
Miami students on site in Ghana
The program, initiated in 1995 by Gail DellaPiana, professor emeritus of architecture and interior design, brings students for six weeks to a village in Ghana. The award recognizes that Miami offers the village of Abrafo-Odumasi “needed community facilities through collaborative engagement.” And that “Students are introduced to tribal cultures, in four diverse tropical environments throughout the country and these integrative experiences enable students to gain an understanding of cultural and environmental perspectives influencing their design education.”

Projects are driven by the needs of the village. Students take part in all phases of planning and construction, with lessons from Ghanaian masons and carpenters with whom they work. Students must respond to the indigenous architecture, materials and methods while introducing improved techniques to help the village. A student blog from 2008 shows progress on the community center that was built that year.

Students and residents collaborate on the build
Students and residents collaborate on the build
Over the years, students have worked alongside villagers to build permanent market shelters, bus stops, a library and a sheltered outdoor reading area, a guest house, school yard equipment and a community center.

“While not as glamorous as design/build studios elsewhere, the studio has provided the kind of real world experience that one can only receive by having a client, a budget, a schedule and a hammer. The projects have always been driven by the needs of the village and have been responsive to the feedback of the client both before construction and during it,” said Judson Kline, president of Ohio’s AIA, in presenting the award. “The student designs must respond to the indigenous architecture, building materials and methods while at the same time trying to introduce advantageous new techniques or methods that might be utilized by the village to improve future building projects. The experience provides a very real example of the consequences of one’s design work on paper and its manifestation in reality.”

J. Elliott, instructor in architecture and interior design, has led the program since 2006.

Judson A. Kline, AIA Ohio President; Ed Glowacki; Gail DellaPiana; and Paul Hollenbeck
Judson A. Kline, AIA Ohio President; Ed Glowacki; Gail DellaPiana; and Paul Hollenbeck
Two other major AIA Ohio awards were presented to Miami alumni at the conference. Paul Hollenbeck ’70 received the 2012 AIA Ohio Public Service Award and Ed Glowacki ’78, MA ‘80 received the 2012 AIA Ohio Mentor Award.

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