MetroLAB is a Public Interest Design / Build program within the University of Cincinnati School of Architecture and Interior Design (SAID) in the College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP) that engages students and faculty from SAID, DAAP and across UC with local and regional communities and partners that would not otherwise have access to design.
Our intent is to design, construct, research and evaluate innovative projects that support the infrastructure and development of the built environment through direct engagement with those who are impacted by our projects.
MetroLAB focuses on three teaching strategies:
1. Learning Through The Process Of Making
MetroLAB projects involve the unique process of critically evaluating and learning about design through the process of making. All projects revolve around the iterative production of some built element at full-scale. In many cases, students are encouraged to build before they design. They create mock-ups of ideas quickly, at full-scale, and allow that experience to form their design proposals. In many cases, drawings are the final step instead of the first. This prototyping process enables students to step out of the hypothetical ideas of traditional studio and come face-to-face with design decisions in a manner that provides an alternative, full-scale relationship to the design process.
2. Applied Design Research & Innovation
MetroLAB students do not learn traditional construction techniques. They are taught to engage meaningful, innovative design research in all projects and seek new potential and opportunity in all forms of making. Materials are constantly tested and explored for their inherent design potential. Students are often challenged to produce material examples that explore how standard materials can be modified and used in ways that are not typical. Examples include laminating newspaper and then sanding it to produce a powerful surface that serves as a backdrop for poetry in Louder Than A Bomb.
3. Community Engagement & Impact
Most MetroLAB projects are designed and built within existing communities in Cincinnati. These studios incorporate input of the actual users, stakeholders and owners throughout the process. Typically, there are interactive events that are designed by the studio to get people physically engaged in this process. In some cases, the studio is actually set up on or near the site so that the students can become intimately and personally connected to the culture, context and personalities of the place where they are designing. In summer 2015, the students in the Pleasant Street Pedestrian studio transformed a garden shed adjacent to Findlay Market into their temporary studio space. As a result, they were out on Pleasant Street nearly every day, getting to know the residents in their own context. Throughout the summer, all studio events were held on Pleasant Street. These personal interactions profoundly impacted all the process and products of the studio project.