Building pathways: Lessons in collaborative instruction and community engaged design


student holding beaded belt, abandoned railroad bridges, student wearing glasses and face mask

Credit: Provided

From left: Student holding copy of the wampum record of Guswhenta/”Two Row Wampum” treaty of 1613 during a briefing by Seneca Nation and Seneca-Iroquois National Museum staff; abandoned railroad bridges leading to the former Erie Railyard site, Salamanca; students listening to a briefing by Seneca Nation and Seneca-Iroquois National Museum staff.

This spring semester, three classes spread across architecture, landscape architecture, and planning intersected around the same site: Salamanca, New York, a city within the Allegany Territory of the Seneca Nation of Indians. Acknowledging overlaps in subject matter and approaches to engagement, CRP Associate Professor of the Practice George R. Frantz, CRP Lecturer Mitch Glass, and Architecture’s Preston Thomas Memorial Visiting Associate Professor Anna Dietzsch made a point of integrating their students through combined discussions and field trips so they could exchange information and ideas among themselves and ultimately with their partners in Salamanca.

However, before the development of proposals addressing area infrastructure issues and revitalization efforts would even be possible, the students and instructors had to build avenues of communication and trust with community stakeholders. The diversity of cultural and design perspectives involved required sensitivity and awareness that stretches beyond the primary subject matter. The resulting projects demonstrate the power of collaborative learning opportunities beyond the classroom, illuminating pathways towards more advanced design discussions while also delivering actionable plans ready for implementation.

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