About the Studio

The Asheville DesignBuild Studio, a program of the Asheville Design Center, is a multi-disciplinary, hands-on, educational experience. Participants will have the opportunity to affect a lasting and positive impact on Asheville’s vibrant and diverse communities. Individuals will come together as a team, draw upon their wide range of design and technical disciplines to gather community input, define a project type, design and develop the concept, and build their design. The DesignBuild Studio addresses issues of social justice, community sustainability and good design, not simply by watching, but by doing.

This Summer’s Project

Check back on March 27, 2017. We’re finalizing plans for this summer’s project as we speak.

How We Select Community Projects

Every winter the Asheville Design Center puts a call out to the greater Asheville Community to solicit proposals for community projects. We typically receive over a dozen intriguing proposals from community groups. Our DesignBuild Task force then evaluates the proposals, using the following criteria:

  • Community Impact: How does this project improve our community? Is it focused on a narrow segment of the community, or can it be enjoyed by everyone? Does the project allow for opportunities to collaborate with community groups and individuals?
  • Feasibility: How does the scope of the project match up with our 10-week class and students’ skill sets? Is funding for building materials secured? What are the anticipated permit requirements for the project?
  • Multi-Disciplinary: Does the project offer opportunities to engage students of multiple disciplines?
  • Studio Visibility: Is the job site visible to the public? Does the project allow for a transparent design process? Will this project serve as effective promotion for future studios?

Once we’ve narrowed the field to three to four finalists, our task force interviews the applicants and selects a final project for the upcoming summer studio. If you are interested in submitting a proposal for next year’s studio (2018), please feel free to submit a proposal.

The DesignBuild Studio is open to collegiate and graduate level students who are interested in learning more about the built environment and how it interfaces with individuals and local communities. The DesignBuild Studio will be an equivalent of six credit hours. Each participant will be responsible to coordinate the transfer of credit with their host College or University.

A PDF of the Student Application form is available here.

All forms can be mailed to:

Asheville Design Center
PO Box 1524
Asheville, NC 28802

All other inquiries can be directed to Chris Joyell (chris@ashevilledesigncenter.org or 828-782-7894)


  • Liz Lawrence

    DesignBuild Instructor
  • Liz Lawrence is a registered architect, fabricator, design/build instructor and chronicler of the human experience who enjoys the creative process and sharing in these endeavors with others. Her love of all things built began at an early age and has continued to grow in tandem with her desire to connect people through community based activities. She is a great supporter of tactile learning and encourages students interested in design to just get out there and try building! Liz is an advocate for young women interested in architecture, construction and other related building trades and seeks to assist them on their journeys of creative discovery through education and mentoring.

    Currently, she serves as principle architect for Milkhouse Design Studio and Workshop, a venture that germinated from lessons learned while working on the family’s fifth generation dairy farm one summer in the rural Northeast. The thought grew into a quest for understanding the process of building through a holistic pursuit of design ability meshed with skills obtained from working alongside of master crafts-persons. The concept is rooted in the notion that architecture should not be separated into the current, stringent categories of Architect and Builder, but should allow for the two professions to work together in tandem, learning and growing from one another through direct participation.

    Before establishing Milkhouse, Liz acquired over ten years of architectural experience in several award winning firms, grounding her work in a wide technical background. She has pursued design/build education at home and abroad by teaching timber frame construction in north London at the Burlington Danes Academy and as a fabricator on the Canningtown Caravanserai in east London. At home, she is currently engaged as an exhibit designer and fabricator at the Hagley gunpowder and industrial history museum and serves as a supporting member of the museum’s “Maker Space” task force.

    Liz is a registered architect in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, holds a M.Arch from the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, UK focusing on Design/ Build strategies and a B.Arch from Roger Williams University in Bristol, RI.

    Her love of travel, motorcycles, vintage Americana and eccentric encounters always make for entertaining stories and a few laughs.


What is the Asheville Design Center?

The Asheville Design Center (ADC) is a non-profit organization engaging Western North Carolina in creative community-based design. ADC values inclusive community input and engagement and believes that community-based design leads to healthy, thriving and equitable communities. ADC is a proven leader in community-based design and employs a rigorous community input process for all of their projects.

How much does the Studio cost?

The cost of the studio will be $2,500 per student. The application deadline is May 1, 2017. Final registration and tuition payment is due by May 15 or upon notification of acceptance after May 15.

Is there scholarship assistance available?

Partial scholarship assistance is available to qualified students. Please inquire with Chris Joyell (chris @ashevilledesigncenter.org) to receive an application.

Where will I live while enrolled in the Studio?

There are many options in Asheville, including summer sublets, hostels, and apartments for lease. Each participant will be responsible to arrange his or her own housing. Contact ADC for further information or assistance. 

What type of experience is required for the Studio?

Interested students are not required or expected to have a background in building or construction, but we will need one or two students with such experience. Students should have an ability to think critically, problem solve, generate solutions, listen, communicate well, be open to different perspectives, and be team/group oriented. This will be a highly intensive collaborative process that will involve many players and forces (budgets, building code compliance, permits, design professionals, community members, etc), so students will need to be flexible, adaptable, hard-working, humble, and committed. 

Interested students should also have a basic understanding of drawing conventions (plans, sections, elevations, axons) and should be able to communicate/utilize both analog and digital media. From an analog standpoint, students should be able to ideate with pen and pencil, as well as build physical models. From a digital standpoint, students should know AutoCAD (or some equivalent CAD drafting program), Sketchup, and Adobe Creative Suite (InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator).

What is the selection process for the Studio?

Admission decisions will be made on a rolling basis. Students can expect to receive a response within five business days after their applications have been received. We are looking for a range of experiences, backgrounds, and skills. Since this is an interdisciplinary studio, it will depend on a team that is comprised of different disciplines. Priority will be given to 3rd and 4th year students studying architecture, landscape architecture, engineering, construction management, and appropriate technology. However, we are also interested in other design/building disciplines such as planning, graphic design, interior design, etc.

Can I get university credit for the Studio?

The DesignBuild Studio will be an equivalent of six credit hours. Each participant will be responsible to coordinate the transfer of credit with their host College or University. Students of past DesignBuild studios have received credit for their participation (most notably Clemson University). Participants not currently enrolled in a College or University will receive a certificate indicating their successful completion of the studio. A course syllabus will be made available in early spring. We are also willing to work with students to complete internship opportunities or even independent studies. Contact ADC for further information or assistance.

Can I receive IDP (Architecture’s Intern Development Program) Credit for participating in the studio?

Yes, you will be able to receive hours for your work on this project.

When and where does the 2017 DesignBuild Studio take place?

The studio takes place in Asheville NC, in the midst of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina. The studio is eight weeks long and will run from June 5th – July 28th. A mid-term break will occur on July 4-5.

What kind of time commitment is expected?

Classes will formally meet from 9 am – 1 pm on Monday – Friday. Expect this to be a full time commitment, though we will work to provide breaks when the schedule allows. Classes will consist of lectures, design exercises, critiques, field trips, site visits, on and off-site construction and fabrication, and research related to the project. Significant work and time is expected outside of formal class time. Participants will be expected to attend additional community meetings, develop presentations, meet with city/building officials, consultants, etc. Once construction begins, many full days of work will be required to complete the project.

How do I apply?

Student applications are due by May 1, 2017. Online applications are available here. A PDF of the application can be downloaded here. Hard copy applications can be submitted to:

Asheville Design Center
PO Box 1524
Asheville, NC 28802

Student Testimonials

Lauren Taylor (Architecture, U of Virginia)

"I really valued the responsibility the instructors gave to us – in design, and all aspects of the project. This felt very different from usual university classes, and I thought was more relevant to the real world."
-- Class of 2013

Jay Holt (Architecture, NC State)

“Working with students in different disciplines, I learned that each student had a unique perspective, knowledge base, and set of experiences that ultimately served as a powerful teaching tool for me."
--Class of 2011

Caitlin Edenfield (Landscape Architecture, Virginia Tech)

“People with no design background are not limited by previously instilled ideas... I learned that design should never be limited to designers.”
-- Class of 2011

Thackston Crandall (Landscape Architecture, Clemson)

"I think some of the greatest learning moments were when we encountered problems and Luke or Miriam would come by and make us take a step back and discuss what the problem was and possible solutions. I think these spontaneous and improvised moments provided some of the best pragmatic learning experiences."
--Class of 2013