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.

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, please feel free to submit a proposal.

2015 Design Build Project: 

LEAF Mobile Performing Arts Lab


LEAF S&S Logo LEAF_guitars

The 2015 DesignBuild Studio will be led by instructors Luke W. Perry and Miriam Gee, designers, architects, and builders with over 18 years combined experience.

This summer, students will work with the LEAF Schools & Streets program to explore how design can address public space in the form of a mobile performing arts lab. The lab will incorporate a mobile stage that can accommodate community arts performances, host events, and promote art education for youth in Asheville. DesignBuild students will define, generate, and explore conceptual solutions while integrating technical, financial, legal, and social constraints to complete the mobile performing arts lab.

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)


  • Luke W. Perry

    DesignBuild Instructor
  • Luke W. Perry has served as lead instructor for the Asheville Design Center's summer DesignBuild studio since 2011. Luke has pursued his passion and love of the built environment through creative collaborations, exploring how the simultaneous act of designing + building can increase the capacities of vulnerable places and people to better solve their own problems.

    Luke’s professional background has focused on the relationship between architecture, substandard housing, and community engagement. More specifically Luke has worked in addressing homelessness through public advocacy as well as shelter/transitional housing design, working at the National Coalition for the Homeless and Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless. He has worked construction building affordable housing in Washington, DC and researched low-cost housing options around the world as a UC Berkeley Branner Fellow. He currently works for Mathews Architecture in Asheville, NC and serves on the boards of the West End/ Clingman Ave. Neighborhood (WECAN) and Green Opportunities.

    Luke’s background in construction and design has allowed him to pursue numerous design-build projects around the United States and abroad. Since living in Asheville, he has led a number of innovative teaching and training projects such as the Mystic Dreams Pavilion, the Evergreen Community Charter School Outdoor Classroom, 13 Bones Pedestrian Bridge, and the Beehive at the YWCA of Asheville.

    He received undergraduate degrees in both Architecture and Industrial Design from NC State University in 2000 and received his Masters of Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley in 2009. In 2010-12, Luke served as an adjunct professor at Appalachian State University teaching classes in design, drawing, computer modeling and construction. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at AB-Tech.

    As a native of the North Carolina mountains, Luke cherishes the natural beauty and opportunities the southern Appalachians provide. He is a passionate soccer fan and plays a mean game of table tennis.

    To view Luke's website: www.lukewperry.com
  • Miriam Gee

    DesignBuild Instructor
  • Miriam Gee is a licensed architect, aspiring builder, design/build instructor, and green building consultant. For Miriam, there is no greater satisfaction than building your design with your own two hands.

    After spending more than six years of traditional employment with award-winning architecture firms in the Pacific Northwest and Hawai'i, Miriam has adapted her career to focus on education through design/build. In 2010, Miriam co-founded Build Lightly Studio, realizing her dream of teaching the next generation of collaborative thinkers through design/build. The result: a hybrid designer/builder/instructor role that extends beyond the years of licensed design work to the actual project construction; that is: the hammer swinging, the power tool-wielding, the early morning team meetings fueled by adrenaline (and, more often than not, too much coffee).

    Today, Miriam has tailored this concept into a formal profession that combines continued experience as a freelance designer and green building consultant with teaching student-led design/build courses and workshops in the U.S. and internationally. In this unique arrangement, teaching informs professional practice, and vice-versa.

    Miriam's definitive architectural career is inspired by students, yet grounded in real-world design challenges. A competent project architect with an interest in environmental design, she excels in collaboration, project management, and community engagement. To date, Miriam's experience as an educator through Build Lightly Studio includes: Asheville Design Center, Yestermorrow Design/Build School, University of Washington Neighborhood Design/Build Studio, and the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, archawai'i program. She graduated in 2006 from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a Bachelor of Architecture and a minor in French. She received her architecture license in 2010 in Washington state and Hawai'i.


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 $2,350 per student. The application deadline has been extended to May 1. Final registration and tuition payment is due by May 1 or upon notification of acceptance after May 1.

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. Scholarships are only available to students who applied by the original April 17th deadline.

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. There will also be a significant involvement of local youth, so any experience working with high school age youth would be desirable as well.

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 2015 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 ten weeks long and will run from June 1st – August 7th. A mid-term break will occur on July 3-6.

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, 2015. 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