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 course will explore the process of developing a conceptual solution and translating it into a built space. Working with a local community, and drawing on a range of design and technical disciplines, participants will design, test, and build a public structure in Asheville, NC. Participants will explore how design can address issues of social justice and community sustainability by developing the knowledge and skills to define, generate, and explore conceptual solutions while integrating technical, financial, legal, and social constraints to complete a built project.

The Project: YWCA Outdoor Classroom & Edible Memorial Garden

YWCA - view up stair

The Asheville Design Center is excited to announce our Asheville DesignBuild project for Summer of 2014. ADC will be partnering with the YWCA of Asheville to build an outdoor classroom for children taking part in their after-school and summer camp programs. The YWCA is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. The YWCA serves 6,000 families a year through programs that bridge gaps in education, earning power, health and wellness, and access to child care for low-income and minority members of our community.

Over 200 children come and go from the YWCA daily. Located in a residential neighborhood with nowhere to grow, the YWCA needs help to ensure efficient use of the outdoor space, parking lot and optimum traffic flow. We have identified an unused grassy area where our studio will construct an outdoor classroom, gathering spot, and fitness area. Transforming this space and re-routing all after-school pick up and drop off traffic to the back lot will help the YWCA with their traffic problem while providing an exciting outdoor space for their students.

This area is located at the top of a set of stairs (which we hope to cover) and leads to a back parking lot. Along this staircase, this summer’s class will also design and install edible memorial garden to honor Laurey Masterson, a local activist and business entrepreneur.

This summer’s DesignBuild Studio project offers students of all design disciplines—architecture, landscape architecture, planning, engineering, graphic design, interior design—an opportunity to significantly contribute to the design and delivery of this new community asset. Students will encouraged to engage YWCA members and children, in addition to surrounding community members, to better inform their design process. Students will also have the opportunity to confer with the design team at Mathews Architecture, the firm responsible for the YWCA’s recent renovations and additions (and recipient of the North Carolina Chapter of the American Institute of Architects’ Firm of the Year Award in 2011).


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 will serve as lead instructor for the 2014 summer DesignBuild studio.

    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.

    Luke’s background in construction and design has allowed him to pursue numerous design-build projects. In 2003, he designed and built a private residence near Boone, NC. In 2006, he led a team to design and build 40 new sleeping compartments for Atlanta’s largest homeless shelter. In 2009, he helped design and build a new bench for a garden in Berkeley, California. In 2010, he designed and built numerous structures for the Pie Lab in Greensboro, AL. Finally, since living in Asheville, Luke has led a number of innovative projects such as the Mystic Dreams Pavilion, the Evergreen Community Charter School Outdoor Classroom, and Randolph Learning School Garden Shed.

    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. During his time at Berkeley, he taught two undergraduate studios under mentorship of Randy Hester and Keith Plymale. Luke is an Adjunct Professor at Appalachian State University and AB Tech Community College, teaching classes in design, drawing, visual literacy, computer modeling (Revit), blue print reading and construction. He also runs a small design-build practice called Just. Design. Build. and currently serves as Board Co-Chair of Green Opportunities, a local non-profit dedicated to empowering youth with barriers to employment.

    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.
  • 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.
  • Mitchel Sorin

    Guest Instructor
  • Mitchel Sorin has a substantial knowledge of adaptive re-use of existing buildings as well as other sustainable building technologies, including passive solar design, sustainable site planning, energy efficiency, daylighting techniques, and alternative building materials. He is a member of the American Institute of Architects, the WNC Green Building Council, and is a LEED accredited professional (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

    Mitchel attended Miami University in Ohio where he received a Bachelor of Environmental Design degree and went on to obtain his 5-year Bachelor of Architecture degree from Pratt Institute in New York. He is a past adjunct professor at Western Carolina University and is currently an adjunct Sustainability Technologies instructor at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. He has published several articles on straw bale construction, and has been a guest presenter at various workshops and public forums on “green building”. Mitchel is currently practicing architecture with Legerton Architecture in Asheville, NC after having been the owner of his own firm for the past 20 years.
  • Douglas Hecker

    Guest Instructor
  • Douglas Hecker is a co-founder of Fieldoffice with Martha Skinner. Fieldoffice is an internationally recognized interdisciplinary design studio whose design work ranges from toys, affordable housing products, films to highway barriers. Fieldoffice works from the notion that the field of design combines visionary ideas with real world problems. Fieldoffice undertakes design issues that address pressing environmental and social problems facing humanity that are often overlooked by conventional specialized design practices. The work of Fieldoffice has been published in a diverse array of publications such as Business Week, Discover Magazine, Architectural Record, and ID magazine and has been honored by inclusion in the 10th Venice Biennale of Architecture and the awarding of a Next Generation Award from Metropolis Magazine in 2007.

    Doug received his Bachelor of Architecture in Design from the University of Florida and a Master of Architecture from Columbia University where he was the recipient of the William F. Kinne Fellowship. In his role as a professor Doug focuses on mentoring a new generation of design activists that see in the contemporary world a multitude of opportunities for change. His research focuses on the role of advanced technologies (CAD/CAM, digital fabrication) in design in order to empower individuals and communities by inventing "systems" that provide greater access to design through a combination of advanced technology and activism. Doug founded cusa.dds (a digital fabrication shop at the Clemson School of Architecture) and ddbNOLA (digital design build New Orleans) to pursue this aim. Doug has taught previously at the University of Michigan where he was a Visiting Assistant Professor. Prior to teaching, he worked at Handel Architects in New York City as an Associate Designer.


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. Applications are due by April 17. Final registration and tuition payment is due by 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.

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 April 17, 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