The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) has given the Dotte Agency, of the University of Kansas, one of its 2017 Collaborative Practice Awards. It recognizes programs that demonstrate how faculty, students, and community and civic clients can work together to realize common objectives.
In 2015, professors Nils Gore and Shannon Criss and graduate student Matt Kleinmann developed Dotte Agency to support project needs in Wyandotte County. Located in Strawberry Hill, it is a multidisciplinary design collaborative that engages multiple community partners to shape the built environment in order to improve public health.
It occupies a storefront provided by the Community Housing of Wyandotte County (CHWC) in Kansas City, Kansas, where the university faculty hold classes and share the space with community partners for events and meetings. Their students experience the value of working with citizens and nonprofit organizations such as the CHWC, Community Health Council of Wyandotte County (CHCWC), the New Bethel Church CDC, the Kansas City, Kansas, Neighborhood Business Revitalization partners and many others.
Several of their recent projects aim to improve access to fresh food and to increase safe and walkable places through design.
Students in Gore’s design-build course are currently developing designs and physical prototypes for drinking fountains and lighting for parks. Other students have designed, built and are installing exercise elements, signage and bike racks for Jersey Creek Trails, the Armourdale Levee Hike-Bike Trail, Huron, Bethany, Fisher and Parkwood Parks. These elements are crucial elements for improving awareness of and access to parks and trails.
“Our community partners provide essential insight to challenges and opportunities in their neighborhoods that help us create innovative, design solutions,” Criss said. Students in Criss’s course are currently developing multiple ‘small bet’ projects to extend activities and events to support youth and families in the Jersey Creek Trails.
Criss, Gore, and students previously converted an Airstream trailer into the KU Mobile Collaboratory, or moCOLAB. It is often taken to events they create with community partners so that students have the unique experience of interacting with community members and finding collaborative design solutions.
The Dotte Agency is supported by grants from the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Wyandotte Health Foundation and the KU School of Architecture, Design & Planning. To see more information, see http://www.dotteagency.org.