New Lending Library Makes Architecture Course More Accessible

The Lending Library after two months of use

“Seeing and Making” is a course in Ohio State’s Knowlton School. Taught by professors Andrew Cruse and Paula Meijerink, the course “introduces students from different backgrounds how to ‘see’ an environment and respond to it by ‘making.’ We do this through a series of scaffolded projects to teach them architectural conventions and methods.”  Andrew explains that the course was “initially thought of as the first course for students studying landscape and architecture. Since last year it has also been approved as a general education course.” Andrew hopes this change will bring “a larger group of students from across the university.”  

The transition to a general education course was just one factor that made Andrew and Paula want to work with the Affordable Learning Exchange (ALX) to make the course accessible to more students. “When redesigning the course, we looked at a number of things, and one was the cost for the students.” It was very important that they minimize one of the barriers to entering a program like Architecture or Landscape Architecture. “We realized that the cost associated with this course is really high… one year, the cost of the materials was $228.99,” Paula reflects. From box-cutters to circle templates, “these are all really great materials that students will use later in other of Knowlton’s courses.” With support from ALX, Andrew and Paula created a cabinet that serves as a lending library of essential tools and recycled materials for their course. Through this project, they have been able to decrease the material cost for students to $98.99. Going forward, students can use a “loner kit” with a range of materials that they can borrow. 

Andrew notes that “having this tool-kit is essential to performing well in the course. One thing the lending library allows us to do is to reduce the number of tools that people may need to buy.” 

This lending library has also helped foster new relationships among instructors in the Knowlton School; Paula joyfully added that others have also donated leftover materials from their classrooms to the lending library. “The more we accumulate material, not only do we have tools that our students can use, but other classes can utilize them too. We really like this organic process.”  

“There are many unintended consequences of the cabinet which are positive,” Andrew affirms. And according to other instructors of “Seeing and Making,” having these materials in the studio allows for students to have more structured exercises in the classroom.  

What’s great about this lending library is that students have access to tools that they would not have access to otherwise. This allows for experimentation. Andrew emphasizes that an important “part of the studio pedagogy is students being able to experiment. Maybe students will try seven things and only one of them works for them. But the fact that we have this lending library means we have those seven things for them to try.” 

The lending library supporting the “Seeing and Making” course isn’t the only one in the Knowlton School. According to Andrew, his department has been gradually ramping up sustainability efforts over the past few years. He said, “It started out with material recycling stations that students started around four or five years ago.” Now, instructors like Andrew and Paula are hoping that lending libraries can bring material upcycling and sustainability into conversations in addition to student projects.  

Andrew explained, “It is a pedagogical goal of class to discuss material decisions at both student and professional levels. What students decide to use to create their buildings have not only design implications, but social and ecological implications as well.” 

When I visited the "Seeing and Making" classroom towards the end of the students’ studio session, I asked if I could take a picture of the lending library. The students joked that the cabinet was the messiest it had been all week, but this clutter demonstrates that these extra resources have been put to great use.