2014 Market Winner: Buckingham County Primary and Elementary Schools by VMDO Architects

As the winners of the 2014 Design is … Award Market Award, Shaw Contract Group winning firms interviewed as part of a section of Shaw Contract Group blog which will last a year. Throughout the year, readers can learn more about the 40 winning projects and the individuals who perform them. These are their stories.

Dina Sorensen, LEED AP, Project Designer, spoke with us about the importance of research, holistic design, and architecture bringing positive impact to the world.

Describe this project in one word.
Holistic

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How does this project demonstrate the power of design to impact users in a space?
This project provides evidence that architecture has an impact on attitudes, behaviors and cultural norms within the context of a learning environment – specifically about the importance of healthy eating and physical activity/movement (two of the most pressing issues for children). It also provides evidence of innovation in practice – collaborating with researchers to co-design a project and conduct a 2-year study to measure the efficacy of design. Not if it worked but how are things working – as an ecosystem.

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Design is a process. Explain your journey.
If architecture is going to be a change agent for public good, an interdisciplinary approach and process is an imperative. The public health discipline brings valuable insight about the deep connections between the built environment and human health \ wellbeing. The process and journey of co-creating with public health researchers has changed the way I see and respond to all design problems – I see my new role as a charge to be responsible for knowing and/or finding out about the health drivers inherent to every solution.

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What are the most important lessons you’ve learned through this project that you’d want to share with the designers of tomorrow?
Research is critical; whether it is primary research or design research – crafting the questions before assuming a solution and working across disciplines is likely to yield a more robust and resilient proposition.

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