Shepley honored for social
justice focus in studios

Professor's class participating in
Adaptive Environments program


For addressing issues of social justice in her design studio, Mardelle Shepley, associate dean for student services and a professor of architecture at Texas A&M University, has received a $1,000 stipend and an opportunity to participate in the Architecture for Social Justice Awards Program: Partnerships in Teaching.

The award recognizes the work of Shepley’s third-year architecture design studio, “Healing Environments” (ARCH 607), which recently developed designs for a Columbia space shuttle memorial to be constructed in the East Texas community where the astronauts’ bodies and most of the shuttle debris were recovered. Shepley said she would use the funds to defray the costs for her students attending the American Institute of Architects Academy of Architecture for Health.

The Social Justice Awards Program was initiated in 2003 by Adaptive Environments, a Boston-based international nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing the experiences of people of all ages and abilities through excellence in design. It recognizes and supports faculty who are leading studios that address human equity for both students as well as those who inhabit or experience the built environment. The program will also document the creative ways that faculty engage in teaching architecture as a socially embedded discipline and practice and foster an atmosphere of collaboration and respect in their classrooms.

The awards program is funded in part by the National Endowment of the Arts to support issues of diversity and work in introductory graduate studios in architecture. The program also provides an architect that serves as a “user-expert/consultant” for the studio.

The Access to Design Professions Project of the Adaptive Environments Center initiated the program in response to concerns about traditional design studio pedagogy, content, and culture, as described in several recent publications and reports on architectural education.

Over the past 25 years, Adaptive Environments has led the way locally, nationally and internationally in the development and promotion of “human-centered design.” Also known as “universal design,” human-centered design has been called the realization of truly "social" design at its best.

According to the Adaptive Environments Web site, human-centered design “begins with the conviction that real excellence in design—from urban design and architecture to product design and information design—is directly related to how well the design works for the greatest number of people across the broadest spectrum of ability and age.”

“Our goal is to be a catalyst here and abroad for changing the way we view design and how human-centered design, in all disciplines, can truly enhance the quality of life and daily experiences of people everywhere," said Valerie Fletcher, executive director of Adaptive Environments.

The 2003 Architecture for Social Justice Awards Program: Partnerships in Teaching stipends were awarded to 11 Association for Collegiate Schools of Architecture member schools for their design studios in the 2003-2004 academic year.

The selected faculty submitted proposals that addressed issues of social justice—both for students as well as users of the built environment. The studios will be documented in an online publication Architecture for Social Justice Design Studios 2003-2004. Faculty will also participate in a Special Focus Session and exhibit at the 2004 ACSA Annual Meeting.


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