A day in the life
It is all about hands-on learning – learning by doing. Free Lab throws students into the world of architecture with no holds barred.
The design-build course that inspires us
What started as an improvised summer course has become one of the most loved events of the academic year.
“It is all about hands-on learning – learning by doing. Free Lab throws students into the world of architecture with no holds barred,” writes Christine Macy, Dean of Architecture and Planning, in her book documenting the School's Free Labs from 1991 to 2006.
Free Lab gives students two weeks to work on a full-scale project with a vertically-integrated team of students and faculty.
“The philosophy behind it is that there are things that you learn in reality that you don’t learn on the drawing board and that you learn things working in full scale that you don’t learn making a little model,” says Instructor Emanuel Jannasch.
They discover things about gravity, weather, working in teams and working with clients. It’s an opportunity to test the imagination and get adventurous, Mr. Jannasch explains.
"It’s actually about dealing with the unexpected in many cases.”
Over 20 years of community building
For over 20 years, students and faculty have worked on Free Lab projects with communities from India to New York and from Cape Breton Island to Halifax. Over the last two years, students worked on a community garden in Halifax, a youth camp project in Montreal and an AIDS hospice in Botswana.
Having a community relationship adds the extra motivation for everyone to give 100%, but furthering faculty research is another big part of Free Lab.
“Faculty are really pushing for an investigation and looking for a result,” says Mr. Jannisch. “I would say this, to my knowledge, is unique in North America.”
“To imagine and do at the same time is pretty rare,” says Professor Ted Cavanagh.
Maybe that’s one reason why Free Lab has become a so central to our idea of what an architectural education should be.