Students learn design ins and outs of architecture

By : 
Jordan Gerard

High school students are learning the ways of architecture, thanks to a local architect and a grant from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF).

The idea stemmed from a brainstorming session with students last fall. High school students met with several community members, members of the EDA and staff from Spring Grove Public Schools including Superintendent Rachel Udstuen and teacher Karen Tisthammer. 

Udstuen took notes from the students’ discussion about what they’d like to see in Spring Grove’s future, such as a mini-golf course. Another topic that surfaced was affordable housing.

Ideas about tiny homes swirled around the minds of community members and students. Tiny homes being extremely small homes that are energy efficient and space saving.

Meanwhile, Bergey was introduced to Miranda Moen, a local architect student from Freeburg, currently studying for her Master of Architecture degree and the Master of Design in Sustainable Environments at Iowa State University. She has a particular interest in Norwegian architecture and Scandinavian small home living.

“This is why I love cultural architecture – because our ancestors have made these ‘tried and true’ architectural systems that seem to integrate structure and character so well,” Moen said. “It’s my goal to bring this pride back into our small town buildings, one step at a time.”

Norwegians used every space available in their homes. If storage could be put in a nook, it was put there. If a bed could be housed for guests, then so it was. 

Moen has been working with Tisthammer’s Makerspace class two times a week, the result of a Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) grant that encourages hands on learning such as robots, making fishing rods, woodworking and other practical skills.

She’s presented to them on site analysis, code restrictions and early design studies like sketching and 3-D models. Though the technical things like city codes, size restrictions and other ideals are an important part of architecture; it may not have been the students’ favorite part.

“They really like the physical nature of making, so I think they will be really engaged in the next step of our design process,” she said. 

Moen and students have discussed different floor plans, natural lighting, energy efficiency, use of space and many more architectural features of homes. 

The students are still highly interested, as they recently saw the house they designed in 3-D through a software program.

“My favorite moment was seeing students’ eyes light up when we could ‘walk-through’ the design in 3-D through a software program called ‘Enscape for Revit,’” Moen said. “They had so much feedback and ideas about the future of the house.”

Architecture is beneficial to students not only to explore as a career choice, but it also complements the class itself. Moen said she was excited to learn about the Makerspace class.

“I think it is in the students’ best interest to learn a design perspective alongside hands-on construction,” Moen said. “Through my own experience, architectural education helps students understand how to use art and science to examine the world around them. This is critical because architecture is more than just design; it is the understanding of space and everything that our society holds within it.”

She believes by studying the buildings around us, “we can learn who we are, who we have been and then design spaces that represent who we want to become.”

With feedback from students about what they liked and wanted to change, Moen will convene with the students one more time to finalize the design.

As they started to design the Norwegian-inspired home and as they continued through the process, they thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could actually build the house?”

And so it was, conversations started about partnering with Habitat for Humanity to build the home. 

“Personally, I don’t want small towns to forget this aspect of their identity – that buildings around us influence our perception of ourselves and reflect our cultural pasts,” Moen said. “So, in a way, I think it’s even more important for our small towns to have these design-oriented types of learning experiences.”

Read future editions of the Herald for more information about a potential Habitat for Humanity home in Spring Grove.