Uni SA Youth at Risk studio: reality checkpoint competition

Over three consecutive years, Dr Angelique Edmonds led an Architectural Design studio focused on the skill set of ‘integration’ at the University of South Australia. Students were introduced to complex decision-making processes in which they focused their design intentions on responding to the needs of youth at risk of homelessness.

Project Partners:
Integrated Design Commission
University of South Australia
Housing SA
LADDER (philanthropic arm of the AFL)
DASH Metro Housing
Service to Youth Council

This project provided valuable experiential learning, engaging students with diverse and underserved communities. It also provided students with insight into how their design skills can be applied to address a major contemporary social issue. As studio co-ordinator, Angelique received a commendation from the Chancellor of Uni SA for Community Engagement in recognition of this work. 
The methods demonstrated in this project are consistent with our approach at the School for Creating Change, in promoting agency and enabling individuals’ capacity to contribute meaningfully to the social fabric of their community.

About the project

The studio engaged with local community and public housing partners, as well as youth advocacy groups and youth at risk. This exposed students to the dynamic of having two clients (with often competing needs); one the authority with the funds and the other, the end user of the design on a daily basis.

Through guest lectures, students were given an introduction to social housing, and had to consider how their design proposals could create an urban fabric which supported a healthy social fabric. The integration exercise required them to combine the multiple capabilities and design skills gained through their degree, with their self understanding as aspiring design professionals in society. It prompted students to reflect on their capacity in addressing social change.

Each project partner – acting as ‘clients’ for the purpose of the exercise – presented the students with a design brief specific to their site and organisational operation. Each site tested and developed students’ design proposals –  from sensitive and intimate design responses supporting youth in learning independent living skills, to creating opportunities for social interaction in semi private spaces within multi housing schemes.

In addition to the public housing client brief, students each proposed a ‘Reality Checkpoint’. Using a 200 cubic metre volume that might ordinarily house one person (65sqm by 3m), they had to design a public space within the urban city grid which sought to raise awareness of the issues of, and provide a presence for,  youth in need of support.  This task was later launched as a public competition in a 2011 collaboration between the Integrated Design Commission SA and Service to Youth Council

Project Tag/Youth at Risk

On National Youth Homelessness Matters Day in April 2011, John Pagnozzi & Ellen Buttrose were announced as the winners of the Reality Checkpoint Design Competition with their entry ‘Project Tag’. In this public art project, Ellen & John sought to work with youth at risk to design an installation artwork presenting ideas about youth homelessness on a building facade on North Terrace.

Due to generous support of $50,000 seed funding from Jamie McLurg of Commercial and General Property Development, John & Ellen were given a year to realise the project, engaging youth at risk of homelessness (aged 16-24) and capacity building in the process.

The project was installed in conjunction with the launch of National Youth Homelessness Matters Day for 2012. The engagement with youth at risk was extended to University of South Australia Art Public students, who assisted in the fabrication of the large artwork. Project Tag website

Project Tag from Office for Design + Architecture on Vimeo.

Other material published on this project

2010: Refereed Conference paper ‘Designing, risk & resilience; perspectives from participants’ for ConnectED 2010 – 2nd International Conference on Design Education 28 June – 1 July 2010, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

2011: ‘Reality Checkpoint’ (May) article in PLACE magazine (Professional Architectural Journal) Adelaide

2010: ‘An Integrated Theme’ in PLACE magazine (Professional Architectural Journal) December 2010