2019 Semester in Sustainable Design/Build - Behind the Blog

October 23, 2019
By Madi Visser, Semester Program Teaching Assistant


As we are now more than halfway into the program I find it a rather long overdue to introduce myself. My name is Madeline Visser and I am the Semester Course Teachers Assistant and the master of copy and paste behind the blogs. I am originally from Salt Lake City, Utah but I moved to Vermont after living in an experimental architecture community in the high desert of Arizona. Yes, I have found myself a long way from home. I am thrilled to be a part of the education team for the semester, having the opportunity to learn as well as giving my own experience to empower these 8 amazing students.

Designing does not come easy, let alone building said design. Most of what I understand of design comes from common sense and intuition, but understanding these simple concepts do not come naturally to the majority of people, and that is why places teaching Design/Build like Yestermorrow are vital in the world. How is an architect to design an entire home without framing a wall themselves? The same is to be thought of how a chef is to combine ingredients to create a recipe if they have not cooked it themselves? Experience triumphs most for me and that is what brought me to Yestermorrow. 

The first few weeks of design burdened  a feeling of ineptness in me. Not that I typically find myself with this emotion, but it is wildly intimidating to work alongside some of the brilliant instructors who have passed through the walls of Yestermorrow. I do not come with a background in architecture or design, most of what I know is purely through hurling myself into entirely new experiences. Something must be working because it brought me here. I find myself more engaged in books I have read in the past because my new perspective through only a few weeks of class. My first big question when I arrived is, what in the hell is a Parti? None of the instructors could give a precise answer, and for my pragmatic mind I could not understand the concept until hearing and reading it through at least half a dozen perspectives. (for those dying to know if you have not been regularly reading our blog post, which you should, is basically the backbone of any design concept, something to refer to throughout the entire project. Our parti for the dorm design we call “the barbell”) 

Here we are mid-way through October and I am pretty impressed by how far we have come through the struggles of design and construction. We have a building with almost all the frames up! (hopefully by the time I post this we will have installed those last two walls) Creating adequate private accommodations in a dormitory space for 16 students is not an easy task. You learn a lot about each other through understanding our different values in what we each deem necessary for this dorm. It has become clear that this single semester course will not be completing the dorm to finish, but that is not stopping the students from designing the details in each part of the build that we hope will be carried out by future courses taught here at Yestermorrow. 

I would like to take a moment to thank all those who have contributed to Yestermorrow throughout the years to allow us to get to this point. Ten years after the master plan has been designed and look! We finally have a new building being constructed here for generations of builders to enjoy. We could have gone with something smaller and a bit less ambitious, but where is the fun in that? We are not just building this for one individual client, this dormitory is something that Yestermorrow greatly needs. We can come back years later to bask in all its glory, to reminisce on the courage it required to put together, and to admire that we are the ones who made it happen. We chose exactly what we got to design and not many students, let alone architects have the ability to go as far as we have within just a few short months.

Lets cheers to making it this far, and to our continued success!