Claire Adams: On the right path

September 17, 2015
By Dan Eckstein, Curriculum Director


Growing up in Manhattan, Claire Adams has always had a fascination with buildings and urban spaces. The juxtaposition of old versus new, of density versus public space. Her high school sat on the artificial landscape of Battery Park City, literally reclaimed from the Hudson River; yet the historic neighborhoods of Soho and Chinatown were a short walk away.

This interest led her to formal academic studies in landscape history, urban studies, and landscape architecture at Smith College, which has proved fulfilling to a point. But she was nagged by an intrigue in how those buildings and spaces were created – a desire to participate in the actual experience of ‘making.’  She tracked down and enrolled in Yestermorrow’s Semester in Sustainable Design/Build during her junior year. It offered the opportunity to get the hard skills she sought, while still allowing her to earn academic credit toward her degree.

The Program provided a crash course in the practical skills she was seeking, as she and her fellow students designed and built an entire small house from scratch. “I learned far more than I could have ever anticipated,” she says. “And it provided me a much deeper appreciation of buildings and their details than I’d ever gotten in my college courses.”

Eight months later, Claire was back at Yestermorrow for another round, this time as a participant in the school’s Public Interest Design/Build course. “After the Semester Program, I found myself intrigued by the possibility of design/build as a future career. But I needed to come back to confirm that.” The Public Interest class seemed like the perfect opportunity for another design/build experience, but with the additional focus of exploring what it means to build in the public realm.

“There’s a whole different design criteria for a public structure than for a house,” she says. “It’s a fascinating social experiment.”

She also was excited to work alongside the instructors of the class due to their history with the iconic Jersey Devil Design/Build firm. “It was great to see how satisfied they are with their body of work. It made me hope that I can achieve a similar level of satisfaction in my career.”

What that career will be is not completely clear at this point. She’s currently doing drawings for her own tiny house, and after graduation, she's interested in work that allows her to keep making and building, and is considering becoming involved with design/build education for other women and young people. “Whatever it is, my Yestermorrow experiences have definitely confirmed I’m on the right path.”