Article by Joselyn McDonald
At NuVu School, students in the Re-Entry Housing studio partnered with the Ahimsa Collective, based in Oakland, CA, which works to support recently incarcerated individuals to re-enter society. Students designed tiny homes to house folks who were integrating back into society after up to 20 years of incarceration. According to Nada Elsonni, a NuVu teacher who led the studio with Salma Islam, the students not only gained architectural design skills but the ability to design for individuals with specific needs through a rigorous interview and feedback process. The students started their co-design process by developing interview questions for a panel of 3 women who had been recently released from jail. Nada noted that “The clients wanted to cook because trying to cook in prison was a rebellious act. They wanted privacy, and they wanted sunlight. It’s hard for them to be in a big open space, and those details helped the students make design decisions.”
Students in the studio found the experience to be deeply impactful on their own learning. Tenth-grader Audrey Ha enjoyed learning how to use cutting-edge architectural software Revit and Enscape, and felt that she “learned how to communicate and work with a client by listening to their needs and requirements. Student Kunal Botla added that they benefited from “incorporating [the clients’] requirements and creating a home that makes the most of the small space”.
In the spring, students will continue to develop and iterate on their small home concepts, and consider how to thoughtfully develop spaces that will help individuals re-enter society in a holistic way. Nada Elsonni added that the students aren’t stopping with the tiny home design, stating, “There will be a community garden that can support a farmer’s market. It’s all to help people reenter society and have a safe space.”
(images above by Kunal Botla and Audrey Ha, Aura House)
This studio was developed by Nada Elsonni, Jon Turnquist, and Salma Islam. The cover image of the article is a Tiny Home project by students Isa Murray and Jere Nierenberg.