Tuesday, February 11, 2014

If You Built It

By Michelle Harris

‘If You Build It,’ is a documentary about two designers who introduce a rural group of North Carolinian students to fundamental design through projects where they make their own laser cut skateboards to a final project for the community. The film is playing in the Music Box Theater in Chicago beginning February 7th. I have not watched the film. However, I have read several reviews. The critique of the film by the New York Times was that ‘If You Built It,’ showed too much of people’s commentary rather than showing the actual happenings of the projects. The Architectural Record features the director, Patrick Creadon, as the genius behind an otherwise cliché film. Overall the reviews paint ‘If You Build It’ as heartwarming film with a dose of perspective of what deign can and cannot do.
 I was interested in the film because of the two designers, Emily Pilloton and Matthew Miller. Their growth and struggle as teachers is something even as a student I identify with. They have admirable perseverance in accomplishing their goals despite financial setbacks. Their funding was cut by the school district and forced them to live off credit cards and grant money. Pilloton gave a TED talk on their project. Her heartfelt connection to the community reminds me of a class I had earlier discussing inclusive leadership. The role that Pilloton and Miller initially play as outsiders is transformed by their sincere desire to be design diplomats in the community. As Pilloton mentions in the TED talks she and her partner (professional and romantic) have moved to the small community of Bertie, North Carolina. There were no licensed architects in the district. Their idealism though cliché has truly made a difference and the lives of the youth of this community.
My personal takeaway from what I’ve read and listened to of ‘If You Build It’, beyond the issues of education reform and living in a rural area, is that as students and designers can make positive change happen through design. There are many more communities across the U.S. The challenge posed in my reflections is what I am doing to help humanity through design?

Every Tuesday afternoon at three, there is a meeting for Freedom by Design in the Architecture Library in Quigley Hall. The students there are designing a ramp for a homebound local resident. In addition to serving on the committee for Freedom by Design, there is also opportunity to raise money for the group. February, Friday, the Fourteenth, they’ll be selling baked goods outside senior studio. Share the love! For cookies and community and stop by! There are many ways to help and it never hurts to start small.
‘If You Build it’ official trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vmt1E-zRM9E
Emily Pilloton: Teaching Design for Change http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiIxdFBA0Sw
Classroom Projects: http://www.projecthdesign.org/
 ‘Film Review: If You Build It’. Ciampaglia, Dante. Architectural Record Online. April 5. 2013. Accessed January 29. 2014. http://archrecord.construction.com/news/2013/04/130405-Film-Review-If-You-Build-It.asp
‘Today, a Chicken Coop; Tomorrow, the World,‘If You Build It,’ by Patrick Creadon, on Student Projects’ Rapold, Nicolas. New York Times Online. January 9. 2014. Accessed January 29. 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/10/movies/if-you-build-it-by-patrick-creadon-on-student-projects.html?_r=0

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