Architecture students work toward redeveloping Cleveland house


Professor Chris Maurer (the second from right) and his students in the third year architecture design studio class pose for a photo after discussing the community engagement for their renovation project in Cleveland Friday, Feb. 28, 2014.

Justin Sheil

Third-year Kent State architecture students are making an impact this semester by designing concepts for a studio course that will result in actual renovations to a blighted house in the St. Clair Superior neighborhood of Cleveland.

“The main thing that is really helpful is that I’m learning the process of creating architecture in the real world,” said Alexandrea Long, a senior architecture major and student in the course.

Chris Maurer, architecture and environmental design professor, said he teaches the course and uses insights he gained from architectural work in Malawi and Rwanda to share social effect themes with his students.

Students in the course have broken off into groups and each group is in the process of designing a unique concept for the house. Working in a group is something that is new for most of these students, Maurer said.

“Working actually as a group is difficult because we don’t really do that as architecture students,” Long said. “Studio has been an individual process over the past few years, so this class is changing that around.”

The groups are not in competition with each other, as the main focus is to work collaboratively as a class to have an effect on the neighborhood, Maurer said.

“These teams are trying to augment each other,” he said. “We have a Facebook page where everyone [sends] ideas to everyone else.”

The teams’ concepts vary from residential plans to a community garden/teaching kitchen hybrid to a bike co-op, Maurer said.

Long’s team is working on the community garden/teaching kitchen concept.

“After our site visit, we saw that it could use something like that, because there’s a lot of vacant land and not a lot of healthy places to eat, so it seems to like a good idea to put it in the neighborhood,” Long said.

The community garden/teaching kitchen would ideally be run by a nonprofit organization that wants to inform the neighborhood’s community about nutrition and healthy eating, Maurer said. Long adds that the concept is also good for the area because it wouldn’t push out the people who are already there.

Junior architecture majors Greg Mintz and Matt Fisher’s team is working on a concept geared toward using the space residentially.

Fisher said the team is considering one option for the space to be an artist’s studio, while the other involves working with The City Mission, a Cleveland homeless shelter, to create a space for women in need.

“The City Mission concept would maximize bedrooms and be more family friendly,” Fisher said.

Maurer critiques the students’ concepts weekly. The students also present their progress to members of the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, the home of Kent State’s urban design graduate program and the public service activities of the College of Architecture and Design and the neighborhood’s St. Clair Superior Development Corporation, he said.

The potential effect of the project has motivated the students to promote their work, Maurer said.

“I think they know this is important, and it’s really helped them in reaching out to others,” Maurer said.

The students will present their work at their next public review Friday, March 14 from 1-4 p.m. at the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative in Cleveland.

For more information about the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, visit

Justin Sheil is the architecture and buildings and grounds reporter for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].