nancy-mainBy Nancy Chikaraishi

Associate Professor – Architecture

Do you ever wonder how ideas are generated? Is there a link between the process of making art and architecture? How do ideas become a built reality?

As an artist and architect I explore both disciplines in my teaching and scholarship through a thinking, doing and making process of research, idea generation and development, and the physical creation of art or architecture.

In “Life Interrupted,” an art project about the Japanese-American internment camps during WWII, I explored my parents’ experience in the Rohwer, Ark. camp through art. Thinking about this event in history while visiting the site, I could physically put myself where my mother, at age 18, and father, at age 21, were held in barracks for two years and try to imagine what their lives were like. Brainstorming ideas and doing thumbnail sketches led to the making phase, starting with that blank sheet of paper to begin a drawing.

Similarly, a student design-build project in Joplin, Mo. called the “Volunteer Tribute,” which was part of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition allowed Director of Design/Build Traci Sooter, Rufus Louderback and me to have survivors of the 2011 EF-5 tornado interact with our architecture students to think about the event and its impact on the community. This aided in understanding the importance of helping the community rebuild Cunningham Park, ground zero of the tornado. They generated countless ideas and sketches in the doing phase that eventually led to final design that was built with help from the community.

This fall, architecture students will have the opportunity to put the thinking, doing, making process into architecture when they help design and build a healing garden in Joplin funded by a TKF Foundation grant. Co-led with Sooter, the 26,000 square foot “Butterfly Garden and Overlook” project in Cunningham Park, the students will engage the community, test their ideas through drawings and models, and then have the hands-on experience of building these various components at full scale.

Thinking, Doing, Making.