IAD 302 class redesigns local nonprofit's facility for practical learning experience
This spring, junior and senior interior architecture and design (IAD) students in Associate Professor and Program Coordinator Rose Mary Botti-Salitsky's IAD 302: Institutional Design class partnered with CO-OP, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization in North Dighton, MA that serves adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and brain injuries. Together, they designed a complete first floor renovation, adding ADA and Universal compliant designs to CO-OP headquarters, formerly a warehouse building.
"This service-learning opportunity is a 'win-win-win,' allowing students to interact with staff and clients who use the space to design solutions that meet their growing needs," said Botti-Salitsky. "Students conducted observations, interviews, surveys, and careful analysis of precedent studies to implement evidence-based design solutions for CO-OP. Having this experience to interact with clients is an invaluable learning experience and we are grateful to our community partners for their ongoing participation."
Lisa DiBonaventura, M.A., Statewide Director for Vision and Vision Loss Services at the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services (DDS), participated in the review and critique of the students' work to ensure the proposed design solutions met the needs of the diverse clientele CO-OP serves.
Cooperative Production Inc.
Dr. Botti-Salitsky has previously worked with CO-OP President and C.E.O. Michael Cancilliere when he was executive director at Meeting Street's Dartmouth Campus, where her class collaborated on two prior projects: a redesign of the facility, and a focus project designing a multidisciplinary art, music, and library space. In his new role, Mr. Cancilliere knew who to turn to when imagining a new space.
"We were excited to work with Rose and her talented students because of their commitment to inclusion, special needs, and expertise in ADA and universal design practices," said Mr. Cancilliere. "Cooperative Production, CO-OP for short, is dedicated to promoting inclusivity and empowerment for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and brain injuries. We strive to ensure that they are valued members of their communities and have opportunities to pursue their interests.
"CO-OP is committed to providing a welcoming and barrier-free environment that fosters meaningful interactions and a safe, enjoyable community for people of all abilities. Our goal is to support the aspirations of every individual and help them achieve their dreams. We believe that by redesigning our space, we can inspire creativity and innovation among our staff and the individuals we serve, leading to improved outcomes and resourcefulness for everyone."
IAD students spent their semester connecting with Cancilliere and CO-OP Program Director, Natalie Oliveira, gathering CO-OP employees’ wishes, researching best practices at the best value, and presenting four concepts to CO-OP for their consideration.
Other IAD classes get involved
This project had such an impact on the students and Interior Architecture + Design program that two IAD faculty members incorporated elements of it into their curriculum.
Under the direction of Assistant Teaching Professor Stephanie McGoldrick, students in the IAD 202: Lighting Design Studio class collaborated with the CO-OP design teams to generate lighting solutions for the spaces within the building. The lighting students considered the use of contrast, wayfinding, and glare reduction to ensure well-illuminated and comfortable spaces for occupants.
Also, Assistant Teaching Professor Abby Masi's IAD 312: Advanced CAD Applications class used Augmented Reality to experiment with different sizes and materials of custom furniture and millwork for the CO-OP clientele, implementing universal design constraints. Using Augmented Reality allowed the students to see their designs at a 1:1 scale in a real space and make any adjustments to better accommodate the client.
"This project embodied community outreach and fostered interdisciplinary curriculum development by engaging three classes," said Botti-Salitsky. "Students were talking concurrently, allowing for a realistic collaboration that they may experience upon entering the field professionally."
IAD's commitment to service
The interior architecture and design program at UMass Dartmouth strives to make a difference in UMassD's communities through service-learning and has built an impressive portfolio of recent service projects.
In the spring of 2022, Botti-Salitsky's IAD 302 Institutional Design class collaborated with the College of Nursing and Health Sciences on a unique interdisciplinary service-learning project, generating solutions for respite rejuvenation spaces at Southcoast Hospital.
Botti-Salitsky has worked with Carney Academy in New Bedford since 2018 as part of service-learning studio courses. Principal Maria Reidy first reached out expressing a need for an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) sensory space for their growing population.
"While we already committed to SouthCoast, I could not say no to helping Carney with this project, as they've been a wonderful community partner and this project aligned well with the institutional design curriculum," said Botti-Salitsky. And as an added bonus, we had the expertise of the nursing students who collaborated with us on this project as well."
During the spring 2019 semester, the IAD 302: Institutional Design Studio course collaborated with Meeting Street School's Dartmouth location. This was a wonderful collaboration to help them with redesign ideas to update their space. Each student produced their own idea of how the center should be planned and designed based on the needs and wants of the people using the space. Universal design was a key focus in this design because of the variety of users and user groups that interact with the space.
Last spring, Assistant Teaching Professor Stephanie McGoldrick was awarded two international honors for her efforts to revitalize local community spaces with her students, including a winter 2021 project to revitalize a small pocket park in New Bedford.
Graduating senior IAD major Daniela Tishchenko reflected on her service-learning experiences with McGoldrick, saying, "To have this on my résumé tells employers that I already have real experience meeting tight budgets and working with clients, which is immensely valuable. As for my learning experience, getting to apply the things you learned in the classroom to something real makes it make more sense because you have a very real problem in front of you that has a very real impact on people you've met."