Students to help build schools in India

This upcoming summer, from May 24 to June 27, a team of 16 architecture and design students from Temple will team up with students and professors from six other universities and travel to Mumbai, India, to design and build portable schools for children in some of the worst areas of the city.

“The whole thing is quite different because the methodology behind the project involves us working with the community and using resources and tools readily available to the people,” said professor Scott Shall, who will be heading the team of Temple students. “We try to add value to things that normally would be of no value.”

Shall, who joined the Temple faculty in August, said the main focus of the trip is not only to develop “a language” that will enable the students to design more than just a school, but also to leave the local people with a plan and techniques to continue building other centers.

“Although we come from all different backgrounds, we all came to the conclusion that day that this was going to be a life changing experience,” said Sarah Salem, a junior architecture major.

The students will be using local resources, such as stones and dirt, to build a school center with items.

“I’m most excited about seeing how exactly we are going to be working with students from other schools and also organizations and people over in India,” senior architecture major Nick Musser said. “We were all taught how to approach our field differently, and no one can really expect what is going to happen while we’re overseas.”

Musser, like many other students going to India, will be traveling in the country after June 27 to learn more about the culture.
In order to get experience working with each other, the students from Shall’s class volunteered at Treehouse Books on 15th Street and Susquehanna Avenue on April 19, renovating the back of the lot.

“The goal is to create garden space that can potentially collect its own rainwater and to also create a sitting area to activate what once was just a pile of dirt and rocks,” senior architecture major Alex Miller said. “It is good practice in working together because we had to all design the garden collaboratively.”

The group will also be joined by Mobile Creches, an organization in India that is responsible for the development of 76 centers in India similar to the one being constructed by the group.

Students from D.Y. Patel School of Architecture in New Mumbai will also be joining the group to provide an insider prospective to the community and to make sure that the work completed over the summer carries on with Mobile Creches, Shall said.

All of the students from Temple traveling to India are taking two three-credit architecture courses: Creating Humanitarian Art and Architecture and Experimental Construction.  Although both courses are listed under architecture, they are open to all majors.

“Six different majors are traveling with the team and that’s great,” Shall said. “Every person from every major will help to give us a variety of perspectives.”

“Being willing to change and being open-minded to other ideas and people is what is going to propel this group,” Salem said. “We are all excited to go to India and we’re all ready to do something productive through the university. This project is going to grow roots of its own and spread.”

Abigail Shepherd can be reached at abigail.shepherd@temple.edu.

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