Architecture School Premiers on the Sundance Channel
The Sundance Channel documentary series Architecture School, which covers the design and construction of URBANbuild’s most recent prototype, starts in late August and airs weekly on the Sundance Network.
Wednesday August 20th
previously released article
Don’t call Architecture School a reality show: “This is a documentary—it’s episodic and continuous. We’re not doing anything to alter what [students are] doing. We’re simply documenting their process.” So said Michael Selditch, executive producer and director of a new series that follows architecture students through two semesters of a studio course at Tulane University in New Orleans.
Though there are few other educational milieus as close to a rats-in-a-maze experiment as architecture school, Selditch explained that the show, which will air on the Sundance Channel in fall 2008, is meant to educate the public about the importance of good design. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to see a design studio class and really understand the simple fact that people think about these things’.”
Selditch and the show’s co-creator, Stan Berthaud, met as architecture professors at Woodbury University in Los Angeles several years ago. Since then, both have worked in television and film, and wanted to collaborate on a project related to architecture. The result is Architecture School (which is only the working title for the program). The crew will follow fourth- and fifth-year Tulane architecture students in a program founded three years ago when the university began to collaborate with an affordable housing group called Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS). Students design a house during the first semester; during the second, they build it. The NHS finds a low-income buyer who is trying to build equity in a market that would otherwise be prohibitive. “[NHS] asks us to design houses that can be reproduced affordably,” said Byron Mouton, an architecture professor at Tulane. “Students are working with those limits and that’s great.”
The producers chose Tulane for a number of reasons, not least of which was the need for housing in New Orleans. Selditch pointed out that “Katrina only shed a light on problems that have existed down there for decades.” Many neighborhoods had been in disrepair before the hurricane, according to Mouton. The show will follow the building of the third house, to be made of structurally insulated panel systems.
Tulane agreed to be part of the series when Mouton and his colleagues saw a short film Selditch made to give the students and faculty a sense of the show’s focus: the 8-minute piece alternates between students designing the house and a New Orleans couple with heavy debt trying to qualify for the NHS mortgage program.
Selditch maintains that the show is not about the sordid details of studio life though he said he can’t predict what will happen once he and his crew begin to film. Any drunken hookups or woodshop gore will only be documented in the spirit of cinema verité, not the prurience of a reality show.