R. Beach, Class of 2009
David Beach knows something about distance education; he commuted 170 miles to the Urban Design Studio from his home and architectural practice in Springfield, Missouri, sometimes several times a week. He had some help, as he was often accompanied by his father or his wife, Michelle, but it still is quite a testament to David’s dedication and perseverance once he puts his mind to achieving a goal. In this case, his goal was to become a full-time faculty member at his alma mater, the Drury University, Hammons School of Architecture. After completing bachelor degrees in architecture and studio art and distinguishing himself as an award-winning practitioner for over ten years, David’s passion for teaching was awakened as an adjunct faculty member. But he needed a post-professional degree to pursue this interest; something he found was awaiting him at the Urban Design Studio.
“The studio provided more than a curriculum; it really set me up for my academic career with a scholarly agenda and a different way of thinking about the design process, “ David said recently while reflecting in his faculty office. “It exposed me to community-based programming and design and forced me to look at how architects and planners interact with clients, building users and the public in general.” Taking cues from some ideas that have been around awhile like Henry Sanoff’s Design Games and combining them with fresh ones about online collaboration and utilization of what Clay Shirky calls the cognitive surplus, David devised a series of fresh approaches allowing him to collaborate with project partners. He and his students have developed a variety of web-based games, online surveys and apps utilizing graphic images and three-dimensional models to gauge opinion, solve design problems and build consensus among competing interests. His work has been published in scholarly journals and presented at professional conferences helping to advance new and better methods of practice for the next generation of designers. All those long drives on the turnpike really seemed to have paid-off.