A team of faculty at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa School of Architecture and Department of Urban and Regional Planning earned a national award for its “Just Play” project, a set of coordinated courses in architecture, landscape architecture and urban and regional planning. Just Play received the 2021 Course Development Prize in Architecture, Climate Change and Society. Columbia University’s Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) presents the award.
UH Mānoa’s Just Play courses received a cash prize and will be recognized at the ACSA 109th annual meeting, which will be held virtually March 24–26, 2021.
“It is a national award that recognizes innovative course development and offers financial support to faculty,” said Phoebe White, an assistant professor in landscape architecture at UH Mānoa’s School of Architecture. “It also highlights our collaborative, interdepartmental efforts at UH exploring solutions for the critical issues of our times.”
A multi-departmental effort
The Just Play project focuses on social action, empowerment, scenario-planning, systems-understanding, design and education. It represents a multi-departmental effort to expand the reach of educators and advocates through the development of climate equity-based games.
“We will conduct research at multiple scales with assistance from community partners and align our efforts with those of local government agencies focusing on climate change, sustainability, and resiliency,” said Priyam Das, an associate professor and chair of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning.
The sequence will culminate in a five-week outreach course, offered to participating high schools through the Mānoa Academy program, led by the College of Social Sciences. This final course will be taught collaboratively and collect insights from all previous experiences.
“This effort will be kickstarted during the spring 2021 semester with a project in the third year undergraduate studio of the Bachelor of Environmental Design at the School of Architecture, where students are exploring design strategies for walkable sustainable and equitable neighborhoods across Oʻahu,” said Karla Sierralta, an assistant professor in architectural design at the UH Mānoa School of Architecture.
Incorporating climate change into design
Climate change is a multidimensional issue, so exploring it from different disciplinary perspectives is salient. Students can draw from a wide range of concepts, theories and practices which could spark new ideas and approaches. Working closely with the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency will offer them a hands-on experience.
“We are excited to connect the diverse focus areas that we’ve each been working on with state agencies and other partners, and to help students understand their interdependencies through game design and educational play,” said Cathi Ho Schar, assistant professor at the UH Mānoa School of Architecture and director of the UH Community Design Center.
“As a member of the UH community, I believe that it is critical for each and every one of us to educate ourselves and others about the multidimensional crisis of climate change,” said Maleah Reynolds, a bachelor of environmental design student enrolled in the first course taught as part of the Just Play project. “I am very eager to be a part of this course because it provides the opportunity to not only expand my own grasp on equitable design strategies to combat climate change, but also to effectively communicate and teach this knowledge to others in a fun and creative way.”
This program is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Building a Sustainable and Resilient Campus Environment: Within the Global Sustainability and Climate Resilience Movement (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.