In the Spring of 2002 we formulated an idea and began the works of putting together a remote studio for the Texas A&M College of Architecture. After approaching the administration and given the green light, we developed two project opportunities with Laredo’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity, financed by a local developer. Working with Dr. Phil Tabb of TAMU, and Dr. Ray Keck of Texas A&M International University, we set up the remote studio in Laredo for the following year and a planning studio for the fall of 2002.
The first phase of the studio was to master plan an 80 acre development located a few miles from the Texas/Mexico border. The program called for an acreage division between commercial zoning, Habitat for Humanity housing, park land, churches, and an elementary school. This alternative to typical colonia development was designed to promote a strong sense of community and social interaction.
The second phase of the studio was to be the design and construction of a community park for Habitat for Humanity residents. The design developed into a courtyard at the top of a bluff, bounded by two pavilions and a rest room with a fire pit in the center for regular carne asadas.
In the end our student group met or exceeded all the expectations of it, but it was the people who we worked with who didn’t fulfill their promises. We procured housing, schooling, the project itself, and did all the work. It was others that didn’t come through with the money or volunteer construction workers that had been promised. Our student group did everything we could do. In retrospect, it was a tough lesson in working with the right people, and the first run of a prototypical business plan to use the system to provide benefits to the less fortunate.