Give to the UW

Dare to do: The McKinley Futures studio

College of Built Environments Endowment helps design for the future

University of WashingtonWhen David McKinley graduated from the College of Built Environments in 1953, he was already thinking of the future. As an instrumental architect involved in constructing the icons Seattle is known for today — including the UW’s Red Square and buildings for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair — David sought to ensure that the UW continued producing visionary and bold built environment professionals. Together with his wife Jan, the Jeanette and David McKinley Endowment for the Design of Future Architectural Environments was established to provide the resources to help CBE students dare to do.

Last year, the endowment and the passion tied to it were put into action with the founding of the McKinley Futures Studio and its inaugural class, Cities on Water. In the studio, graduate students explored the design and construction of self-sustaining floating cities, fitting for a university located in a city boasting the world’s longest floating bridge and waterways dotted with hundreds of houseboats.

In a time when oceans cover more than 70 percent of Earth’s surface and climate change is part of the modern discourse, the students from this studio are leading the future of interdisciplinary practice. A main facet of the course questioned the possibilities the future may hold: What will built environment professionals need to adapt to 50 years from now, and what technologies will be at their disposal to do so? Differing from traditional studios, Cities on Water tasked students with peering into the world of tomorrow through the lens of several disciplines, not just their own.

The studio also challenged students to consider the larger problems facing society, including health, the environment, the economy and technology. For each project, stakeholders from multiple disciplines provided realistic feedback. Lawyers, oceanographers and public health experts presented non-architectural points of view, a rarity among college design programs. “The Futures Studio opened my mind to the very real larger implications design can have,” says Riva Black, who was among the first group to take the class.

At its heart, the studio provided unique and incredible experiences, preparing students to become the next generation of built environment game changers. “Traditional studios don’t push students to think this way,” says Riva. Currently pursuing her master’s in architecture, Riva knows that her quarter in the McKinley Futures Studio will impact her career for years to come. “As a designer, you learn so much more about yourself and your potential when you are pushed beyond your comfort zone and forced to define your own boundaries.”

You can help unleash creativity by making a gift today

Thanks to the McKinley Futures Studio, the UW is fulfilling David and Jan McKinley’s dream of fostering the built environment leaders of tomorrow. Supported in perpetuity by the endowment, the studio will continue to build on the great work of the first one. The topics will change but the theme of the future and the interdisciplinary nature of the studio will not. Professor David Miller from Architecture and professor Ben Spencer from Landscape Architecture will teach the studio in the spring of 2015. David and Jan’s generosity and vision will allow the next generations to learn without limits and discover how built environment professionals can create a world of good.