Architecture students help build community

by Jenny Battles
Photo by Rob Denton/The Daily
Oklahoma Daily

Jennifer Gann, architecture graduate student, Bill Bauman, associate professor of architecture, Deirdra Gardner, architecture senior and John Tacchi, architecture senior, at Monday's groundbreaking.

OU architecture students joined Health for Friends Monday in a ground-breaking ceremony for the organization’s new addition. Architecture students are the newest link in the community effort that allows Health for Friends to prosper. Founded in 1985, Health for Friends provides health care service to those in the Norman area without insurance. The clinic offers women’s care, child and prenatal care, dental care and general clinic care services. Health for Friends received a building in 1992, but has now outgrown the facility. The addition will help meet overflowing demands of the clinic, said Maurine Garton, executive director of Health for Friends.

Health for Friends has always relied on the community for support. Kathy Heiple, the organization’s founder, said the facility is not funded by federal money and is supported by Norman organizations, including United Way, Norman Regional Hospital and the Community Development Block Grant.

“It is truly a community effort,” Heiple said.

OU architecture students will join the community support surrounding the health facility by overseeing the construction of an addition to the building. Bob Fillpot, dean of the College of Architecture, said he views the project as a way for students to help the community, something typically not associated with architecture. “These disciples haven’t had an educational tradition that encouraged them to become involved in the grass-roots needs of the community,” Fillpot said. “That’s something we are trying to nourish.”

Fillpot described the opportunity the class offers students: “They get to experience firsthand how their work can change the spirit of a community.”

The Health for Friends building project is part of an ongoing effort by the College of Architecture to involve students in community improvement. Through the class, Community Action Studio, architecture students are given the opportunity to learn how a construction site works while serving the community.

Last year, the class built the Barnard House, for a family selected by the community. Bill Bauman, who teaches the architecture class, said this year’s project will entail constructing the building addition as well as making changes to the existing facility, such as creating a new entry way and landscaping. “It’s a little bigger than the houses, so it will be a bit more of a challenge,” Bauman said.

Architecture student Jennifer Gann said she is excited about the construction site experience and also appreciates being able to work on the Health for Friends project.

“I’m excited about the fact that this is a public building,” Gann said. “It’s not just for one family or one individual. The building is here to help the community.”