The Constructs of Local Knowledge research promotes the development of a reproducible model that links new methods of inventorying Ash trees killed by the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) with a robust network of local builders, makers, and the community needs that they serve. This valuable wood, which could be an asset and local material source for park and public projects, is instead generally treated as waste. This is primarily due to the lack of a clear alternative pathway for this material. A design-build studio was developed in conversation with academic collaborators and city agencies in Central Virginia, who are also invested in community-facing design-build projects that engage with local materials streams. The first initial proof-of-concept project completed by the design-build studio was in Spring 2022 in the form of a bicycle storage and repair station, built for the James Madison University Occupational Therapy Clinical Education Services (OTCES). Their bicycle repair program allows the children to repair bicycles and then learn to ride. There was no structure to hold tools, provide shade, mount bicycles, or sit comfortably to fix bicycles at the proper dimensions for children with disabilities. Our design-build studio used EAB-killed ash trees from the surrounding area, milled and donated by the City of Harrisonburg Public Works, to build a structure that could resolve these issues. The goal for this project-based research will aim to encompass more partners, leverage scientific and environmental expertise, and build spaces that enrich and engage local communities across the Virginia Commonwealth.
Nicholas is a licensed and registered architect in Virginia, Texas, and New York. He is a Founding Partner of Studio Figure, where he oversees various project typologies across multiple scales. In conjunction with co-directing projects at Studio Figure, Nick is an Assistant Professor of Architecture at James Madison University, where his research and teaching focuses on the synthesis between empathetic design-inputs and material resourcefulness to elevate design strategies for community-based projects.