Where Activism Meets Architecture
Architecture professor David Fox works at the crossroads of economic empowerment, environmental activism and architecture.
He’s involved in several sustainable housing developments in low-income—and often high-crime—neighborhoods throughout the state. His most recent projects are in Chattanooga and Clarksville, Tenn.
While he concentrates on making design and building processes as environmentally friendly as possible, Fox is equally passionate about helping the disadvantaged.
"Homeowner equity is a great bootstrap for getting people out of poverty," he says. "If you combine this with designing and building green, you change the community and ultimately the state."
Whenever possible, Fox engages local community members to be a part of the process.
In Chattanooga, he and his architecture students participate in UPSIDE (Urban Program in Sustainable Design Education), a housing project aimed at bringing long-term economic sustainability to neighborhoods in need of revitalization.
As part of UPSIDE, Fox’s team collaborated with high school students from the Howard School of Academics and Technology in Chattanooga to design and build homes in the Alton Park neighborhood, a run-down area near the school.
So far, Howard students have helped design and build two energy-efficient, affordable homes.
"The fact that these students get to be a part of making their community a safer and better place is empowering," he says.
Fox contends that beyond building housing, UPSIDE is building wealth for the community at large and for the individuals who occupy the newly constructed homes. He wants to create homes that will appreciate in value.
"When you take people of limited means and put them in a nice home, you can change their lives and the community," he says.
In the same spirit, Fox got involved in a community revitalization project in Clarksville.
Working with Clarksville firm Clark & Associates Architects Inc., Fox’s architecture students used innovative environmental site strategies and energy-efficient solutions. Construction begins this summer on affordable "smart" housing units for the crime-ridden New Providence neighborhood. The units are intended for low-income residents purchasing their first homes.
Fox hopes to collaborate soon with Austin-East High School in Knoxville. Using the Chattanooga project as a basic model, he thinks the time has come to incorporate architecture and the study of design fundamentals into the high school curriculum. His ultimate vision: one day to include large numbers of area high school students in community revitalization projects in and around Knoxville.
These projects, Fox says, "engage communities, educate our youth and prove that every individual has the power to make Tennessee a better place to live."
David Fox received his Master of Architecture from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan and has taught in the College of Architecture and Design for seventeen years.