The design/buildLAB is a project-based experiential learning program at Virginia Tech focused on the research, development and implementation of innovative construction methods and architectural designs. Students collaborate with local communities and industry experts to conceive and realize built works of architecture that are both educational and charitable in nature. The aspirations of the program are simultaneously to reinforce the knowledge and skills necessary to the students’ successful and meaningful practice of architecture, and to support development efforts in distressed communities by enriching the quality of their built environment. By framing the opportunity for architecture students to make a difference in the life of a community, the design/buildLAB shows students the positive impact Architecture can make and empowers them to pursue their vocation to the benefit of the common good.
Keith Zawistowski was born in New Jersey, USA and studied architecture at Virginia Tech. Marie Zawistowski was born in Paris, France and studied architecture at the Ecole d’Architecture Paris Malaquais. They met at Auburn University’s Rural Studio while working as students with Architect Sambo Mockbee to design and build a charity house for Lucy Harris and her family. In 2005, they received a Graham Foundation Grant for “Traditions of Today and Tomorrow” their study of traditional building practices in Ghana, West Africa. They have since married and established OnSite Architecture to continue their collaboration, making buildings, which are deeply rooted in the unique identity of people and place. By working from within the context of their projects, Keith and Marie strive to make buildings which are economically, culturally, and environmentally sensitive.
In 2008, Keith and Marie joined the faculty at Virginia Tech’s School of Architecture + Design, where they have since been co-teaching Professional Practice and the design/buildLAB, which they co-founded.
Marie and Keith’s work has received significant recognition, including a Design Excellence Award from the Virginia Society American Institute of Architects for their design and construction of the Arritt Farm House, and the prestigious “Prix Françoise Abella” from the French Beaux Arts Academy. Their practice OnSite is a laureate of French AJAP, an award recognizing young architects for their talent and for the quality of their work. In teaching, Marie and Keith’s Professional Practice course “Designing Practice” received the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards’ Grand Prize for the Creative Integration of Practice and Education in the Academy, and the design/buildLAB was recognized by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture with their inaugural Design/Build Education Award for “best practices in design/build education”. Keith and Marie were listed among “the top 100 individuals and teams working at the intersection of design and service” by Public Interest Design. The Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects recently recognized Keith with the Award for Distinguished Achievement and Marie with Society Honors “for their extraordinary joint efforts to advance the art and science of architecture”.