14 November 2011

Come see us present at the AIA event FORMULATING DESIGN at the Arizona Science Center this Thursday, November 17! The format is Pecha Kucha (20 slides, 20 seconds per slide), and we’ll be summarizing our key concepts and our current scheme in under 7 minutes! The cost is $15 (we believe) and there are many other presenters there too.

We hope to see you there! Click the link immediately below for more information:


Thu, November 17, 5:30pm – 8:30pm

Arizona Science Center
AIA Phoenix Metro
Reception begins at 5:30 Program begins at 7:00

10 November 2011

We have made an unbelievable amount of progress in the last few weeks. Each member of the team has played a vital role in the pursuit of our goal: designing a beautiful and noble learning environment for the students at Shebraber. While we are still in the process of designing, we have been able to focus more and more on the finer details of the project including the development of construction documents. We still have plenty of work ahead, but we are confident that we will succeed! Although the design continues to evolve, here are some images of the our work thus far.

29 October 2011

It’s hard to believe that October is almost gone… The last few weeks have seen rigorous development of the Shebraber School design. We’ve had our fair share of successes and failures as well as a few sleepless nights; and I think it’s fair to say that we have grown a lot as a team in the process. We’ve been fortunate to have had some great reviewers to guide us as we continue to work toward a full set of construction documents for the project by the end of the semester. Our thanks goes out to those who have taken time away from their own practices in order to foster our growth as architects and ensure that we design an amazing learning environment for those Ethiopian children we all came to love a few weeks ago. The project has come a long way since the initial masterplan presentation. We will post more about our progress in the coming days.

In the meantime, we are also working toward our goal of raising enough money to provide the students of Shebraber School with uniforms. If anyone is interested in donating to this worthwhile cause, you can visit:


Providing the students with uniforms means that each child will have a complete set of clothes for school, something that not all the students currently have. It will also ensure equality amongst the children and set a level playing field in which all are able to succeed.

AIA Presentation

We’re thankful to everyone who attended our AIA presentation downtown on Friday night! The feedback was really positive and we were happy for the opportunity to share this wonderful project with the architecture community.

This week we’ve hurtled ourselves into schematic design and plan to present the project to faculty and friends at Arizona State University in our building on Friday for peer review and critique. We’re looking forward to the helpful advice and knowledge of our gracious guests who have committed their time to our benefit! More updates to come soon! We’ll also post some new materials for everyone to view of the school design!

As we return, we look back:

As we return from Ethiopia we’re focused on getting to work! First on the list is getting the air conditioning fixed in our studio at Arizona State (unbearable without it this time of year!). We’ve sweat our way through a few meetings and have begun the process of decompressing our work from the trip (23GB of photos) and continue to rigorously work on the conceptual plan. We’re also beginning the process of branding and identity design for both the school and our studio – updates to follow shortly.

Attached is our presentation to Mesganu and the school leadership. It was met with great satisfaction and pride, and the leadership expressed their thanks again and again to our humble contentment! Their excitement and trust expressed to us in our meeting with them has fostered in us our own excitement and commitment to the school, and we’re itching to find our way towards the perfect school design for this wonderful community of children, parents, and elders. After meeting and sharing with them, we feel welcomed into the community with a responsibility and commitment to building not only a school, but also hope for the future. We can’t express how grateful we are for this opportunity and for the support of amazing people like Mesganu, our guide and friend Nicco, and the unbelievable community in Shebraber.


16 September 2011

The time has finally come for us to say ciao to Ethiopia and begin the long journey home. We thoroughly enjoyed our evening at Negash Lodge last night! The peaceful environment was a much-appreciated retreat. Each room at the lodge was designed to represent different homes of the regions within Ethiopia. Around the hotel grounds were dozens of monkeys, birds, and some even saw what we believed to be a koala bear. Jeff, Sergio, Jen Del Rio, Yan, and Lauren took a late night swim in the hot spring water. We enjoyed a walk in the village and ride back to the lodge in bajajs, little three-wheeled motorcycle things. We ended our time at the lodge well rested and ready to return to Addis for our flights back.

…but first, we shopped! Nicco escorted our group through the market and for around $20 USD each we were satisfied with our purchases of wooden animals, scarves, knives and clothing. It was a good exercise in bartering although I’m not sure how successful we were. Needless to say, we are now exhausted and looking forward with great anticipation of seeing our family and friends again. We will be arriving into PHX at 7pm Saturday evening, terminal 2. We can’t wait to see you all, and we’re excited to be welcomed by gifts, flowers, singing, etc. :)

For your love and support during our travels, we thank you endlessly.

14 September 2011

EthiopiaStudio2.0 has been busy at work gathering site information in order to present a schematic design concept for our Shebraber School. Our host, Mesganu the Ethiopia Ambassador to the UAE and a graduate of Shebraber in its inaugural years, has provided us with a great deal of insight on the history and future potential of the school. Mesganu’s genuine nature and warm spirited demeanor has motivated our group to work even harder to ensure his vision is realized. He has graciously taken time from his work in Dubai to spend the last two days with us. After compiling information and a number of intense late night work sessions, we have come up with two master plans which show potential for resolving many issues the school currently has while extending a vision for a high school in the years to come.

Today we had one of our most memorable experiences yet. We presented our work through the composition of a comprehensive booklet containing our research to Mesganu and community leaders. We could not have imagined a better reception; the community was overwhelmed by our work and dedication and in return gave us many many blessings for safe travel, a successful semester, and a blessing “for the rest of your lives.” It was a very touching and inspiring meeting which I’m sure none of us will soon forget. Before our presentation we delivered our gift to Shebraber of school supplies which we all contributed to. The children and the principal of the school were overjoyed with our gracious donation. Finally, we ended the evening with a traditional meal cooked over open fire inside the courtyard of the school. The fresh goat, sheep, and beef mix was delicious and one of the better meals we’ve had thus far. After the meal we had time to play a bit and we all enjoyed watching Jen Del Rio jump on a mule and attempt to ride. She enjoyed a safe ride and nearly got bucked off but quickly dismounted before it was too late.

Tonight the group is enjoying some much needed leisure time and sleep. It’s been a crazy intense and productive week and we are all looking forward to spending tomorrow evening at Negash Lodge two hours outside of Addis. Jack tells us Negash is one the best resorts in Ethiopia and that we’ll all enjoy the serenity and atmosphere.


12 September 2011


Today we braved the 45-minute drive on the winding, bumping dirt road to Shebraber and finally arrive at our site. We passed many of the traditional circular, mud homes along the way, encountering the locals walking to market with goods in tow or on their backs. The beautiful, lush landscape continued all the way to our site, where the community, in song & humbling hospitality, met us and where we spent the afternoon exploring and recording every nook of the site and discussing the present and future goals, needs, and desires of the school with its leaders. We were completely blown away by the warm welcome and by the depth and breadth of the community’s involvement and care for the school. The local leaders, school officials, our host, Misganu, and we spoke for hours about the programmatic needs and community goals for the project. It was a wonderful sunny day and we were completely taken aback by the beauty of the site and its potential.

We drove back (nearly hitting an alligator in the road), finally arriving at the hotel for dinner, coffee, and work. We documented everything we had seen and heard late into the night and we’re pushing to have a preliminary proposal for Misganu and the school authorities by Wednesday afternoon to present to them as much information as possible concerning the direction we feel the project is headed according to all the information we gathered, both from observation of the site conditions and our wonderful discussions with the school community. Truly an inspiring day and all of us are buzzing with the excitement of getting our hands dirty and learning as much as we can about Shebraber and their dreams for their school. We found out that Shebraber is founded  by two terms:

SHEBRA which means thick, oak tree, and

BER which means gate, so the community was most likely founded as a gated community with a large oak tree near the gate, and thus the image and narrative of the school begins to take shape.