Community Building, Building Community

Student Jae Williams (left) greets Bob Hansman before his lecture. Photo by Sid Hastings.

Community Building, Building Community (X10 XCORE 307) has long provided architecture students an introduction to the complex history of St. Louis, and to issues of racial and economic segregation across the region. Launched by associate professor Bob Hansman, the course takes students off campus to communities across the region, where they listen to the experiences and stories of residents who have been impacted by decisions involving economics, policy, and the built environment that have been influenced by factors such as racial prejudice and economic transformations.

The curriculum features a mix of tours, conversations, presentations, videos, music, and readings. Hansman focuses on the idea of "understanding what we see," connecting a particular instance to a larger picture. Students begin to understand the structural conditions that shape what might seem like individual decisions. Hansman also focuses on building deep relationships; students listen to people they meet in the St. Louis community and identify how they will collaborate with them. The course doesn't center on a series of projects, but rather a series of relationships, many of which continue after the semester ends. These relationships lead to collaborations between students and residents to address specific community needs. Recent collaborations that have emerged from the course have included the Wellston Loop Family Reunion, which brought together community members who have a connection to the once-vibrant commercial corridor along Martin Luther King Boulevard, and the development and implementation of a neighborhood garden in North St. Louis' 22nd Ward.

Community Building, Building Community is offered in the fall semester and has no prerequisites. It is open to undergraduate students across campus. It is required for architecture students who plan to minor in urban design.

Hansman, who serves as a community engagement faculty fellow in the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement, also provides tours that cover similar topics and communities to members of the Washington University community.


Bob's Tour, a documentary by Jun Bae (2016)

Understanding What We See, Gephardt Institute, February 11, 2016

A casual conversation with Bob Hansman, Rima Parikh, Student Life, October 26, 2015

Washington People: Bob Hansman, Liam Otten, The Record, August 27, 2014