Program Specialties

The Small Town Studio

Architects and architectural students must retain connections to the patterns of everyday life if they are to do their work effectively. The BS in Architecture and Sustainability integrates a unique approach to connecting students with these patterns through its Small Town Studio, which serves to contextualize the work that students do, and introduce them to the challenges and opportunities presented by real clients and real problems.

In the context of architecture and community planning, relatively little attention has been paid to issues of small towns in the United States. Many such towns have seen significant economic hardship and deterioration of their small town fabric. The advent of big-box stores, as well as municipalities chasing the tax revenue they provide, has resulted in increased vacancy and decreased viability for small towns in addition to negatively impacting the environment.

Ferris State is in a unique position to provide remedies for these problems through the Small Town Studio. The BS in Architecture and Sustainability, with its integration of Community Studies coursework, creates an inter-disciplinary educational program that can engage directly with the city of Big Rapids and address its unique urban problems.  Moreover, the Small Town Studio will serve as a clearinghouse for small towns across Michigan; through which a wide range of design and planning problems can be addressed, with a specific focus on preservation of the urban fabric as an act of sustainability.

Distinguishing aspects of the Small Town Studio include:

  • It is housed off-campus, in downtown Big Rapids, allowing students to assert their independence, engage more directly with the town and provide an economic boost to downtown businesses
  • The problems its students address are based in reality, with real clients, thus creating a working relationship between the university and the community
  • The studio setting allows greater interaction between students, instructors from multiple programs, and clients, replicating more realistically the character of architectural practice and planning


Visiting Professor

Among the factors that keep an architecture program vital is a link to the world of practice.  It is important for students to be educated in a context of stylistic and technological currency.  The BS in Architecture and Sustainability integrates a Visiting Professor who journeys to Big Rapids on a regular schedule throughout the semester; works in tandem with a full-time faculty member to provide a framework of project creation, development and review; and brings to the studio first-hand experience with the critical professional issues of the day.


Lecture Series

The architecture lecture series combines community outreach with educational practice to create a public forum for the exchange of ideas between students, professionals, and community members.  Lectures are drawn from regionally and nationally-recognized architects, writers, designers, and environmentalists who share their work and ideas with students and other interested parties. Visiting lecturers are also given the opportunity to interact with students in the classroom, which proves to be an invaluable addition to their education.