ARH 498 Collaborative Project / ARH 512 Participatory Design

ARH 498 Collaborative Project & ARH 512 Participatory Design


ARH 512/498 is an experimental, thesis alternate focused on community based design.  It involves a real client, and a real, built project. By the end of the sequence, you will have taken part in a robust community design process, a fundraising campaign, and the rigorous design, prototyping and fabrication process. For undergraduate students, two semesters of ARH 498 is an alternate track to ARH 510 & ARH 550 that meets the requirements for the B Arch degree. We also welcome graduate students who can take these courses as electives.

This class involves collaboration and engagement with local residents and your fellow students and instructors. The goal is to delve into the real world impact and power of architecture, picking up skills that will benefit you as you move into your career.  It will also allow you to explore the merging of theoretical exploration with professional reality while using design to further social justice in our local community.

In our opinion, this is what it means to be a practicing architect.


Student projects from these courses have been recognized with multiple awards:

  • SFHDC Everyday Heroes Nominee 2021
  • San Francisco Challenge Grant Awardee 2019
  • SF Design Week Student Innovation 2018
  • AIASF Community Alliance Award 2015


Community based project schedules accommodate the community’s needs and real world conditions. ARH 498 (fall and spring) and ARH 512 (summer) provide year-round timeline for design and fabrication. B Arch students need to take both classes. Students taking these courses as electives do not need to take both classes.

  • ARH 498 Collaborative Project (6 credit fall and spring studio, 2 semesters required for B Arch students)
  • ARH 512 Participatory Design (3 credit summer seminar elective)


For 2022, both courses have been approved by AAU to be in person.

  • ARH 498 will meet in-person Mon & Thu 2-4:50pm, 5:40-8:30pm at 1849 Washington St. during the Spring 2022 semester.
  • ARH 512 will meet in-person Mon & Fri 12-2:50pm at 1849 Washington St. during the Summer 2022 semester.


Take a look at all the amazing, award-winning, work students have done as part of their final year at AAU!

View online portfolio

Point Perch

Unity Pavilion

ARH 512 Participatory Design (3 credits, summer sessions only)

Participatory Design is key to creating equity. Working with residents and community, you will develop tools for collaborative decision-making that address the needs of diverse users by putting your communication techniques, design skills, and research methodologies into practice in a real-life project.


Course Learning Outcomes

  • Develop skills for deep listening and for co-creating with community members
  • Apply field research methods to document patterns of human behavior and identify unmet programmatic needs
  • Create interactive design and communication tools for community members to share their lived experiences
  • Incorporate awareness of power imbalance in evaluating design proposals
  • Exhibit professionalism and accountability during service project events

ARH 498 Collaborative Project (6 credits, fall & spring semesters)

Gain hands-on experience in community-based design and make a difference in a local neighborhood. Collaboratively design, prototype, and fabricate a real project for the Park Merced community engaging with residents, facility managers, engineers, landscape architects, and young students in neighborhood schools. Become a maker, innovator, community partner, and advocate.


Course Learning Outcomes

  • Listen with empathy to identify the needs of the community
  • Create interactive design and communication tools to engage community members
  • Develop a method for incorporating community input
  • Prototype and test design proposals using an iterative process
  • Recognize behaviors that build a positive team culture
  • Develop skills to resolve differences in design approaches
  • Accept personal responsibility on individual components of the work assigned by the team
  • Exhibit professionalism and accountability during service project events
  • Document and publish the final project and the design process