embARC Summer Design Academy

Community Build

July 2-27, 2018

True to UC Berkeley’s public mission, embARC includes an overall theme of civic responsibility by partnering with a local community organization to design a community improvement project. Through this partnership, students employ the tools they learn in the design studios, digital and fabrication workshops, and lectures to make an impact on authentic community issues. 


2017 Community Client: UC Berkeley Food Pantry

In 2017, the embARC Design Build partnered with the UC Berkeley Food Pantry, an organization that offers “a direct response to the need among the student population to juggle the costs of living with the costs of obtaining a university degree, and thus many students are finding themselves choosing between essentials such as food and the costs of college.” 


embARC students built a series of mobile carts and trailers designed to ease the friction in distribution of food from UC Berkeley's farm and garden spaces to the Food Pantry, increase the visibility and accessibility of the Food Pantry on campus, and empower food insecure students to put together delicious and nutrient-rich meals from the Food Pantry's offerings.  


Design Build students gained insight into the designer-client relationship through an examination of the design research process, and experienced hands-on engagement with the fabrication component of the Design Build, including metalworking, woodworking and digital fabrication.


The Design Build ran in tandem with the Sustainable Planning Workshop, which investigated the context for campus food insecurity, identified hubs and outliers in the campus food system chain and sought to understand the larger food justice movement that is taking hold in urban areas across the country.


The embARC program is extremely grateful to the UC Berkeley Basic Needs Committee for a generous grant for materials and to Mike's Bikes for a crucial in-kind donation that will increase the effectiveness of this project exponentially.


2016 Community Client: Urban Tilth

UC Berkeley's 2016 embARC Summer Design Academy partnered with the renowned Urban Tilth, drawing inspiration and feedback from Bienvenida Meza, Luis Chavez, Doria Robinson and UT Summer Apprentices. Urban Tilth is a non-profit organization based in Richmond that promotes equal access to healthy food. In their words: “We farm, feed, forage, teach, train, build community, employ, and give back.”

The 2016 embARC Design Build project - overseen by CED Fabrication Shop Mechanicians Tonia Sing Chi and Elizabeth Thorp - donated a storage shelter and rainwater catchment system to the Verde Elementary School Partnership Garden, a hub of the North Richmond community upon which a range of local residents depend for fresh food. The structures incorporated sustainable materials into a contemporary form, giving embARC students a real-world example of the necessity of environmental responsibility in all aspects of the design and fabrication process.

Each year, embARC's Design Build project is linked to the Sustainable Planning Workshop and the Architecture & Design studio with the aim of presenting the study and practice of environmental design as an interwoven, interdependent and interdisciplinary field.

For more information, visit Urban Tilth's website.

Special Thanks

We would like to extend our appreciation to John Voekel, Principal Engineer at Framework Engineering, for generously donating his time and energy to ensuring the structural integrity of the Design Build project. 



2015 Community Client: Golden Gate Audubon Society 

embARC 2015 took on the Golden Gate chapter of the Audubon Society, located on San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley, as their community partner and Design Build client. In consultation with Anthony DeCicco, the Golden Gate Audubon Society's youth education director, and UC Berkeley Fabrication Shop staff Semar Prom, Elizabeth Thorp and Paul Mirocha, embARC students produced a number of designs that met the needs of local endangered bird populations.

Three of the boxes will be permanently installed in Blake Garden, the College of Environmental Design's “landscape laboratory” in the hills of Kensington, under the watchful eye of Garden Manager Laurie Twitchell. The rest of the boxes fabricated by the students will be donated to the Golden Gate Audubon Society and the Raptor Observatory, located near Hawk Hill in Marin County, where volunteers will monitor and record data about avian visitors.

According to their mission statement, “The Golden Gate Audubon Society engages people to experience the wonder of birds, and translate that wonder into action in order to protect native bird populations and their habitats.” The embARC team would like to thank GGAS for being such engaged, inspiring partners for the summer of 2015.


2014 Community Client: Spiral Gardens

In 2014, embARC partnered with Spiral Gardens, a non-profit food security project, to design and build a chicken coop for the local Berkeley community. The mission of Spiral Gardens is to create healthy sustainable communities by promoting a strong local food system and encouraging productive use of urban soil. The students designed housing complexes and built models of their ideas in CED’s fabrication shop and digital fabrication lab, both in Wurster Hall. Students were led by CED instructor Matt Wolpe, a fabrication shop mechanician who runs his own Design-build company and has co-authored a book on designing chicken coops. With the embARC students' contribution, a small clutch of hens (plus a few ducks and turkey chicks) are now nesting comfortably in a new redwood four-plex in southwest Berkeley. The mission of Spiral Gardens is to “create healthy sustainable communities by promoting a strong local food system and encouraging productive use of urban soil.”

embARC-Spiral Gardens Chicken Coop1



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