How can we use art to build community and enrich the lives of young and old while creating a sustainable and environmentally friendly space where nature and art can coexist?


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Sustainable Communal Pottery Studio in Pasadena, California

Project Statement –

In my community, there is an abundance of underfunded art programs within schools. They either do not have the ability to utilize materials or do not have the ability to explore multiple artistic ventures. I am proposing a sustainable community pottery studio in the city center. It will utilize solar panels for clean energy and fully biodegradable materials in the building structure. Furthermore, pottery can bridge the divide between people with different ideologies, serve as a form of relaxation and meditation, and generate a useful skill that you can use forever. Allowing all persons in my community to have access to this space, particularly students from underfunded schools, will allow all to experience the beauty and joy of creating art and will elevate my community for the better.

USERS: The name of my project “Community Pottery Studio,” defines its purpose: to bring the community together with one common goal, which is to allow anyone and everyone, regardless of age, skill level, or socioeconomic status, to experience the joy of creating pottery. In my community, many schools lack the resources to have a fully equipped pottery studio; the arts are among the first programs on the chopping block. As a result, ceramic classes remain out of reach for many lower, middle, and high school students.  I envision my Community Pottery Studio to be a place where students, either on their own after school or as part of school field trips, can take advantage of the potter’s wheels, hand-building tools, glazes, and kilns that they would not otherwise be able to use. Young students are not the only ones who would benefit from this space. Senior citizens, again either on their own or as part of organized field trips from their assisted living homes, could come to the studio and do simple hand-building projects that do not require the dexterity or strength of the potter’s wheel.  Creating art is a well-known therapy that aids the mental health and happiness of both young and old, and this studio will allow all members of my community to gather and experience, as a collective community, all of the benefits and joy that creating pottery brings. Pottery is the ultimate form of relaxation and meditation and, as described below, the setting I propose allows users to be creative in a uniquely harmonious and natural setting, in the middle of a giant park.
NEEDS: This studio must provide a welcoming and visually appealing space where community members can learn how to make pottery, both thrown and handbuilt, in a positive learning environment that promotes sustainability and provides adequate tools and equipment. To do this, I propose that my studio include open space with minimal barriers, 10-15 pottery wheels, glazing rooms, two gas kilns, a working area where people can either build pottery by hand or glaze their pieces, and space where users are welcome to display their work, and maybe even advertise them for sale (on a rotating basis to ensure equal access and fairness for all artists). The studio will be all on one floor in order to maximize human interaction and will be predominantly made of glass and steel so the outside community can view the students at work inside and share in the collective joy of creating beautiful art.
INSIGHTS: Because this will be a workspace with a lot of clay dust, clay scraps, and glaze drippings, there will need to be drains and special ventilation systems put in place. Also, the flooring will have to be concrete, which can be easily mopped to remove the clay dust, clay scraps, and glaze spillages. Because of the clay dust that naturally occurs in a pottery studio, and the heat and inherent danger of a kiln (which heats to up to 2381 degrees F), the kiln room will be in a separate area, walled off from the main workspace. In keeping with the project’s goal to have as little a carbon footprint as possible, using as many biodegradable pieces as possible, the studio walls will be made out of 3D printed clay; these walls, however, must be covered with a protective coat of moisture-resistant paint for easy cleaning. In addition, I propose using both indoor/outdoor spaces for the studio. Minimizing barriers and using open space as part of the studio will have a two-fold effect: it will allow the studio to have multiple pottery wheels (for throwing) and will create an airy design effect that is both visually and environmentally appealing. The perfect place for this building is in Central Park in Old Town Pasadena. For the structure of the building, I initially thought of making it look like one of my pottery pieces, like a vase. However, that very much limited the amount of usable space in the studio. From there, my design evolved into using pottery formations and shapes (the rounded edge of a bowl, or the rim of a pitcher, for example) rather than one set form. However, after experimenting with these ideas, I decided to design the studio so that it replicates a pottery wheel.  The symbolism of this is that, just as an artist uses the pottery wheel to create art, so will my community of artists use the studio, like a pottery wheel, to make their own art.

Case Studies –

The Galante Architecture Studio – 

This studio creates a greater connection between the people participating in wheel throwing. It also creates an organized pathway throughout the studio. 

Department of Art at New Paltz University

What I like about this space is that it is separated from the wheel-throwing space. I like how instead of walls as barriers, which creates isolated workspaces, they use shelving to create distinct workspaces.

Steve Jobs Theater

This is the Steve Jobs Theater in the Apple headquarters in San Francisco. It uses glass panels to create a complete natural light space. It also allows for  outside nature and the people within to join together,  in the interior of the structure.

Site Analysis –

This is a local park in the city center of my community. It has lawn bowling facilities and great open grass space for people to play on. It also has a playground.

After viewing my images and the Google satellite rendering, I noticed that I could  extend the studio and remove  the pathway between the two fields, giving me more than enough space for the pottery studio.

Bubble Diagram – 

The bubble diagram above is my first idea of how I wanted the pottery studio to look. I wanted all the rooms to be revolving around the center wheel throwing room. I also added a display room, patio, glaze room, kiln room, and office space. 

Schematic Design and Floor Plan – 

This is my floor plan. I included a display room for people passing by to view the work being produced in this studio. I also utilized windows in the main wheel throwing room for natural light to flow within, minimizing my use of electricity. I also put the kiln away from the main structure because it gets very hot, and requires space around it to operate safely.

Initial Pottery Studio Design –

These were my first two initial designs for my pottery studio. However, I did not like them because they were very box-shaped and did not capture the essence of modern and sustainable architecture. From these designs, I decided to go a different route, learning from my past mistakes, and create a studio based on a potter’s wheel. 

This is a pottery wheel. I designed my final pottery studio design off of this.

Final Pottery Studio Design –

From the front perspective of the pottery studio, the display room is on the left. Using a lottery or some other democratic system, the studio could offer students the opportunity to display and perhaps even sell their finished products.  On the right will be an office space for art teachers to take breaks, and for staff to perform any administrative tasks. There will be no need for restrooms because there are restrooms elsewhere in the park. The main pottery workspace structure is made of completely recycled glass and recyclable steel supporting the glass room. The roof has different triangular elevation perspectives to give it a geometric look. On the back of the studio are sliding doors that can be opened during work time to increase airflow, and surround and envelop the artists with nature outside. The premise of this design is based on a pottery wheel. The glass wheel throwing room is the wheel head where the wheel spins, and the office and display area is the workbench.

Overall, I hope from viewing my project you can gain some insight into the wonders that art can bring to a community. This pottery studio is my attempt to create and strengthen my community, one lump of clay at a time. Pottery studios like these are where people go to share their love of art, learn about art, and perhaps even learn about and from each other. The first step to bring people together is a step-through art, and a beautiful thing called pottery.  Finally, in addition to achieving sustainability goals through specific design elements, such as using recyclable materials for the glass dome and 3D-print outs in clay for the walls, the studio also minimizes its carbon footprint because the water to be used in the sinks will be nonpotable gray water, clay sediment that is washed off in the sink will be captured with mud traps under the sink, and any clay that is discarded (for example, while trimming pieces) can be recycled for re-use through the use of pugmills. Ultimately, pottery is the perfect expression of sustainability because it is created through the very elements of nature: clay, water, and fire.

Questions –

Do you see a need for this type of community work space, particularly given the lack of funding for the arts? 

What could I do to make this pottery studio financially viable and self-sustaining, while ensuring access for everyone?

What do you think are the benefits of learning art such as pottery?

Sources –



  1. Hi James! I love your project goal and I love how you based the design on a pottery wheel. This specific design would be easily recognizable to anyone who is passing near or through the park. The building certainly accomplishes art/ ceramics advocacy as well as making a fun community activity. I think if something like your project was built in a park near me, it would attract people from all different backgrounds. Having some kind of a signup system and limiting the number of people per day would help. For the financial aspect, I’m sure that local museums would be willing to collaborate or even take on the project. Nice job!

  2. Love the design! All the detail and uniqueness in the design is truly mind blowing, amazing work James!

  3. Hey James, I love that you are combining something you have done and loved for so long with something that can help develop and sustain the future interactive art programs. Keep up the good work!

  4. Awesome! Very interesting.

  5. Great idea James I would like to see this in my community(Pico Rivera).

  6. James,
    Thank you for imagining this amazing design. I would enthusiastically welcome a project like this in my neighborhood. As a novice potter, I totally understand how this can bring a community together with art! I specifically love the shape of the project and how it welcomes community members to walk in and join the fun! Thank you! Excellent job!

  7. This is nice ‼️💯🔥🔥🔥

  8. What a great plan! Some arts are much less accessible than others, and pottery especially requires the space and resources not many people have access to. It’s such a rewarding art form with so much room for creativity and artistic growth. A very thoughtful idea.

    There are many artists in the LA area that can find clay and glazing supplies but not a kiln. One idea for financial sustainability is to partner with some of these local artists and companies and allow them to use the kiln to produce the work they sell for a small fee.

    You might want to start out maybe limiting the free program to young students and children, and maybe charging adults. This would encourage family activity while also creating a way to cover maintenance cost.

    You could also make room in the space for display and/or sale of art. It could be used for art made in the studio, and maybe also as a way for local artists to have their art displayed in a space where art is being made. It would serve as both a source of inspiration to young artists and also provide an opportunity for commerce.

    I hope that helps! Proud of you James:)

  9. Hi James! I was really impressed by your work! I really like the design of your building, especially how you came up with the idea. I am sure that this project would make a huge difference in your community, especially considering the impact of the pandemic (a lot of public buildings were shut down here in Germany, I don’t know about the situation in your community though); I think that your pottery studio would definitely provide a new accessible activity and a social space for your community. Great job!

  10. Great work!!

  11. Hey James, great project overall. Your design is really powerful and unique. In my community there are also a lot of underfunded art programs. I think implementing this pottery studio would be doing a great service to those kids. Nice work!

  12. James,
    What a thoughtful project for those with less resources. I know this will bring joy and provide an emotional outlet for expression. More than ever, we need a place to de-stress and rejuvenate.
    You are an amazing young man. Bravo!

    1. wonderful! innovative plan and thoughtful ideas for programing needs.

  13. This is an innovative idea. How can we implement it?

  14. What a great idea! I love how you integrated what you love to do with the needs of the community. Fantastic!

  15. This is a very cool project!

  16. Hey James,
    I have done pottery myself and love it because it is a great source of relaxation and a creative outlet. I can personally attest to the benefits of pottery as it alleviates the stress of my busy school week! I love working on the wheel and hand-building, so allowing more students to do this and share its benefits would be truly amazing. Learning pottery doesn’t just help your state of mind, but it also gives you a useful tool that you can use for the rest of your life. Implementing this pottery studio in my community would be incredibly beneficial as it would increase access to the arts, provide fantastic opportunities for everyone, and build a greater sense of community. I think all communities should strive to have art studios for various forms of visual art, and your pottery studio is an outstanding model for a pottery-focused one.

  17. Hi James! Great project idea! Your design is definitely unique and includes various geometric shapes, but that’s the whole point of architecture. I was really able to see your design process as I viewed your project. Great job overall!

  18. This is a fabulous project, James. We are so glad that you have been inspired by your work at Creative Arts Group. We love having you as a student! – Gwen

  19. Hi James. I think that this is a great idea, because this will help bring people together and allow students that attend lower income schools to have all the benefits of pottery making like relaxation and meditation! To make this studio self-sustaining, you could accept donations. Also, maybe charge adults, but not children.

  20. I like the forms and the thought-process shows one a method to find a concept and develop it. Design is involving with many outer ‘inputs’ and inner beliefs. This project captures this. Good going.

  21. Very well researched and thought out, James! I appreciate the effort put in to the approach and the design, and feel it would be a great project to support and under-served community.

  22. James, I love your idea of the Community Pottery Studio. When can I sign up?

  23. How imaginative! Your vision is impressive. An elegant design. Well done!

  24. I like the circular pottery wheel inspired design of your main building and how you use a British bottle kiln inspiration for the kiln. Good luck!

  25. Great idea. Beautiful design.

  26. Hi James! Your project is a great way to build community and seems really fun. You also integrated numerous sustainable elements into the design effectively which I think is necessary for all new projects. I also like the fun shape of the building. Nice job!!

  27. Hi James! I like how your project has glass walls and sliding doors that open so students can appreciate nature while they work. I also like how you incorporate hand building for seniors and others who may not want to use the pottery wheel. Great job!

  28. a great plan

  29. I really like this project, a community center for pottery is a good idea. I like how your building uses a unique shape that is similar to a pottery wheel. I think a building like this would bring a community together, and be something for everyone to enjoy.

  30. Hey James!
    Your idea is so creative and I really enjoyed reading about it. Having a community center that not only brings together people as a community but is sustainable is the best of both worlds. I also have to mention that your design was awesome. it was very unique but definitely fits the vibe your idea has. It adds another level of art/creativity. Overall well done!

  31. This is so fantastic!! There should be a studio like this in every city in America!! Great idea!!!

  32. Wow James! I am so impressed with the layout of your building. Because of the layout of your building, the modern style of it really fits into the aesthetic of your idea. Also the break room for the teachers reminds me a lot of a pottery wheel. Great job!

  33. Hey James! This is an amazing idea and can be very useful in many ways. The idea is very thought out and you explain it very well. The work is very much there and your effort paid off. The actual building is remarkable and it has a unique and modern look to it. This can help with sustainability but also other needs such as a place to reconstruct and gather your emotions and mental health. Job well done!

  34. James, this project looks amazing. It looks like you put a lot of effort into this project and have thoroughly created a design for your pottery studio. There is doubt in my mind that this will impact the Pasadena Community.

  35. Hey James! Amazing job with this project! I could tell that it was extremely thought out, and you were paying close attention to details. Your thoughts about sliding doors to increase airflow, really showed that. I also like your efforts to incorporate art into the community. Overall, great job!

  36. Great submission, James! Out of every project I have looked at, I think this may be the most complete one. From your supplemental materials to your explanation video, everything is fantastic. Amazing job, James.

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