If you’re a teacher, student, or design mentor in DT Philly, then you probably recognize Jon Coddington, Professor of Architecture at Drexel University’s Department of Architecture, Design, and Urbanism. An advisor to and supporter of Compete 360, Jon has hosted teacher trainings and has served as a judge at DT Philly Challenges for our middle and high school divisions.
Jon’s experience educating and training future architects gave him an appreciation early on for Compete 360’s mission. As Jon explains, design is a way to understand how the world works--it is the relationship between people, places, things, and ideas. When students learn to see this, they begin to understand that they can change those relationships to make things better.
Jon teaches his Drexel students how to do this through studio courses where they use design to address social and environmental needs. In his 2nd year studio, for example, students are designing diverse mixed-use housing options for the Callowhill section of Philadelphia while a 4th year studio is creating a productive landscape design that will support a monastery and blend into the surrounding neighborhoods. Students in their final year of Drexel’s program participate in a thesis studio, where they work on an independent year-long project. Inspired by the story of the Landfill Harmonic, one of Jon’s students is working on an initiative to convert methane from a Paraguay landfill into energy that will be used to create bricks for better housing and will generate additional community benefits.
In the course of his career, Jon has designed master plans and led graduate students through projects that promote community revitalization. One such project transformed a polluted industrial park into a sustainable research campus with buildings that boost productivity by encouraging formal and informal collaboration. In fact, one of the buildings Jon helped design is home to the scientists who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore in 2007 for their work on climate change.
As busy as he is, Jon still makes time for DT Philly because he sees it as a way to strengthen the community. Learning to design, he observes, gives students the tools “to see what is while empowering them to imagine what can be.” He goes on to add, “DT Philly is a strong step forward in giving students the means to address needs and aspirations.”
Some of Jon’s favorite projects from DT Philly include the KCAPA JobsXProject, where students designed an internship program to help their peers learn work-ready skills and find jobs in their gentrifying neighborhood, and the Penn Treaty commuter skateboard, which featured a magnetized quick-release foot hold and a brake to create a more user friendly means of transportation. The students’ creativity and sense of fun, as well as these projects’ potential to impact users made an impression. Looking ahead, Jon would love to see DT Philly expand beyond a special activity for small groups of students and be integrated into school curricula so all students can benefit from the hands-on and engaged learning that design thinking promotes.