A Bachelors In Building Stuff

In which I talk with Chad Urban of The American College of the Building Arts about combining a 4 year degree with a trade

The biggest reason I can’t get off Twitter is because that is how I meet the most interesting people. Every 2-3 months I will meet someone who has something new to say or strikes me as a person I’d like to know or I’ll grab a beer irl (in real life) with someone from Twitter and make a new friend.

One of the people I’ve met recently is Chad Urban, the CFO of the American College of the Building Arts. ACBA is an extremely new college that gives its students a 4 year liberal arts degree alongside an education in practical trades such as architectural carpentry, timber framing, blacksmithing, masonry, or plasterwork. And the result of their coursework is really cool.

As someone who is skeptical of the value of a generic 4-year degree and someone who is eager to follow experiments in new forms of education, this concept struck me as unique and worthy of investigation.

You can listen to our entire conversation, but I’d like to pull out a few things Chad and I talked about.

The origin of ACBA starts back in 1989 when Hurricane Hugo hit Charleston, South Carolina. Charleston has a lot of historic homes that sustained a lot of damage, but couldn’t find any local artisans to repair the damage and had to “import” artisans from Europe to do the work. A number of concerned citizens in Charleston saw that this problem was going to continue into the future and proposed the creation of a school to teach students these skills.

What I find fascinating about this program is that it isn’t an apprenticeship and it’s not a trade school. ACBA provides students with a 4-year liberal arts degree as well as the accompanying skilled trade. And, true to their mission, they have structured their core curriculum such that, for their history credit, students take a class in architectural history.

ACBA has only recently become accredited (and Chad gets into some of the details of getting a brand new accredited institution on it’s feet) but it sounds like they are graduating students directly into jobs immediately into their trade. About a third of students have started their own company, but all of the most recent graduating class are employed in their field.

I’m incredibly excited to hear about this program and eager to see what happens from their graduates. My own sense of new homes is that most are not only poorly made but not designed to feel like a place of rest. Some of that is the architecture, but some of it is the built-in decor. In an effort to make the home as generic as possible, they are built without any personality or art.

But we don’t have to live in generic places. We can make beauty and artistry a part of our everyday lives. I love the change in the sense of place when ACBA students replaced this workshop door with a gothic work of iron, wood, and glass.

The post-COVID world is sparking a lot of change, especially in the field of education. It is my hope that we’ll be able to pull ourselves toward a richer vision of who we are, what we do, and what we value. There is certainly no better time than now to start.

Looney Tunes: Duck! Rabbit, Duck!

This is the third Bugs-Daffy-Elmer short in the “Hunting Trilogy” (the other two being Rabbit Fire and Rabbit Seasoning). Watching these all so close together, I had not realized how many running joke connects these shorts. There is, of course, the overall theme of Bugs tricking Elmer into shooting Daffy. But there is also the running joke that the animators had in which they have to make something different happen to Daffy’s beak every time he gets shot.

It’s funny. Even after three times around the track, the concept is still delightful. There is something about watching Daffy get his just deserts that feels endlessly satisfying.