Emily Pilloton

Founder/Executive Director, Project H Design / Studio H
Berkeley, CA, United States

About Emily

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Bio

Emily Pilloton is the Founder/Executive Director of Project H Design, and High School Instructor of Studio H in rural North Carolina. Trained in architecture at UC Berkeley and product design at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Emily believes in the process of design beyond just the product, launching Project H to empower communities and apply design outside of the design bubble to global issues that matter. Former Managing Editor of Inhabitat.com, writer, California girl and unwavering optimist, Emily is also a PopTech social innovation fellow and has presented at TEDGlobal and dozens of other fora. Based in Bertie County, NC, Emily co-teaches Studio H and enjoys getting dirty in the woodshop and exploring open spaces with her two border collies.

TED Conference

TEDGlobal 2010

Talk to me about

Design chutzpah. Public education. Marathon training. Dogs.

Comments & conversations

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Emily Pilloton
Posted about 1 year ago
How can design-driven and vocational education improve our schools and communities? Join our live Q&A on Feb 5th at 3PM
Thank you so much for setting this up. I hope the story of Studio H inspires people - it continues to inspire me. I think we can all invest in youth, and design-based education is just one way to do so. I really see creativity and building as these two secret weapons that light people up, especially young people, and I hope we can all put in the work to make more opportunities available to our youth.
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Emily Pilloton
Posted about 1 year ago
How can design-driven and vocational education improve our schools and communities? Join our live Q&A on Feb 5th at 3PM
Michelle- YES! I think it goes both ways - design as a process can be integrated into math, science, etc, and we can also do a better job (when I say we, I mean Studio H, design courses, and the arts) of integrating math and science. The STEM-to-STEAM initiatives are starting to look at this critically - that some of the science-driven education we see is actually not so far off from more creative design-driven education. Creativity seems to be the common denominator. I think the creativity it takes to solve a calculus equation is not all that different from the rigor you see in a designer or artist or architect's practice.
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Emily Pilloton
Posted about 1 year ago
How can design-driven and vocational education improve our schools and communities? Join our live Q&A on Feb 5th at 3PM
The similarities are actually more shocking than the differences. Their interests may be different (skateboarding vs. hunting, for example), but the things they are dealing with in their lives, their challenges, their brilliance, and their history of school not serving them well enough, has been constant. Each student is different of course, and I have loved getting to know them all as people. The reason it's so tough to standardize Studio H is because we want to always be nimble enough to respond to each student and the dreams and challenges they bring to our class.
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Emily Pilloton
Posted about 1 year ago
How can design-driven and vocational education improve our schools and communities? Join our live Q&A on Feb 5th at 3PM
We have since moved our program to REALM Charter School in Berkeley, CA. We taught two full years in Bertie and a total of 26 graduated from our program. In Berkeley, the heart and soul of Studio H remains the same: we design and build projects that students initiate, based on the context of the place and people. So we may not be building a farmers market, because Berkeley has plenty of those, but one need our students identified at REALM was the shortage of space. We only have 8 classrooms and need 9. So they said "let's build it ourselves." We are in the process of building an 800-square-foot space on school grounds for our school community, because as one student said so eloquently, "the first community we belong to is our school community." We also just finished concrete public furniture, and individual hand-holds for a rock climbing wall. We may take on a skate park and skateboard-building lab next!
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Emily Pilloton
Posted about 1 year ago
How can design-driven and vocational education improve our schools and communities? Join our live Q&A on Feb 5th at 3PM
A good number of them did enroll in a 2- or 4-year college program, which is awesome. Most of those students are the first in their families to go to college. Kerron is at NC State studying computer engineering. Stevie, who was instrumental in the final design of the farmers market, is also at NC State studying agriculture. Others are employed locally. I still talk to many of them and miss them all. Recently one of my students posted a page of his Studio H sketchbook on Facebook - it was amazing to see where we started, and how far they have come, and how we've all been changed because of the year we spent together.
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Emily Pilloton
Posted about 1 year ago
How can design-driven and vocational education improve our schools and communities? Join our live Q&A on Feb 5th at 3PM
Vocational education has historically been, as it name would imply, about vocation. It's about skills that lead to employment. Design is about skills, but also about learning how to think and create. If vocational education is learning carpentry skills so you can build a birdhouse, design-based education (like Studio H) is surveying the local birds, thinking about their habitats, designing a birdhouse that will best accommodate their habitats, learning an array of skills (maybe carpentry, but maybe also welding or 3d-design, CNC and laser-cut fabrication) to build it, and then putting it out into the world for that local bird to use, and for people to learn about it.
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Emily Pilloton
Posted about 1 year ago
How can design-driven and vocational education improve our schools and communities? Join our live Q&A on Feb 5th at 3PM
Then we present it publicly. We put everything up in a downtown building and invited everyone to come and give us feedback. From there, the hard work began - putting these beautiful crazy ideas through the filters of real-life construction. The zoning, the ADA codes, the fact that we had only 3 months to build the structure with a construction crew of teenagers and limited budget. We rely on critiques and constant prototyping to arrive at a set of working construction documents that could be approved by the building inspector.
17850 50x50
Emily Pilloton
Posted about 1 year ago
How can design-driven and vocational education improve our schools and communities? Join our live Q&A on Feb 5th at 3PM
We always begin a design project with a precedent study: in this case, students looked at pavilions that were open-air and in some way inspiring as architectural examples. They had to understand the building inside and out so that they could take away lessons that would inform their own design. For example: structure, circulation, ventilation, siting, vernacular material, etc.