Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Waitsfield, Vermont offers over 80 hands-on courses per year in design, construction, woodworking, and architectural craft and offers a variety of courses concentrating in sustainable design. Now in its 35th year, Yestermorrow is one of the only design/build schools in the country, teaching both design and construction skills. Our hands-on 1-day to 3-week workshops, certificate programs and semester programs are taught by top architects, builders, and craftspeople from across the country. For people of all ages and experience levels, from novice to professional.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Come On People Now...

In exchange for our time, skill and efforts, we interns can request to have a place in classes that relate to our personal pursuits. For three weeks starting in late January, I was in the core class for the Certificate in Sustainable Building and Design. This course pans out to be three separate, intense one-week classes that take the students through studies of Permaculture, Community Design, and Individual Building Design. “Intense”being the operative word. For each of the first two weeks, we found ourselves working in groups of four to complete a large culminating assignment that would be presented on Friday.

On top of learning the curriculum, we were challenged to form, storm, norm, and perform: a sweetly packaged way to illustrate the social dynamics that happen when strangers are asked to huddle up and accomplish a task together. We come from all sorts of backgrounds and stages in life, so it was no surprise that we had some storming happen every now and then. But, no matter what trials happened during the week, on Friday the presentations were well laid out, artfully delivered, and downright impressive.

I’m beginning to think that collaboration could be the beating heart of social change and one of the strengths woven into Yestermorrow’s teaching style. The more we get together, the more we gather our skills; the more we understand each other, the more common ground we find. We will be creating a culture of respect for each others' talents and knowledge, compassion for each others' struggles, and possibly the willingness to collaborate more often. A neat looped system that regenerates itself while enriching all entities involved. This is far from a prescription for world peace, by any means. But I think it’s a step in a positive direction.

Thinking globally, acting locally—this mindset has changed my daily interactions on a perception and attitude level. Instead of coming back to my intern duties with my head down ready to barrel into a solo project, I’ve kept an openness to some collective goals. By the close of my second day back on the job, I was able to work with my fellow interns on two somewhat daunting tasks of planning new space for the intern workbench with David and helping Jess organize the library. In reconnecting with them after three weeks of being in class,  I recognized that we were learning from each others' rhythms of work.

Challenging. Fulfilling. Motivating.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Small Spaces, Big Ideas...

Introducing The Tiny House! Built by former Yestermorrow student and wood shop intern Gillian Davis.

Gillian designed her tiny house at Yestermorrow's Home Design class and, over the course of 2011, built the structure using a variety of recycled and surplus materials. An experiment in creating an affordable yet comfortable space without being tied to a specific location, the tiny house is truly a home that can go anywhere.

Come check out Gillian's house in person or sign up for the Home Design Class or the Tiny House Design/Build Class to design and build your very own tiny house!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Semester Program Tiny House on inhabitat

We're delighted to see the fall 2011 Semester Program tiny house featured on inhabitat! Read the whole feature here.

Exciting Design Opportunity for all Designers!

This invitation just in from our Master Planning Core Team…
The Master Planning Core Team has authorized the formation of a Design Field Team. This volunteer group is needed to explore, articulate and demystify "design" as it is found at the Yestermorrow Design/Build School. The primary focus will be architecture and "built form" but all other areas of design and design theory may be entertained.

Projects and other design topics addressed will be selected from those brought by others or independently taken up by the Design Team from within. Findings will be updated continually on the Yestermorrow web site and also published through venues outside the school.


From its inception, the Yestermorrow School has been a different sort of design school - it is a design/build school. Smaller and more nimble, it can respond more quickly to developments and emerging trends in the design world. But in order to remain meaningful, the design curricula and the resulting buildings must be understandable to everyone connected with the school. This means students, faculty, staff, and even the occasional visitor should have access to an explanation of the design thinking behind the school's appearance.

There is currently a healthy spectrum of design being practiced at Yestermorrow, with different goals and priorities. To encourage synergies and allow them to coexist elegantly, they must be understandable. These are the two critical services the Design Team will bring to the school:

1. Design Conversation

2. Critical Dialogue

The Design Field Team's project specific reviews, or white papers, will address the following:

· Form and Aesthetics - Content

· Form and Aesthetics - Coherence

· Design Intention - Design and Process Principles (master plan)

· Program - definition and degree of success

· Feasibility and craft (buildability)

· Resource Efficiency

· Context - physical

· Context - cultural & historical

· Compliance - codes and other self-imposed rules

· Conclusions - Strengths

· Conclusions - Limitations

Considerations may be added or eliminated at the will of the team.

If you're interested...

The Design Field Team (aka: The Design Amigos) will meet regularly to discuss planned school projects and other design topics. The Team will not have authority to block or promote any project, rather it intends to become a respected voice in the broadest conversation possible about design.

Conventional and online meetings will take place no less than once a month to support ongoing discourse around various design initiatives. In the spirit of inclusion, a wiki will be created to give larger numbers access to the design conversations (i.e. Foswiki , Twiki, etc).

· Any and all members of the Yestermorrow community interested in working on the Design Field Team are urged to submit a written application.

· Due to the importance of written communication in this undertaking, there will be no personal interviews.

Selection will be blind and based entirely on the written applications. Download the application and send it via email to

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, but please send in your responses ASAP so that we can get this team rolling!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Skillsharing at Yestermorrow

"So, what do you guys do at night?"

Well, some nights we share. Skills that is.

Interns are organizing a weekly Skillshare, to keep our minds, bodies and hands learning, even after hours. It gives us a chance to share something we care about with each other, and connect with students and staff members over more than beer and drywall screws.

This week, our woodshop intern, Patrick Black, shared his Shaolin Kung Fu practice with an eager group of students and interns. We cleared out the main studio and practiced our horse stance, eagle claws, and snap kicks. Turns out, Kung Fu roughly translates to "hard work," and it certainly was! We worked up a sweat, followed with a beer and some clips from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.

Stay tuned for Kate's sweater crafting next week. It's sure to be a wild and cute-packed evening.

Moving from Woodlot to Woodshop

As the 2012 Woodworking Certificate Program enters its third week, students are honing in from forests to fine woodworking. The 11-week intensive course began with sawyer Nick Zandstra, who took students out into the woods on Yestermorrow's campus to analyze trees and the wood they produce, and eventually demonstrate felling and small-scale milling practices.

The class prepares to haul freshly-cut yellow birch logs back to the center of campus.

And those same yellow birch logs, after a pass through Nick's Wood Mizer mill.
From here, students move into the woodshop to learn the tactile essence of this green wood by shaping it into ladderback chairs.
Green wood being shaped into the leg of a ladderback chair.
And from there, they'll move on to cabinetry and boxmaking and other fine woodworking sections of the Woodworking Certificate--always sensing the journey their materials have made from forest to furniture. This deeply interdisciplinary learning environment, where students learn to connect broad forest ecology with detailed boxmaking, constitutes Yestermorrow's core.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Master Planning Update

We have been forging ahead with our master planning process over the past few months, and I want to give a quick update on where we are and where we’re headed.

First, we want to thank everyone who sent feedback in November in response to the design we presented at the faculty meeting and board meeting. The Core Team (made up of Kinny Perot, Robin Morris, John Connell, Gillian Davis, Kathy Meyer and myself) has met almost weekly since then to address some of the questions that were raised, to gather more data, and to meet with the Waitsfield Design Review Board. Getting their initial feedback helped us to understand the permit process and where we needed to focus our efforts going forward.

We certainly haven’t answered all the questions – this is an ongoing and iterative process – but we’ve made a lot of progress. Our goal right now is to get a zoning permit application together to submit to the town in April. To do that, we’ve hired experts to support us in additional surveying, CAD work, and storm water system design. Then next up will be additional design and permitting for wastewater and Act 250. While we certainly don’t want the whole process to be permit driven, we do know that we need to have these permits in place in order for us to start construction on any campus projects, and we are hoping to complete a small greenhouse project this summer. Additional planning and design work will continue through the spring, summer and fall as we get into a higher level of detail on many of the different aspects of the campus design.
In terms of phasing and priority, the first projects on our list are semester program classrooms and lodging, so that we can bring these new programs onto our campus. Also at the top of the list is replacing our intern housing. We’re hoping that many of these projects can be designed and built by students.

The focus of our work in 2012 will be to continue to iterate and develop our campus design, and lay the groundwork through permitting and strategic planning to start to raise funds to realize our long term vision for Yestermorrow.

For more information about our master plan and process, I encourage you to check out the blog we’ve created specifically for sharing notes and documents at, specifically created to keep the entire process transparent and inclusive. John Connell and I hosted a webinar on February 22nd to share the plans and answer questions from the Yestermorrow community. You can watch a recording of the presentation and Q&A online (it's just over an hour long).

As always, if you have questions about our master planning process and how we’re moving forward, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Kate Stephenson, Executive Director

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Core 77 Features Yestermorrow

We were psyched to see a great post on the Core77 blog last week about Yestermorrow and our alternative approach to design education.

Check it out at