Seth Watchtel

Using Development to Enhance the World

Seth Wachtel, Chair of the Department of Art + Architecture, is passionate about community design and helping students gain skills and experience that can be used to enhance the world. Seth’s work focuses on using locally sourced materials and working with local communities to utilize the skills they already have to make their communities stronger.

He explained, "What I'm trying to do at USF is get students engaged with real hands-on projects that build professional skills for the fields that they're pursuing, while at the same time building a strong desire and belief in helping undeserved communities." An education at USF extends beyond the campus.  Students have the opportunity to work with Wachtel on projects that span the globe, including India, Colombia, Haiti, Israel, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Tanzania, Zambia, and the San Francisco Bay Area. One of his current projects in Nepal is designing and building tea and coffee-bean processing factories in partnership with a local NGO that will help rural subsistence farmers find ways to produce cash crops. Wachtel explained, "These farmers have had no history of income at all and now for the first time they have an income and their kids can go to school."

He passes onto USF students his philosophy that development can be used to enhance the world, teaching them that there are ways to build projects that help communities live better, without degrading their environment or lessening the cultural heritage of a place. Eric Douville ’10, a past student of Wachtel’s, detailed, “Instead of focusing on creating more ‘paper architecture,’ Seth aptly takes more polished students at the end of their four years to apply what they know around the globe, while teaching students the most applicable skills I learned in all my architectural education – project process, understanding client needs, surrounding cultural and built context, and appropriate design development.”  He continued, “While most programs teach students to match designs seen in magazines, Seth’s profound vision taught students to improve lives and the world around us.”