Box City and Future Architects

I have talked about the future of the profession in my recent articles, but what I haven’t addressed is; what are we doing to educate the younger generation about architecture and its impact on the environment?

A few years ago, I would have answered “probably nothing,” but that would have been my naïve self not considering the facts. Then, I joined The American Institute of Architects and realized there is this whole community that focuses on how architecture impacts the environment. Now, Fast forward to the last few months and being more involved in AIA on a local level, I have seen this education make a difference. Let me elaborate.

When I joined the board of directors, I didn’t want to just coexist, I wanted to be involved. I joined the Education Outreach Committee to work with elementary, middle and high school students to advocate what architecture should be and why they should want to join the profession if it’s something they are considering. Now, you may be thinking; how would a child know if he/she wants to be an architect? Why do kids say they want to be doctors, firemen, police officers, lawyers, etc.? Because they are educated about how important those types of professions are to the world, so why not architecture?

Architecture has a direct or indirect impact on almost everything including; infrastructure, the environment, physical and psychological feelings, sociology, capitol, among others. We can educate the younger generation about these impacts and secure a more healthy and prosperous future for our environment.

One way AIANH and the Education Outreach Committee helps shed light is through a workshop called Box City. What is Box City you ask? It’s a program in which single grades or schools work together to design and build a scale-model city from the ground up. The city is based around one important question; What makes a GOOD city? The students are asked this question, and then through a series of exercises, they start to understand what goes in to making a city and how they can improve their build environment. Once they get the concept of scale and the type of building they want to make, we talk about the impact that building will have on the environment and how they can improve that as well.

I witnessed this program first hand a couple months ago, and all I must say is…WOW! I mean that in a good way. We had 200 students from Parker Varney school, grades K Thru 2, participate in this program. Over a span of 8 weeks, the students learned about structure, scale, site design, building design, the environment, city infrastructure, bridges and the people that would inhabit their city. This was the biggest (and the youngest) group of students that participated in Box City and they had such a blast. We had volunteers from all walks of life help throughout the 8 weeks, and we could not have done it without them. So, Thank You! The image you see is of the finished product, and you can see more on Parker Varney’s Facebook page.

Now, this is on a small scale, but now that school will incorporate this program for years to come, impacting new students each year. Multiply that by 20 schools, and we could start creating little architects everywhere.The biggest take away that I got from this experience is that; no matter the age, you can make an impact on that person and therefore make a possible impact on the environment. So, what are you doing to try and make the environment more sustainable? How else can we make sure the architecture profession doesn’t dwindle to nothing? How do we create FUTURE architects?