The school year might be winding down, but the Center for Architecture Foundation’s partnership with the Urban Assembly School of Design and Construction (UASDC) is in full swing. CFAF staff, volunteers, and Board Members served as jurors for the 9-11th-grade students’ final design reviews at the school in Hell’s Kitchen on 05.30.13. The next day, a select group of these students presented their semester-long projects at the Center for Architecture.
Eleventh graders’ work included a Tangram House, challenging students to design a house using only the seven shapes of the ancient Chinese tangram puzzle, while 10th grade students worked in teams to create a themed high school on a site adjacent to the High Line.
The following week UASDC held its annual fundraiser, Iron Designer Challenge, a design competition modeled on the popular Iron Chef competition. Held on the school’s rooftop, the event pits design teams of design professionals and UASDC students against one another to build a structure using a given set of materials. Like Iron Chef, a “secret ingredient” material is given to the teams two-thirds of the way through; and must be cleverly incorporated into their designs. Teams have a few meetings in advance of the event to plan their design, and then have three hours to build it on site before presenting to a jury which included architecture critic Paul Goldberger, Hon. AIA.
CFAF’s Learning By Design:NY residency at the UASDC, now in its ninth year, introduces 9-12 grade students to the fundamentals of architectural design through individual and group projects, building analysis, and presentations, and is taught by Design Educator Yves Roger.
I spoke with UASDC alumnus Ramses Gonzalez, a recent graduate of the University at Buffalo architecture program, who participated as a reviewer for the student presentations at the Center for Architecture.
Sarah Cloonan: How did it feel to review student work instead of presenting?
Ramses Gonzalez: It is a very different experience, and I really enjoyed it. I understand how nerve-racking critiques can be, so I tried to not be an overwhelming critic. I was able to use my knowledge and experience to help the students understand changes and improvements they could use in their projects, but also help them see what worked really well.
SC: Were there lessons learned while studying architecture at UASDC that transferred over to your experience at the college level? If so, can you describe one of these?
RA: I think the most important thing I learned at UASDC was model building. The architecture program at the University at Buffalo places great importance on model building. It was very helpful to have had a couple years of experience so that in college I knew what strategies worked well and what didn’t. For example, hand sketches and sketch models were very helpful ways to get a precise final model.
SC: How did your UASDC experience in architecture shape your academic – and now professional – pursuits?
RA: At UASDC I learned that the architecture profession requires a lot of passion, dedication, and time. I realized that I loved going to my design class every couple of times a week, and was one of few students who was always hard at work. UASDC helped me realize my passion for architecture and that I could achieve a lot if I dedicated myself. When I got to college, I did not back down from the challenge that was architecture studio because I knew architecture was what I wanted to pursue.
SC: What advice would you offer current students who are interested in continuing their design education?
RA: The best advice I can give is that you need to dedicate yourself to your work, and the amount of effort you put in is what you will get out of it. You have to make architecture your passion, and learn as much as possible in and outside the classroom. You have to be ready for the journey ahead because it is very challenging, but if you love what you do, you will persevere.
The Center for Architecture Foundation will honor Richard Kahan’s long-standing commitment to Urban Assembly as Founder and CEO at this year’s Heritage Ball in October.
Sarah Cloonan is the Center for Architecture Foundation’s Programs and Marketing Manager.