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August 5, 2020
by Catherine Teegarden
Students practiced rendering shade and shadow using the ancient Ad-Deir complex in Petra, Jordan, which they “visited” via Google Maps. Image: Center for Architecture.
Students in this studio for 3rd – 5th graders crafted their own model trees from branches gathered at home, then designed and built their own unique structures to inhabit them. Photo: Center for Architecture.
Students learned about designing exhibitions and museums, then created their own museums on topics they were interested in, such as this Soccer Museum. Photo: Center for Architecture.
Working in SketchUp, students in grades 6-8 created their own rural escapes in this digital design studio on tiny houses. Image: Center for Architecture.
A proud designer presents her art museum at the culmination of a week-long program on museum design for 3rd – 5th grade students. Photo: Center for Architecture.
High school students learned freehand drawing techniques as they sketched sites around the world, such as the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, using Google maps. Image: Center for Architecture.
Middle school students designed cities on and in the water during a digital design studio on aqua-tecture. Image: Center for Architecture.
In our two-week high school intensive, students learned how to create scaled architectural drawings and models as they worked through their studio project for a branch library in Harlem. Photo: Center for Architecture.

The Center’s Education Department is testing new waters this summer with a full slate of online, weeklong design classes for students entering grades 3-12. As the reality of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions became clear in May, Education staff made the decision to move all Summer Programs—thirty design studios that typically turn the quieter summer months at the Center into a hive of activity—to a virtual format. With reduced class sizes and customized program kits mailed directly to participants, we hoped to be able to recreate the buzz of discovery, creativity, and accomplishment that has been a hallmark of our in-person programs.

At this halfway point in the summer, we are pleased to report that it has worked! Lesson plans were retooled to take advantage of online resources, projects were revised to provide engaging but safe hands-on building opportunities for kids at home (i.e. no X-acto knives or hot glue guns!), and field trips were replaced by interactive virtual tours and visits from guest speakers. While there was a significant turnover in registrants, many of whom originally enrolled in February or March expecting the usual in-person programs, many new students took their places. The Center for Architecture expects to have about 350 students participating this summer, including 33 scholarship recipients. We are very grateful to the donors to the organization’s Annual Education Fund and supporters of our Guess-A-Sketch fundraiser, which help provide these need-based scholarships, as well as to the New York Building Foundation for a 2020 grant for our high school programs.

Center for Architecture Educators are leading classes over RingCentral from their own apartments, reaching students as far away as California, Florida, Canada, Sweden, and South Africa, as well as many local kids joining in from home. Educators have been amazed at the students’ level of engagement, their effort and dedication to their projects, and what they have been able to accomplish in this new, distance-learning format.

Each program explores a different topic in architecture and centers around the students’ own design projects on that theme. Students share their work with parents and guests at a final presentation on Friday afternoons. A two-week intensive for high school students mirrors the college studio experience, with desk crits, precedent studies, and an in-depth studio project culminating in a more formal project review at the end of the program.

The Center for Architecture would like to thank the many design professionals who have shared their work and design thinking strategies with our budding designers through virtual visits thus far: Asli Oney, Digital Fabrication Manager at KPF for our Skyscrapers class for 6-8 graders; Daniel Ash, architect from Nelson Treehouse for our Treehouse Design classes for elementary and middle schoolers; Karen Kubey, urbanist and housing expert for our Housing the Future class for high school students; Jonathan Tyler and Joseph Fulco, architects at Gensler for our Store Design classes for high school and middle school students; architect Venesa Alicea Chuqui for our Architectural Design Studio high school intensive; and architects Sara Caples and Everardo Jefferson of Caples Jefferson Architects for our Museum Design class for 3-5 graders. If you have expertise and project examples that you’d like to share with any of our upcoming programs, please let us know!

Spots still remain in a couple of programs in late August: Fairytale Architecture (Grades 3-5), August 17-21 and Digital Design: Bridges (Grades 9-12), August 24-28.

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