Helping Boston high school students experience design careers
Our Boston office was proud to take part in Architecture Design and Thinking Day on March 23 when we hosted a group of local high school students and guidance counselors for a fun, activity-filled day that introduced them to life in a design office. A joint initiative between the Boston Society of Architects (BSA) Foundation and the Boston Private Industry Council (PIC), Architecture Design and Thinking Day sought to connect youth with workforce partners to provide opportunities for students to identify rewarding career paths.
Our hosting team consisted of one facilitator (me) and two chaperones, Marisa Nemcik and Jamie Graham. The three of us share a passion for educating youth in the architectural profession, and we were all excited to play key roles in the event. We began the day with donuts and icebreakers and then worked with the students through a series of events, including:
- An association game that allowed the students to identify and respond to a large range of architectural images from different eras, locations and styles. This activity initiated a lively exchange about how buildings and spaces make us feel and allowed our team to highlight various design elements that contribute to building form and function, and human experiences. The students offered fresh and challenging comments that demonstrated a keen faculty for observation.
- We then broke the students into two groups and had them tour our Boston office, making stops at themed stations for architectural design, structural engineering, lighting design, virtual reality and interior design. Different staff members from our team spoke with the students about our design and communication process, challenges and opportunities for an integrated A/E practice, and their personal passions. The students asked important and interesting questions throughout this activity.
- Following the office tour, we asked the students to design and build a model of their personal ideal working space. This exercise simulated a real project assignment for the students, beginning with self-assessment and data gathering and also highlighting program development, design ideation and the actual building of the model. The analytical part of the exercise, however, appeared to generate less excitement than the actual building process. Five minutes in to the design charrette, students were already cutting paper, fabric and felt while also resolving structural challenges related to gravity. While some students built a room, others took a large-scale approach to a building on a defined site, complete with vehicle and service amenities. At the conclusion of the charrette, the students presented their designs to a captive audience of at least half of architects and engineers. To our great delight, the students did not exhibit stage fright or shy away from live presentations but instead presented their ideas confidently and with great humor.
- The day concluded with one-on-one interviews with each guest, allowing them to get a sense of this vital part of their future professional lives. With students interested in a wide variety of AEC careers, all different members (architects, engineers, lighting designers, etc.) of our team took part in these interviews. Finally, when the last crumbs of lunch pizza had been consumed, we said goodbye to our guests, hopeful in a few years they’d be knocking on our door for real jobs in the profession.
From our team’s perspective, Architecture Design and Thinking Day proved a great success. The day proved exciting, rewarding and stimulating for everyone involved, and provided a great opportunity for our staff to interact with a motivated and determined group of young people. It proved to be one of those experiences that reminds you how much you love your job and career.
After the students left, we met as a group and also shared thoughts about how humbling the day was for our team. The level of maturity, determination, passion and articulateness of these young people from Boston’s inner-city schools served to underline for us our privilege and remind us all of the great challenges that need to be overcome as we aspire for greater diversity, equity and inclusiveness in our field and our firm.
Inga Leonova is a content author at CannonDesign. This article originally appeared on CannonDesign’s blog. CannonDesign is a CFE Media content partner.