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A Week-Long Journey into the World of Architecture with SEO Scholars NYC

What does the word “architecture” mean to you? That’s the question we posed to a group of bright rising 10th-grade scholars during the kick-off of our Introduction to Architecture program in collaboration with SEO Scholars NYC. Their answers were diverse, insightful and engaging.

This week-long program was part of the SEO Scholars Career Exploration Week taking place during the last week of their summer long academy, an initiative aimed at exposing young minds to various career paths. For us, it was a chance to inspire the architects of tomorrow and provide them with an immersive experience in the world of architecture. We also hoped to teach some important critical skills to all of the students and inspire them regardless of their interest in becoming a future architect.

The program took place at the Baruch College Campus located in Midtown Manhattan, which served as a great example of architecture both with the spaces within the college as well as all of the inspirational edifices located nearby and visible from the street and our classroom window.

A view of the interior of the Baruch College lobby showing a gray wall with large sign saying "baruch college"

Day 1: Building Foundations

On Day 1, we embarked on a journey to unravel the mysteries of architecture. We started with the basics, asking our scholars to ponder the essence of architecture. Is it about grand skyscrapers that touch the clouds? Is it cozy homes nestled in peaceful neighborhoods? Or perhaps it’s about the art of transforming imagination into tangible structures? During an icebreaker activity all participants shared what architecture meant to them in a few short words and the result can be seen in the image below. The scholars answers were incredibly insightful and enlightening.

A whiteboard with the word 'Architecture' in the center surrounded by the students answers to the question "What does architecture mean to you?"

Our aim on this first day was to lay the foundation for a week filled with exploration, creativity, and hands-on learning. We delved into introductory architecture principles, offering the scholars a glimpse into the multifaceted world of architectural design. They learned about some of the main principles involved in Architecture, what the design process of an architectural project involves as well as who the different players involved are, from architects to engineers and more.

But it wasn’t all theory and lectures. To truly understand the magic of architecture, we challenged the scholars to undertake a model-making adventure. They learned how to take a flat, 2D drawing and bring it to life in three dimensions. Scaling up a drawing to create a tangible structure was a challenge, but our scholars embraced it with enthusiasm and were soon having no issue making the calculations needed to convert the drawing using a scale. While many scholars were initially surprised or frustrated at the amount of math involved it paid off in the future of the program when they had no trouble converting their more complex drawings into models in days 2-4.

Two female students holding pencils and working together to complete the calculations to convert a 2D elevation drawing to a 3D model

Once everyone understood the 2D-3D concepts and had finished their mini house project the scholars were sorted into the groups they would work with for the rest of the week and given 4 client briefs to choose from. The overarching project of the week would involve the groups each designing and creating a model of a residential structure fitting the needs and requests of the specific client they chose. The briefs included information on the location of the residence, who would be residing within, what specific needs or wants the client had and a brief overview of the architecture in the surrounding area. These included a modest single family townhouse in Astoria, Queens, an eco-conscious house in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, a lavish vacation home on the north shore of Long Island and a large family home in Staten Island.

Day 2: Sketching Ideas & Adapting Designs to Fit a Client Brief

Day 2 of our Architecture class with SEO Scholars NYC was a deep dive into the art of sketching and architectural drawing. With newfound knowledge from Day 1, our scholars continued to work diligently on their main projects.

Two students leaning over a piece of sketch paper and a larger sheet of grid paper working to convert their rough draft sketches to a scale drawing on the graph paper using rulers and pencils

This was the day when their ideas began to take shape on paper. Armed with pencils, rulers, and a keen eye for detail, they transformed their imaginative concepts into bubble diagrams, sketches, and eventually scaled floor plans. It was awe-inspiring to witness these young minds breathing life into their architectural ideas and sketches.

This was also the first day that the groups worked with each other for the entire time. Most of the groups came from different SEO Scholars cohorts and this was one of the first times they were working with the other members of their group. This was done to reinforce cooperation and help further develop interpersonal skills that will serve them well in their academic and professional future. While the scholars faced a few challenges, an interview at the end of the program found some students remarking that the teamwork and working together was one of the most rewarding parts of their program experience.

3 students working on creating their scale drawing floor plan

By the end of the day the classroom began to resemble and share the energy of the studio found at an Architecture school. With sketches, tools and chipboard spread throughout the room and everyone working diligently and excitedly, there was an air of collaboration, creativity and just the right amount of chaos that reminded many of the visiting architects and architecture students of their time in a university studio.

Day 3: From Sketches to 3D

As Day 3 dawned, our scholars were making remarkable progress in turning their projects from mere sketches and designs into tangible 3D models. The houses they were designing started to take on real form and substance.

In addition to refining their designs, we organized a special Q&A panel featuring current architecture college students and recent graduates. This was a golden opportunity for our scholars to gain insights into the world of architecture education and what it’s truly like to study this field. Questions about the application process, academic challenges, and the daily life of an architecture student flowed freely, enriching our scholars’ understanding of their potential future.

3 college architecture students sitting in front of a projected image saying "Q&A Panel"

Day 4: Exploring Architecture as a Profession

Day 4 was all about exposing our scholars to the multifaceted world of professional architecture. Did you know that some architects literally rappel down the sides of towering skyscrapers hundreds of feet in the air as part of their work? Our scholars discovered this thrilling tidbit and much more during a special Q&A panel with seasoned professionals.

A visiting architect discussing her experience with a student

The panel featured insights from four seasoned architects who also worked closely with our scholars, offering invaluable advice and guidance on final design decisions and adding intricate details to their models. Our heartfelt thanks go out to Maya of Studio 2X and Leon, Maggie, and Lauren from H.L. Zimmerman Architects & Engineers for sharing their wisdom and passion for architecture. Read what H.L. Zimmermann A&E had to say about the program, here.

Visiting architect and one of the SEO scholars working side by side to sketch the floor plan for the student's project

Day 5: Finishing Work & Presentation

On the final day, our scholars added the finishing touches to their architectural masterpieces. It was a day filled with excitement and anticipation as the moment to present their designs to the group drew near.

3 Students standing behind their completed architectural model for a house in Greenpoint Brooklyn3 students stand next to their finished model for a home in Brooklyn

In a setting reminiscent of a real architecture school critique, our scholars shared their design process, discussed specific challenges they encountered, and revealed their favorite aspects of their creations. They were asked to justify their design decisions and elaborate on how their projects aligned with the client briefs they received on Day 1.

The energy in the room was palpable as ideas flowed freely, creativity soared, and the incredible journey of architecture education came full circle. This was a day of fun and celebration as the scholars celebrated a successful completion of not only the architecture class but also the summer academy as a whole. Following their presentation to our group, the rest of the SEO Scholars were able to visit and hear about what the different groups had worked on during that week. Other students had participated in coding or entrepreneurship programs.

This concludes our five-day exploration into the fascinating world of architecture with SEO Scholars NYC. The program ignited a spark of creativity and curiosity in these rising 10th-grade scholars, offering them a glimpse into the magic of design, the art of transformation, and the endless possibilities of architecture.

A group photo of the SEO Scholars including the archforkids educator team

To see more photos of the program, visit the Flickr album.