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Teen Design Challenge: Revisioning Sleepy Hollow’s Vacant Spaces

November 11 & 13, 2021 | Sleepy Hollow, NY

A Community-centered design workshop for teens in the Sleepy Hollow area. 

The Process

4 Sites, 11 Groups

In November 2021 we invited over 30 middle and high school students to reimagine real-life vacant spaces in the Village of Sleepy Hollow. Over the course of a 2-day design charrette the teens used the design process to brainstorm, sketch and create 3D models of their visions in groups with the help of an adult mentor working in the fields of architecture, engineering and city planning. At the end of the program each group presented their project. 

The groups were divided between 4 different real-life vacant spaces: Site A, Site B, Site C & Site D.

To view an interactive Google Earth of the sites, click here.

Step 1: Visiting the site

After the participants were divided into groups and assigned an adult mentor, they embarked on a mini field trip to visit their site and get a better idea of the space and the area around it.

Step 2: Brainstorming & Sketching 

Once they returned from their site visit, the young designers worked together to determine what type of space they wanted to design and to sketch their design.


Step 3: Building a 3D Model

When all team members agreed on the vision for the project, the students started to create 3D models of their design. They used materials such as recycled cardboard boxes, paper, found objects and more to demonstrate their vision for the vacant space.

Step 4: Presenting Designs to the Public

At the end of the program each group presented their project. They discussed the inspiration for their designs, what they envisioned, what challenged they faced in the design process and why they think their idea would benefit the community.

Check out our Youtube playlist, linked below, to see their presentations. 



Everyone has a right to participate in the improvement of their communities. Yet youth input in community decision making, design choices and problem solving has historically been minimal. Young people remain a vast and usually untapped resource for short- and long-term community development issues. Through this project, we hope to demonstrate the importance and impact of letting kids have their say. They provide new ideas and voices that can spark engagement, enthusiasm, and investment in community planning. As for the kids themselves, this experience will foster a strong sense of ownership, stewardship, and investment. It will help establish a vested interest in long-term participation and contribution to community life.

This charrette is designed to offer solutions to make the downtown more attractive, equitable and convenient – and to reclaim spaces for people. We are hopeful that this project will really influence future town planners and community leaders to implement their ideas as well as engage youth in future planning efforts.

Program Specifics

ArchForKids and local architect Kersten Harries lead teen participants in a 2-day design challenge. The teens reimagined real vacant spaces in the village of Sleepy Hollow and learned important lessons related to architecture, urban planning, and design thinking. The teens visited their chosen design site in person, brainstormed in groups to create a new purpose that would benefit the community and then followed the design process to sketch their ideas before bringing them to life in the form of 3D models which will be shared with the community in an exhibit displayed at the Warner Library on December 11 from 11 AM to 12:30 PM

Throughout the program teen participants worked closely with experts in the fields of architecture, urban planning and design. They interacted with likeminded peers and got to know adult leaders in their community. At the end of the design challenge teens presented their projects to peers, family, and the community. 


About Us


ArchForKids was established in 2013 by architects/educators Janny Gedeon and Karen Orloff and arts administrator Kathryn Slocum. It is a leading provider of design-related STEAM programming in Westchester and New York City. Through hands-on, minds-on
experiences grounded in architecture, design, engineering and urban planning, ArchForKids spurs young people to explore how the built world around them affects who they are and how they live. Children have a natural set of skills applicable to the design process: a curiosity about their surroundings, a willingness to take risks and an unending supply of questions. Project-based design education cultivates these skills. As
young designers create parks and dream houses, go on “I Spy” architecture walks and construct model skyscrapers and sustainable cities, they apply academic concepts to real world situations. In addition, they gain a deeper understanding – and appreciation – of their own communities and the wider world.

Kersten Harries

Kersten Harries brings knowledge and expertise as an architect, creative placemaker, and resident of downtown Sleepy Hollow. Since 2015, Kersten has been serving on the Village’s Planning Board, the Village’s Public Space Council and Comprehensive Plan Committee. Most recently, she envisioned and managed the Wishing Wall, a 520’ temporary community art mural, awarded ArtWestchester’s 2021 Community Award.

A teenage boy with brown hair in a blue tshirt leaning in towards a laptop screen displaying ArchForKids founder Janny Gedeon to listen to her virtual feedback on his vacant lot transformation project

Press Coverage

The Program was covered by local news outlet River Journal. Click here to read the article!


Thank You To ArtsWestchester

This project is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrants Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and administered by ArtsWestchester.

What is a charrette?

A charrette is an intense and short period of design activity. The term originated in the 19th c. from the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where it was used to describe the final concentrated work effort by art and architecture students. As applied to community design and planning, a charrette combines this creative, intense time compression with public workshops and open houses. It has become one of the most powerful and effective tools for creative and collaborative problem solving in communities.