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Welcome to the Showcase of the SONYC CSS Virtual afterschool class. This special afterschool program took place over 12 weeks and included an introduction to several topics in the field of architecture with a focus on NYC structures. 

Here is a video of our Showcase presentation and below you will find more details about the course concepts and pictures of each student’s projects. 

In this class, our students were exposed to a broad spectrum of topics in architecture and then asked to apply the academic concepts to real world situations. Some of our discussion topics included building types, architectural styles, architectural drawings, construction methods, building materials and structural forces. Our main goal is to inspire kids to examine their built environment with a new set of eyes, to start recognizing some of the unique features that give buildings character and distinguish them from one another. 

With a basic understanding of design elements such as form, shape, balance, emphasis, pattern, rhythm, and proportion, the students can feel empowered with knowledge to explain why some buildings are more appealing to them than others and then can make their own world a better place, even if it is just rearranging the furniture in their own bedroom for now!

Our two main projects in Cycle 3 involved analyzing parts of a building and then communicating the designer’s main ideas with drawings and models, using recycled materials from around the house. 

For the first project we studied famous iconic buildings in New York City and for the second project we were the architects, designing our own building for a real site near Columbia Secondary. Both exercises demonstrate how architects use a creative design process to develop their original building design concept into schematic drawings and study models. We ask our participants to think critically in solving problems and use their creativity to express their ideas with words, sketches and eventually models.

For this cycle we had 3 amazing young designers in grades 6 & 7 participating; Indi, Mykala and Nina.  







Read below to see our students’ projects and to learn more about what they learned throughout the series. 

The concepts we focused on during the first half of the cycle Altamofen 20 Alpha Pharma cycles include: 

  • Types of Buildings 
  • Architectural Styles 
  • Scale vs. Proportion 
  • Special Details & Building Elements 
  • The Architect’s Role
  • Architectural Drawings  
  • Construction Methods & Building Materials 
  •  Structural Forces 
  • Ancient Greek Temples 
  • Iconic NYC Buildings

During this part of the series the students worked on a few mini projects and completed their first major project. 

Mini Activity 1 – Mix and Match Building Type (session 1)

Mini Activity 2Design a House Façade

For this project students were challenged to design a house facade with construction paper to represent one of the five styles discussed.  These 5 styles included: Victorian, Georgian, Greek Revival, Art Deco, and Modern. Label building parts.

Here is Mykala’s façade of a Victorian house. 









Mini Activity 2: Poster Design 

For this project students designed and created a poster advertising some of their favorite iconic NYC buildings.  

Here is Indi’s poster design. 












Mini Activity 4: Draw chosen iconic building elevation as a composition of shapes from a photograph of main facade. (session 4)

Mini Activity 5: Scale vs Proportion. Draw doorways in different scales. Using rulers to draw objects of the same dimensions in different sizes (session 4). 

Mini Activity 6: Find dimensions of building. Determine what scale the model should be. (session 4 & 5)            

Mini Activity 7: Architectural Drawings. Reading  Floor Plans (session 5).  

Mini Activity 8: Design & Build Team. Begin drawing floor plans and elevations on graph paper to scale 1/16” = 1’- 0” (session 6 & 7 & 8)

Mini Activity 9: Construction Methods. ?? (session 7)

Mini Activity 10: Building Materials. Surface Area worksheet. (session 8)

Mini Activity 11: Materials Presentation Boards for color, texture, pattern, quality (session 8)

Mini Activity 11: Special Features. Hand draw a unique detail from iconic building (session 9)

Mini Activity 12: Forces on Structures. Tension & Compression. Test materials. (session 10)

{add photos of bending sponge, marshmallows & toothpicks, craft sticks & fasteners}

Mini Activity 13: Project Presentations including write-up on each building (sessions 11, 12 & 13)

Main Project 1: Iconic NYC Buildings 

For the first main project of the series students each chose an iconic NYC landmark.  They researched the structure to learn more about the design, the architect and the history behind it.  Following their research phase they sketched the buildings, created 3D models of them and shared interesting information with the class about their chosen structure leading into a discussion of what makes buildings iconic. 


Indi’s Oculus Project

Indi chose the Oculus to focus on.  Below you can see her sketches (session 6), 3D model and screenshots from her presentation.  She shared many interesting facts with the class. Did you know that the building design is meant to resemble a dove flying out of a child’s hand? 





































Mykala’s Empire State Building Project 

Mykala chose the Empire State Building for her Iconic structure. Below you can see a sketch showing the setbacks where the floor plan changes, next to a picture of Mykala’s 3D model and a screenshot of her presentation.
During her presentation she shared some interesting things about this famous building such as the fact that it’s still the 43rd tallest building today even though it was built in 1931.


Nina’s Flatiron Project

Nina researched The Flatiron Building, one of New York’s most photographed buildings, which took on the shape of the triangular lot it was built on.

After presenting our iconic building projects we moved onto the second part of the class where we started working as the architects on our own major design project.

The concepts we covered in this part of the cycle include:

  • What does the community need? 
  • Building Codes – calculating buildable area 
  • Vacant Lot Housing 
  • The Design Process
  • Architectural Programs & Bubble Diagrams
  • Apartment Floor Plans
  • Building Elevations
  • Area vs. Volume
  • Outdoor Space: Rear & Roof Gardens

The students used what they learned about buildings to decide how to transform an empty lot near their school into a beautiful and useful building that benefits the community.

Mini Activity 14: Greek Temples & Classical Orders. Identify Greek Temple building elements worksheet. (session 14)

Mini Activity 15: Intro to Vacant Lot in local residential neighborhood. Zoning & Land Use Maps. Building Codes. Calculate Buildable Lot Area. Discuss housing shortage in the community and decide which specific group of people the building will house. Brainstorm & share ideas (session 15)

Mini Activity 16: Develop program. Explain the main idea for the building(s). Designate which areas are semi-public for all residents and which are for private apartment units. Consider uses for the rear yard and roof as well. (session 16)

Mini Activity 17: Draw building footprint (outline) on site plan to scale ¼” =1’- 0”. Draw bubble diagrams of one apartment unit showing connections between different spaces.  (session 17)

Mini Activity 18: Apartment Unit Floor Plan. Draw hard line layout of rooms on graph paper in ¼” = 1’- 0” scale. Show window and door openings in walls. Show furniture, bathroom fixtures, and kitchen cabinets & appliances. Label spaces. (session 18)

Mini Activity 19: Draw building front elevation to scale. Locate windows and doors. Add special details. Check composition for order, balance, unity, emphasis, hierarchy. Do the elements communicate your main idea? Color and label materials. (session 19)

Main Project 2: Vacant Lot Design Project

For the second main project of cycle 3, the students were asked to design a building for a vacant lot on W 122nd Street. They had to decide the best use to serve the community, create a program ( a list of required spaces to satisfy the needs of the occupants), determine generally how the building would function, and then design the interior layout of one unit in the building. Building site plan, floor plans, elevations were drawn to show how spaces relate to one another.  Each designer uses their own creative solutions to design the building they envision for the site.  

This is the real life vacant lot in Harlem they were asked to design a building for. We decided as a group that they would design apartment buildings as the students believe the community needs more housing.













The young designers developed a program of required spaces for the occupants, created bubble diagrams, and then designed our own site plans, floor plans of a single unit, and front building elevations.

Here are Indi’s sketches, floor plans and bubble diagrams.









In her own words: “I wanted to make an apartment that had child care on the bottom floor and apartments on the next levels. The building was going to be four stories tall and it was going to have a garden on the roof, for the community.”

And here are some of Mykala’s sketches for the apartment building.














Although we did not complete the model phase of the project, the designers learned a lot about developing their ideas with 2-dimensional drawings. The next step would be to transform the floor plans and elevations into 3-dimensional drawings and models.

Some closing words from Indi, our student ambassador: “We have definitely learned a lot about architecture and practiced using the design process during this cycle. I liked working on the iconic buildings in New York City because I got to take the time to read and learn about all these buildings. From that knowledge, it helped me when creating an apartment for the empty lot. The empty lot project had more freelance, so I had more power when working on it, which I liked.”