Teen Designers

Among the many summer programs at the Cooper Hewitt is DesignPrep. Each week, Halima Johnson (our Youth Programs manager) guides a group through activities towards a deeper understanding of the way designers think and create. Topics include product design, interaction design, architecture and fashion.

I was excited be involved with architecture week….

Day 1 involved an introduction to architecture as problem solving and an activity based on a past exhibition piece by the Japanese Architect Sou Fujimoto. Groups were given one type of object and then collaborated to create an inspirational building. Next they integrate people into the structure and considered functional uses for the space.

This was a fun, interactive icebreaker considering many of these teens came on their own. I enjoyed listening to the conversations around the function of the building (eg. library) and how people could interact with the space. It sparked a series of “Yes, and…” exchanges which is important in the initial phases of the design process whereby ideas are freely expressed and accepted without judgement.

Day 2 began with architectural blueprints and terminology. Achieved through a series of collaborative Jenga challenges of increased complexity, this led to students creating an original structure with a set of architectural drawing.

Teens were also introduced to the design challenge for the week, “to design a structure for museum visitors to enhance their enjoyment of the garden.”  After exploring the space, a group brainstorm identified a number of opportunities. In particular they noticed the lack of shade, a need for a multipurpose stage and potential for increased seating options. Groups then discussed ideas and began sketching initial prototypes.

The next day we visited the architectural firm, Workshop APD. Workshop APD have an extensive portfolio and the advice shared towards career options was insightful.

Day 4 it was time to start experimenting and creating! During this session Albert, an architect from PBDW Architects shared architectural diagrams and renderings of a school they are designing for students with learning differences. I appreciated the juxtaposition of this project compared to the expensive apartments and beautiful Hampton houses from the previous day. Albert explained how various component of the school design were related to specific needs of the children going to the school.

Albert then spent some time with each group, critiquing and challenging various features of the initial prototypes. He encouraged groups to revisit the design brief and critically think about how the design was solving the various problems identified.

Groups finalised designs and presented on the final day. No doubt there were some future architects present.



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