Aug '08 - Jun '10
What would you teach about architecture if you had one hour with a cafeteria full of middle school kids?
This is the question I've been asking myself for over a month, ever since my sister, who is an art teacher at a Catholic school, suggested that I come teach her class while in Denver over Thanksgiving. I had been looking forward to the opportunity, yet was unsure of what to teach, and more importantly, what exactly to have them do.
I think the only way to learn architecture is through your hands. But I absolutely didn't want to get them building boxes with depressing windows punched out of them. So how to get kids to use their imagination, to make something they've never seen before?
I showed them Dubai. And China. And Koolhaas. And Gaudi. They loved it. I also have a tablet computer so I was drawing on the screen as I talked, and they went absolutely crazy. They were asking non stop questions: "What's your favorite building? Oh, and my grandpa's an architect!" or "Why does that building have diamonds?" Thanks Rem for getting the kids excited.
And then, I turned it over to them. I asked, What do you want in your city of the future? My wife wrote down their answers on a dry erase board: a pool of jello, floating buildings, no gravity, buildings with wheels, buildings with an entire city inside, buildings with slides, buildings on escalators--you get the idea.
They formed teams of 4 or 5, and got to work. We went from table to table, feeding off their energy, showing them techniques for cutting the cardboard, handing out little orange people that I cut out here in Berkeley. I was just floored by how much they could produce in one hour. Kids are incredible. Later I wondered, what happens to all that raw imagination? I hope I still have mine.
When time ran out, they stood up to present their buildings. There were some great ideas, mostly to do with sliding in and out of windows, landing in hot tubs or an olympic torch. One group had rock climbing walls for facades, and a catapult to launch handicapped people to the top (yes, I laser cut handicapped people as well as horses and an occasional camel). Another group made an asylum with egg carton pods for elevators. Lots of hotels, houses, even a floating castle.
At the end of the presentations, I took questions about anything--of course they wanted to know which building was my favorite. Well I do have a favorite, you can probably tell by the photos. Of course I couldn't tell the kids. They wanted to know how many buildings I had designed. I told them about 20, which is probably close to accurate between school and work, though I added that none of them were built. This confused the hell out of them. So I got the question "How do you make money?" oops... well, architects don't. And they have to be really, really patient. That was probably more than they needed to know.
Kids are awesome, what else can I say? I hope even Koolhaas would be proud.