Richmond, VA


Baskervill Gives Back: Inspiring Students through Design Exploration

By laurenlicklider
Nov 12, '13 4:06 PM EST

At the start of every year, a group of high school students flock to the Baskervill office, don their thinking caps, and become designers.

Sheena Mayfield, Assoc. AIA, is a project designer at Baskervill. She's also the lead organizer for Baskervill's Explorer Program, a community outreach program that educates high school students on the design industry.

Called "Introduction to Design," the program offers students an opportunity to learn about the industry directly from architect and design professionals through a series of lectures, hands-on activities, and community site visits. Baskervill began the program 11 years ago with Principal Mark Larson, AIA, as a strong advocate for community outreach and student education.

Sheena, who is going into her third year as the program's leader, makes sure students are exposed to learning a mix of design fundamentals, such as spatiality, light and shadow, color theory, and conceptual design, as well as real-world design applications for real-world clients.

Last year, Sheena taught Baskervill Explorers the value of understanding a client's brand and needs during the design process. To illustrate her point, Sheena invented several organizations in need of a brand refresh and facility renovation. With the help of Baskervill interior designers Arielle Cummins and Matthew Marsili, students designed a new logo for their chosen company and outfitted their space with finishes from our design library, full of finishes like wallpaper, paint, flooring, and fabric samples.

Since the students were able to touch and visualize design options for their client's space, they became more engaged in the project.

"It's always exciting when students learn about new tools and methods they can use to convey their ideas to others," she said. "It's like releasing their imaginations from behind closed doors."

Another way Sheena offers hands-on experiences is through community site visits. She enjoys taking the Explorers to recently completed projects in the Richmond area, as it provides a way to discuss how design is actually implemented, including the communication that takes place between a contractor and architect.

Two years ago, she took students to the Greater Richmond Aquatics Partnership, a Baskervill project and central Virginia's first elite training and competition aquatics center, where the project's contractor, Hourigan Construction gave a tour. Sheena, along with Baskervill project manager Jay Woodburn, were able to share with the Explorers why certain design decisions were made, such as the use of a translucent Kalwall panel to reduce the sun's glare on the pool's water, making it easier for the swimmers to practice and compete.

"I try to impart the idea that design is everywhere," she said. "I want the students to use design thinking to solve problems in the world around them from many perspectives, not just the most obvious. To think about design more holistically, not as an after-the-fact application, but as an integral part of how they can shape their world."

Last year students also visited Karn Custom Woodwork, which crafted some of the cabinets used in VCU's Academic Learning Commons, which the students had visited a few weeks before with Baskervill project manager Lisa McWhirt and project designer Ian McAteer.

"My goal was to show them the different scales of design. From urban planning and big 'A' architecture, down to the knob on a cabinet."

The Explorer Program has proven successful, she said, as several of Baskervill Explorers have gone on to pursue design-focused degrees in college. And for those students that don't choose a design degree, it still equips them with valuable skills for any future career.

"The program is a great place for the students to figure out if a design profession is the right fit for them. But even if they choose a different path that isn't traditionally design, like engineering or computer science, it can be empowering to know their decisions can shape people's interactions with the world around them."

Baskervill will host the Explorer Program Open House on Monday, December 9, at 6 pm. For more information about the 2014 Baskervill Explorer Program, click here.

Read more about Baskervill's community involvement in Baskervill Gives Back, Part I and Baskervill Gives Back, Part II.