New Architect in the making!


Hi all,

I have a 12 year old son who for a while now, has a great fascination for architecture. He is a massive fan of related shows such as Grand designs and has met his idol George Clarke at one of the Grand designs live shows a few years ago. I would like to keep his interest going by getting some sort of software for him to play around with and create his own designs. He is quite the wiz kid with tech, although I'm sure he will need something not too difficult to use. If anyone could help with any ideas of what I can buy/subscribe (at a reasonable price) I would much appreciate it. Many thanks in advance! 

Sep 8, 17 1:30 pm

a pencil, a pen, a moleskine, Sketchup.

Sep 8, 17 1:32 pm
Non Sequitur

Get a variety of sketching mediums (charcoal, ink, pastel, etc) and look into life drawing classes to get the sketching skills started. 

Sketchup is a free to use 3D modeling software many offices use professional to design small to medium size projects. It's also easier to learn and use than a pencil sharpener.

Sep 8, 17 1:38 pm

Before he gets too committed to architecture as a career, I suggest a little reading about the realities of it.

Architect?? by Roger Lewis is a good start.

Sep 8, 17 1:38 pm

Thanks I will look that up!


Imo, sketching and physical models are better learning tools

Sep 8, 17 1:41 pm

Revit seems to be the bomb lately.

Sep 8, 17 1:44 pm

Was only joking. Get your kid some tools and building materials and let him build stuff and experiment constructing whatever with his own two hands. And expose him to architecture and design preferably 1:1, go see buildings old, new, under construction or while being demolished wherever you go, take detours in your own city and walk, walk, walk to really navigate your environment, without smart phone navigation, and give him time to soak it all up. Oh and go to the library as often as possible. And maybe look up architecture offices in your area and just walk in to see what's going on, what people are doing, the posters on the wall, the models being made or on show etc. Had some kids walking in at an office I worked and it was really fun trying to explain what we do to high school kids.


And for playful software, just to build stuff, what about Minecraft?


The SIMS? Or I'm just old... is that square? Literally.


He has been playing with Minecraft for quite a while now. However it's very basic and I think he has outgrown it creatively. He has even started to write computer code to add things to the game to try and get the designs he wants. But I may look into local architecture offices, I like that idea!


Minecraft has a lot of mods easily downloaded which take the game to the next level of reality, factory reloaded and techit are two good examples that get into fabrication of materials and solar panels, etc. Also, don't forget the other half of the equation and have him follow some contractors around. 10-12 Years of age is the perfect time to get him on job sites and show him the ropes. 13+ year old boys seem to think that they should get paid (I think they're right actually) to do work, but typically don't have any useful skills yet. If he learns some now, he can be earning $15/hr framing or apprenticing for elec/plmb/HVAC trades instead of minimum wage at McDonalds. Sketchup is also great, like others have mentioned, but I would warn you that while he'll need to hand sketch to receive architectural street cred, and to help him get a job, his artistic ability beyond using a pencil (oils, charcoal, etc) will be as useful as all those piano lessons so many of us received as a child.

won and done williams

Most software at this point would be hardly different than playing a video game. I would instead encourage you to expose him to good architecture. Visit cities. Ask him to observe more. Draw more. Prowling around the architecture section of your library or bookstore wouldn't hurt either.

Sep 8, 17 1:49 pm

Sketchup is probably a very good start. It's definitely great to encourage his interests. I know I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for my parents being supportive of my interests when I was about 9 years old. 

Perhaps you could also encourage him to undertake his own small project, like design a shelving unit, dresser or other piece of furniture for his room. He will learn how to think in a human scale, consider construction and fabrication methods and save you a trip to Ikea. You can hunt through used building supply stores like Re-store to save money.

I'd also suggest, especially in my case, be open to the fact he might take a different path in the direction of architecture. He doesn't have to be a licensed architect to really pursue his design related dreams as you'll see in some of the topics posted here.

Sep 8, 17 2:01 pm

His bedroom does need a revamp. I'm sure he will be up for the idea of getting creative and building things for his room. Thanks


Taking a shop class is a good idea to learn about making things and developing craftsmanship. That's what I did at age 13 and where I founded some of the best basic skills. 

Sep 8, 17 2:11 pm
null pointer

1. I second the Roger Lewis book. Geezereffect, great suggestion.

2. Steer him towards Blender. It's a free 3d program. Get him interested in game level design. Going to architecture school with 3D modeling skills means you can slack off and ride on the coat-tails of your graphic productions. That's a huge leg up, especially for a motivated kid.

Sep 8, 17 2:22 pm

If you're near a college with an architecture program, look and see if any have an architecture summer camp program.  He may be a little young yet, but once he gets to high school, he'll probably be eligible.  The camps I've seen are typically a week long and it's a mini studio where they give the kids a few simple design prompts (like a chair or bus stop) and let them observe, sketch out ideas, make models, and have a critique.  It's laid back, but they get to see the process of design at a very basic level.

Sep 8, 17 3:57 pm
Make sure you're both aware of the dismal pay before he gets too infatuated.
Sep 9, 17 10:38 am

That's the spirit!


hah, push him towards being a developer, that way he can have his cake and eat it too while ordering architects around!

Sir Apple Chrissy

my 9 year old picked-up sketchup a few years ago no problem.  she also is an ace at Minecraft and often reminds me she is a better architect than me and then I sit down and explain my daily battle with reality and she tells me I'm boring and goes back to making worlds in Minecraft.

Sketchup has a great warehouse of buildings on Google, so your kid can explore famous buildings, etc...


Sep 10, 17 5:17 pm

No need to get any software. The best architects I know (and the best in the world) rely on a good pen or pencil and sketchbook more than any software.

Get him some fine art and perspective drawing classes and some drawing tools he likes. 

You could also get him some model-making tools - balsa wood sheets and sticks, X-acto knife, straight edge, glue. 

For that matter I highly recommend Lego. 

Sep 10, 17 7:08 pm
Sir Apple Chrissy

legos or blocks in general (wood blocks) are good.  or model railroad props or Jenga and then change it up.  If you're kid is impatient though, the computer is probably better than tedious hand models and blocks.

Sep 10, 17 8:03 pm
I'm not a robot

forget software - learn hand drawing/art/craft skills and "making" skills.  He'll have many years ahead of him sitting in front of a computer to apply those skills. 

The other really important skill set he'll need is writing and speaking persuasively.

Sep 10, 17 8:37 pm

+++ Software is only a useful tool if you have real-world knowledge and experience. Focus on developing real skills such as drawing, woodwork, metalwork, etc. Those skills will serve him well regardless of what direction he takes.


Don't forget basic accounting and financial analysis.

Sir Apple Chrissy

Thats best done in a computer

null pointer

Bullshit on the software bashing. I eat hand-drafting old men for dinner. That's why they've all retired and li ve in Queens.


is Queens supposed to sound nice? I've yet to see a software analog for doing an upside-down perspective sketch in 5 minutes while sitting across from a client talking to them.

null pointer

You know what's more impressive? Beautiful 3D renderings being constantly shown to the client (without a marked increase in fees because your workflow/team is soooo tightly coordinated)... #shityoulearnfromSOM #shityoulearnfromZaha #

People who understand properties of materials, how things go together and why, sequence of operations, real-time problem solving, etc., feed CAD monkeys to pigeons.


null, is it really an either-or? why not both? I still get worried when principals and senior project managers ask for HQ renderings for internal design use - many of the most beautiful buildings in the world were designed through plans, elevations, details, and constructed sketches and perspectives before CG visualization was ever a thing.

Sir Apple Chrissy

or get a camera and go out and take photos of architecture.  Sketchinf is neat but sometimes just takes long to express a vision or describe a scene,so if youe kids is like mine computer  and camera

Sep 10, 17 9:38 pm
I second all of the above. Also, you ARE a great mom! Good on you for figuring this out :-) architecture is a fun and rewarding profession. I am a lot happier in my job than most folks I know.

A few additional things:
--if you do get sketchup, look for the free version. There's no need to get the paid version, although they sometimes kind of bury the free version on the site so pay attention.
--not sure where you are, but in my city (Chicago) there is an after school activities program called Afterschool Matters and one of the little courses they do is a little architecture for kids course. They do it at elementary level and the program looks really fun. You might see if there's something like that in your town -- it might even just be a "design workshop for kids" of some sort, offered on a Saturday--I've seen this kind of thing frequently at art museums, if you have one near you.
--relatedly, assuming you are already taking him around to see house museums / other building museums on the weekends -- talk to their programming director, they will sometimes hold little activities and public engagement events you could sign him up for.
--furthermore, don't just take him to fancy museum houses--if there are any house developments under construction near you, take him to see the model homes. My parents did that with me and you can always get a brochure with the house plans up front, and I would carry that through the houses with me, marking up things I liked or didn't like with a red pen brought specially for that purpose. It taught me how to read plans and relate them to 3D spaces, and also taught me what I liked and didn't like. If you only have house museums available near you, you can do the same thing by looking up the published plan and printing it out ahead of time, so he has something to look at and make notes on while he's there. Once he's looked at a few plans, you could take him to a house without one and see if he can test himself by drawing the plan himself as he walks through.
-- other good books for graphic learning and drawing are the Francis Ching books. Very easy to read and a great primer on architectural terms. There's also a few good Visual Dictionaried of architecture that will teach him to identify different fun parts of buildings -- kids always like it when you can turn things into a hunt / game of some kind. You could keep it in the car and he could cross off each term as he finds it "in the wild", like architectural bingo.
Sep 10, 17 10:06 pm

Thank you for the compliment! We live just outside London (UK). We have taken many trips to museums and looked at all the different kind of Architecture across the city (and there is a lot!). Although I have not taken plans out with us to compare (great idea!). Unfortunately there are not much in the way of clubs that encourage these kind of things, therefor I have taken it upon myself to show what is out there.


Thank you everyone for all your comments. It has always meant so much to me to give him the chance to explore this design world ever since he was 6 years old and told me he wanted to one day build me a house. We had a local cinema/ shopping complex built nearby and he insisted we visit regularly to see the progress of the build. I have always kept in mind that he may not keep to the idea of being an architect, however it is something that keeps coming up many times as an interest to him. I think I have a much better idea of how to help him understand more about the architecture world and get his creative juices flowing. Much appreciated!

Sep 11, 17 9:12 am

Are you guys kidding the OP? With all the posts about dismal pay and the crappy lifestyle associated with architecture, why are there such less posts about how unsustainable this business is, and especially after 10 years wherein the modes of design and production keep getting more and more automated.

To your son, Id advise that there are many more professions where the architectural skillset can be used to a greater benefit both for oneself and society. Do your research!

Sep 11, 17 2:11 pm
Not all of us feel that way same old. I earn good pay for challenging and varied work for good bosses and with good colleagues. My cousin is an architect in London and the financial picture looks still better over there due to lack of significant school debt. Not everyone sees the world the same way you do. I don't make as much as a doctor or a lawyer but I would hate their job. Meanwhile I'm still doing better than the vast majority of people in the USA, and planet-wide I'm downright absurdly wealthy. For someone whose grandparents were refugees, that's pretty damn good. There aren't that many other professions that pay as well for such easy (i.e. Not back-breaking) and interesting work. If the OP keeps her eyes open to the finances and guides her son accordingly I'm sure he'll be fine. I know you're just trying to make sure ppl make realistic decisions without rosy glasses, and that's admirable, but it would be equally misleading to say the profession universally sucks and everyone is miserable, and we hear a very vocal minority overly frequently on that subject I think. The OP is obviously a reasonable, thoughtful type, I'm sure she'd steer her son clear of any terrible financial decisions.
Sep 11, 17 2:55 pm

I am not talking of my personal life, in which I probably make a lot more money than a lot of my peers. That said, I don't have much of a personal life. However I am talking of most posts on the archinect forum, where the amount of bickering about the profession is way more than the positives. Just wondering why there are not that much bickering on this post.

won and done williams

sameold, when someone is 12, you encourage his or her interests whether they be in music, art, science, math, writing, etc. Can you imagine telling a 12-year-old not to study music because there is no future in it? Discussing the financial outlook of a profession is something you can save until he or she is looking to go to college.

Sep 11, 17 3:09 pm

This is correct, and I totally agree. My 6 year old is great at art and spatial visualization, and as a parent it is my duty to encourage what the kid is great at. However I'd also like to infuse some amount of realism in the kid when he is in high school.

won and done williams

I have a 7 and a 5-year-old and love how open their minds are to the world in general. They absorb everything. I'm not sure when "reality" kicks in, but I want to delay that as long as possible. :)

Sir Apple Chrissy

i think architecture is too slow for my 9 year old and think film would be better, lets talk finances,ha....which brings up stuff like stage design for theatre and even comics (like Julius Knipl although at 12 that might be a little heady).........get your kid a copy of Yes is More maybe? 

Sep 11, 17 8:28 pm

Stage design is a really interesting field, Es Devlin is doing some really great things, she was in one of the Netflix episodes about design (the Abstract: series with Bjarke)


Architecture isnt much like Grand Designs tbh which does spice it up a lot - its mostly dull CAD drawing and dealing with annoying consultants and crude contractors! I cant recommend it as a career personally unless he is very practical but also he needs to be artistic and a strong communicator/leader to get anywhere otherwise he may get stuck in a mundane position doing CAD all his life.

Has he considered film design / architectural visualisation / computer games design? At 12 I would be opening up his eyes to possibilities not encouraging him down a certain route just yet.

Architecture can be a good career but its a difficult one as well.

Sep 12, 17 5:01 am

Anyone can learn to fiddle around with softwares.  Get him interested in other areas.. Experience culture, science, arts, history, writing and everything that seems unrelated to architecture but will make him a better designer and critical thinker.

Sep 13, 17 7:41 am

as a high schooler, my folks encouraged me to build something in the house...i did a raised floor area with a couch...the back side had a bench...all decent (but not great) veneer plywood

it was pretty awful's still there and a sad reminder of my earnest but uneducated design decisions

Sep 13, 17 2:04 pm

burn it with fire?

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