Fifth-graders in a Learning By Design:NY after school program are studying their own Highbridge neighborhood in preparation for tackling the AIANY Emerging New York Architects (ENYA) Committee’s 2010 design challenge — re-envisioning an arts center on the historic High Bridge, based on the HB:BX Building Cultural Infrastructure competition. Through walking tours, site visits, and research around P.S. 73 in the Bronx, students have identified official landmarks in their community, such as Yankee Stadium, as well as personal, “unofficial” landmarks, such as Nelson Park. According to student Najae, neighbors gather together at Nelson Park for local basketball tournaments where crowds “oooh” and “ahhh.” After the games are over there is a big celebration and “no one gets mad at whoever loses.” The Bronx Museum of Art, the Andrew Freedman Home, Jason’s Bodega, and graffiti memorials are among the selected sites. Using historical facts, architectural information, and personal narrative, students are writing, recording, and publishing a cell phone audio tour to these neighborhood landmarks.
Having informed themselves about their community, students practiced their design skills by re-imagining an empty lot a few blocks from their school. How should this lot be used? What does the community need? Tammy has chosen to design a nail salon. Ki-ara and Tracy are designing a Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts headquarters. This exercise will be used as a reference point for the ENYA challenge.
These in-depth neighborhood studies will culminate in the students designing an arts center for the High Bridge. Following the basic guidelines professionals adhered to in the official ENYA ideas competition, P.S. 73 fifth-graders will re-envision the use of the historic High Bridge structure as cultural resource for the local community. Drawings and models created in the P.S. 73 after school program will be on display at the Bronx Museum of the Arts 06.03-06.10, alongside ideas from the High School for Art and Design and the High School of Math, Science and Engineering at the City College of New York. The student-created walking tour will also be available at the Bronx Museum, as well as at the ENYA competition exhibition at the Center for Architecture this fall.
More than a new lens to their community and a channel for civically minded creativity, the P.S. 73 after school program has shown students new possibilities for their lives. Najae now wants to be an architect. Among the many dreams she has for her future, she would like to “work at the Bronx Museum and share my knowledge so that kids can one day be an architect like me.”
The P.S. 73 after school program has been greatly enriched by the Foundation’s collaboration with ENYA. Special thanks to committee member Brandon Cook for volunteering his time and expertise.
Also, special thanks to the Bronx Museum of the Arts for helping enable the program to grow, as well as providing space in the museum to hang the show, featuring work by the High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College, and the High School for Art and Design, in addition to P.S. 73. The program was supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.
Finally, special thanks to Councilmember Helen Foster for her generosity.