ARCHITECTURE 101: Summer Architectural Design Studio


Students work on models of their designs (left); a high school student presents his final project.

Maggie Yolen

The Center for Architecture Foundation recently completed its first two-week Architectural Design Summer Studio program for high school students. The course was designed to give young people a taste of what architecture school might be like, to help them learn about what the practice of architecture entails, and to help them decide if they might enjoy the profession. According to one student, architecture is “more complicated than I imagined.”

The class was structured like a typical architecture school program with the major focus on the design studio, supplemented by scale drawing, model building and digital design, architectural history, and an introduction to professional practice. Thirteen students from as far away as Rockland County and Long Island participated, culminating in a final presentation at the Center on 07.09.10. Along the way, students visited the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at the Cooper Union, toured offices of Thomas Phifer and Partners and Frederic Schwartz Architects and the Storefront for Art and Architecture. Photos from the program can be viewed on Facebook.

Course instructor Eric Ratkowski had students begin by designing a household object that then became the focal element for their studio projects — a 400-square-foot gallery and artist residence. Students were challenged to think about the interaction of private and public spaces, and develop a design concept that could tie together their object, their understanding of the site, and their ideas about architecture. Then, they worked together to build a site model of the project site on West 3rd Street and 6th Avenue. In reflecting on the program, one student summed it up: “I have a better understanding of what architecture is all about and even if I don’t end up studying it, I can appreciate it more.”

If you know a young person who is interested in learning more about architecture, there are a few spaces left in the Summer Studio programs Waterfront Parks for middle school students (07.26-30.10) and Playground Design for elementary students (08.09-13.10). For more information, visit the Center for Architecture Foundation’s website: To join the mailing list for updates on future programs, e-mail