CFAF Preps Eighth Graders for National Competition

Students from MAT worked in teams to construct scale models of “green” buildings. One group built a spiral apartment building with green roofs, wind turbines, and a rainwater collection system.

Maggie Yolen

Eighth graders from Manhattan Academy of Technology (MAT) are gearing up to compete in the National Engineers Week Future City Competition. The 19th annual competition fosters interests in math, science, and engineering by challenging students to design a “city of the future,” first through computer simulation using Sim City software, and then by constructing their designs in large, three-dimensional models. In addition to garnering invaluable computer skills, students are learning about sustainability. As preparation for the competition, Hau-yu Chu, an eighth-grade technology teacher at MAT, brought her class to the Center for Architecture Foundation (CFAF) for two Student Day programs: Neighborhood Design and Green Buildings.

First, students designed an “ideal” neighborhood. Considering different building types, community needs, and neighborhood density, students collaborated to build a livable neighborhood. Then, under the guidance of CFAF Director of Programs Catherine Teegarden, students explored methods of making buildings greener, including incorporating renewable energy and passive solar design features. Teegarden supplied the class with a student-friendly version of the LEED checklist to help guide their “green” model building.

One group of three students constructed a spiral apartment building complex with green roofs, wind turbines, and a rainwater collection system. “Oh, and it will be made of recycled materials,” one of the students added enthusiastically. Another group explained that their model was relying solely on solar energy to power the building. The roof of their glass building was covered with small trees and shrubs made from green tissue paper. “It’s hard to design a building that’s all sustainable when you’re trying to consider space too,” a team member remarked as he added a shrub to the roof. While determining whether bike racks were in proportion to her building, one student described how the gym on the first floor would use treadmills to power a portion of the building’s electricity.

After completing the scale models and giving an oral presentation to their school, Chu will choose three students to represent MAT in the national competition.

Student Days are hands-on workshops exploring architecture and design, offered for K-12 classes at the Center for Architecture, Monday-Friday. To schedule a Student Day, visit and fill out a Student Day Request form or contact Catherine Teegarden at 212.358.6135 for more information.

Middle School Students Sketch Their Way Up to Becoming Pros


A student in the CFAF after-school Digital Design Studio works on his 3-D personal shelter using Google SketchUp.

Maggie Yolen

Three-dimensional modeling computer programs are no longer for those with degrees in architecture and engineering. In fact, you don’t even need a high school degree. Thanks to Google SketchUp, middle school students at the Center for Architecture Foundation (CFAF) are designing 3-D models from the ground up.

11.17.10 marked the close of CFAF’s after-school fall Digital Design Studio. The studio, which met every Wednesday for seven weeks, offered students in grades six through eight the opportunity to learn the particulars of the computer program. Architect and CFAF Design Educator Carol Gretter taught the studio in the Center for Architecture’s Ibex Computer Lab giving the students a seemingly simple assignment: design a personal shelter.

On the first day of class, Gretter asked students to draw a picture of three things that they love most. Then, she encouraged students to incorporate these passions into their 3-D designs. One seventh grader — a self-proclaimed car fanatic — designed garages for the rare cars he hopes to one day own. Other students integrated their interests in skateboarding, cooking, and gymnastics into their structures. By the last class, students were navigating through the program with ease and even discussed upgrading to Google SketchUp Pro. When asked if he would continue using SketchUp, one student replied, “Yes, a lot. I might even teach my friends how to use it.”

The after-school program attracted students from the West Village to Westchester, and will be offered again as part of CFAF’s spring break program. Architecture Inside-Out, a class for third- through fifth-graders, also will be offered this fall as an after-school studio. Visit for more details.

Building Connections

“Building Connections 2010,” the Center for Architecture Foundation’s (CFAF) 14th annual exhibition of K-12 student design work, opened on Thursday, 11.04.10 at the Center for Architecture, and runs through 03.12.2011. The exhibition highlights the work and talent of students who participated in CFAF’s architecture and design education programs during the 2009-10 school year. This year’s exhibition also illustrates CFAF’s design education methodology and highlights the benefits of design education.


(Left): Rick Bell, FAIA, AIANY Executive Director and ex-officio Board Member for the Foundation, takes in Junior High School 185’s project “Ancient Cities Along the Silk Road.” Seventh grade students and teachers participated in The Silk Road Project, an arts and education program established by Cellist Yo-Yo Ma and inspired by the historic trade route. The residency was taught by CFAF educators Jenny Lee and Ian Harris.

(Right): CFAF Board Member and former CFAF Design Educator Jerry Maltz, AIA, at the exhibition opening.

Maggie Yolen


(Left): The exhibition opening attracted nearly 100 visitors, including several former students who have taken part in the Foundation’s programs. The exhibition and graphic design was designed by Poulin and Morris Inc.

(Right): Emily Uss (right), a seventh grader at Bank Street School for Children, shows a friend her work. Uss participated in two programs at CFAF this past summer, including A Room of One’s Own, where students designed and built models of their “dream apartment.”

Maggie Yolen


(Left): Students from the NYCiSchool in SoHo display their project, “A Case for a Green Roof.” During this Learning By Design:NY (LBD:NY) residency, students took on the real-world challenge of designing a green roof for their school. NYCiSchool Teacher Susan Herzog worked with Design Educator Al Kurchin to develop lessons in which students first investigated the feasibility of a rooftop expansion, and, after becoming experts in the field, invited officials from the NYC Department of Education’s Division of School Facilities and Office of Sustainability to their final presentation where they “pitched” their ideas. (See OCULUS, Spring 2010, “Raising the (Old School) Roof.”)

(Right): The above photograph is an example of work produced by fifth graders at P.S. 73x in the Bronx through LBD:NY and the Bronx Museum of the Arts’ Culture and Competition After School Program. The program, modeled after AIANY Emerging New York Architects Committee’s (ENYA) 2010 international ideas competition, HB:BX, challenged students to design a cultural center at the location of the High Bridge aqueduct connecting the Bronx and Manhattan.

Maggie Yolen

Summer Design Studio Wrap Up


Students from A Room of One’s Own Studio showcase their finished models (left). A personal shelter designed by a student in the Digital Design Studio using Google SketchUp.

Maggie Yolen

Throughout the summer, the Center for Architecture Foundation’s Summer Studios offered NYC area youth the opportunity to learn about architecture and design. Drawing in new students, teachers, and volunteers every week, each Summer Studio approached architectural design in a different manner.

A Room of One’s Own Studio challenged middle school students to design their dream homes. These ranged from a three-level home in Seattle to a loft apartment in Martha’s Vineyard. For some students, the challenge was trying to squeeze a music room into the 1,000-square-foot limit; others considered the best placement for solar panels. Handmade bunk beds, spiral staircases, hammocks, and light fixtures were a few of the finishing touches that students detailed for their final presentations. Inspiration for the models came from visiting apartments throughout the week, arranged by openhousenewyork. Selected work from this studio will be on display in “Building Connections,” the Foundation’s annual exhibition of student work opening 11.04.10 at the Center for Architecture.

After becoming familiar with the history of bridges for the Bridges Studio, students in third through fifth grades explored Central Park and the Brooklyn Bridge. Equipped with sketchbooks and pencils, they documented how bridges work. Each day, students built a different type of bridge, taking turns testing each other’s models with weights. One student used 20 Chinese food containers to construct an arch bridge adorned with staircases made from recycled bottle corks. Another built a two-tiered bridge supported by corrugated paper columns — the bottom level would be for cars and the top for bikers and pedestrians. By week’s end the students could not only identify the differences between arch, cantilever, and draw bridges, they could build them.

The Intro to Digital Design Studio introduced students to Google SketchUp. Tasked with creating a personal shelter, they became pros with the software. One student designed a two-story tree house for her backyard, while another designed an underground retreat. Though it was difficult to pry students away from the program, the studio also included visits to the Meier Model Museum and the office of SHoP Architects.

Because of its success this summer, Intro to Digital Design will be offered as an after-school studio this fall for sixth through eighth graders, as will Architecture Inside-Out, a studio for third through fifth graders that investigates architecture through hands-on model-making, drawing, and discussion. Visit for more information, and contact to be added to the Foundation’s mailing list.