Creative, curious and conscious citizens for the future

Little Architect-016-Betty Layward

Little Architect Project in Betty Layward School. Hackney.

To create good architecture there are two necessary ingredients: good architects and good clients. Our mission or responsibility as architects is not just to design or to teach others to be architects, it is also to bring architecture to society and to create an awareness about architecture with the people who use it. This is why, in a similar way to how the AA Public Programme makes architectural education accessible to adults, we ( at the AA Visiting School) have decided to start teaching architecture to children. 

Little Architect, is a move towards an aim of raising committed citizens with knowledge about contemporary architecture and an appreciation for design, which, in turn, will naturally generate more good clients for the future. When the magnificent opportunity of designing a new project comes along for any architect, having an interested, engaged and knowledgable client means that the discussion would be egalitarian and productive. By making architecture accessible to clients to make them interested and informed, the terrain for making architecture will no longer be a battlefield but a place for negotiation, agreement, understanding and especially a place for making dreams a reality. If we could just have a generation of children who were educated in contemporary architecture, it suddenly would be really easy to find support for campaigns such as the one led by the Twentieth Century Society and Richard Rogers to save Robin Hood Gardens from demolition.

Another powerful reason to push for this programme to grow is because even today children´s literacy, toys and many movies are sending them the wrong message regarding the ideal house. For most of our children, in an overpopulated urban environment like London, it will be nearly impossible to afford a “lovely house with a garden and a garage,” which is hardly even a reasonable sustainable model to foster. We have to change their expectations or at least give them other valuable options. It is serious stuff! If we don’t improve the way architecture is being perceived by children today, and if we don’t talk to them positively about vertical architecture, communal areas and communities, shared spaces, etc, we are betraying them by setting them up for a future of disappointment and unfulfilled dreams.

Little architect 015-Kate DaviesThis is why as an architect with my fair share of grey hair already, I decided to start teaching children to admire, enjoy and embrace contemporary architecture, utopian projects, new materials and shapes although always with an eye towards our cities’ heritage. They need to learn about the tangible and the intangible, the built environment and the beautiful net of human relationships and interactions – which are all equally important to creating good design.

Architecture will not develop itself further, if clients tend to fear any deviations from the norm as well as the architects who propose to do so. 

I’ve largely designed buildings during my career, but my expertise lies in urbanism. For this reason I know how important it is to have good politicians to plan the future of our cities. Educating children about architecture is not only about creating good clients, it is also about informing the next generation of decision-makers. Some of our kids today will be the politicians and public servants of tomorrow, and our future cities will need them to have a certain amount of knowledge or at least curiosity for contemporary architecture. We need sensible urbanism and sustainable actions, and the seeds for all of this needs to be sown in schools. Primary and secondary school education is an experience nearly all of us share. Primary Education is the most relevant of all the educational stages since it is the one which shapes our society, whereas subsequent education shapes professionals.

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Childhood is the moment where our bodies and minds are thirsty for novelty, our curiosity is intact and our creativity is immense. This is when we need to learn that architecture is an art with infinite capabilities and that we have to learn to enjoy place – our towns and cities, as much as we love our countryside. Clients, consumers and users should admire the future and the present, not just the past! The past had glorious moments but the future is ours.

The mission of Little Architect is to instil this feeling of ownership and responsibility for our built environment in children from a young age, because we need more creative, curious and conscious citizens for the future. Little Architect is a form of architectural outreach on behalf of the AA, and my humble contribution to a more committed and critical future for London’s built environment and society.

Dolores Victoria Ruiz Garrido-May 2016

Video St Clement Danes Final Assembly.

School closing assembly of a whole school wonderful project! 

St. Clements Danes Primary School, in Drury Lane, opted to have every class year, from year 1 to Year 6 inclusive, participate in Little Architect workshops. As such, we were afforded the unique opportunity to present our work and ourselves to the entire school, in a tailor made assembly presentation. We showed all the varied work, which we would be doing throughout the different years of the school, and also introduced them to some of the main concepts which drives our work with students. While we were able to start the project at St. Clements Danes with a workshop, we were also lucky in that we were able to also conclude it with a school wide assembly.

In this closing assembly, watch the video below! we showed the work produced by the different classes, and even brought some of the classes together to demonstrate their work alongside their younger and older piers. For example, year six was asked to present a series of plays, which they had written to compliment a series of drawings of the future, which they had made, alongside drawings of the past and present, which other years had made. The theatre itself had been made by us, Little Architect, prior to the beginning of the project, and was left with the school as a present to further use. Similarly, the work of year five was brought together in a large collage, which we also presented in the assembly. Again, we felt that this is an important aspect of creative design and thinking, as students to see a very large and, in our opinion very beautiful piece of work, which came from their own work, in a relatively short period of time. We concluded the assembly by asking what students felt they had learned about architecture and the city. The full potential of running such an extensive workshop really became apparent in this final assembly as students asked question and commented about not only their own work, but also the work of other years. It was a terrific experience! Thanks St Clements and specially  CAPCO ( Capital and Counties) for funding all the lessons and the following exhibition at the Building Centre.

Post Disaster Architecture (for an imaginary new Big Fire of London)

The Great Fire of London. 1666

POP UP CARDS
Eaton House Primary School, 12 May 2015

Director&Tutor: Dolores Victoria Ruiz Garrido

Contributor:Eva Ibañez Fuertes ( AA Intermediate 12 student)

Year 2 School Coordinator: Annabelle McWhirterIMG_0924

Session Summary: During the morning and afternoon of May the 12th, 2015, Little Architect taught three Year 2 Class at the Eaton House Primary School. Each of these classes included  30 minutes dedicated to a keynote presentation, and one hour dedicated to students drawing and presenting their work to one another. The presentation allowed us to engage in a relaxed conversation with our six years old students, while also giving them the opportunity to see and discuss concepts, which would not normally be introduced into their curriculum.

Our presentation referred to the Great Fire of London, and our task, was to imagine a temporary city or camp in the case of a future fire. In order to create their own future projects, we gave them A1 cards in the shape of a folder where we had previously glued a landscape with engravings and maps from London in 1666. We asked them to imagine this future city in 2050; at around the time they will be 40. We felt that this would encourage the students to think of themselves as the citizens who will help create the future city! 

We made sure that each student had a chance to have a personal conversation with one or more of the Little Architect tutors. We also made sure to include both individual and group work and finally in everything that we did, we aimed to foster creative thinking. Their POP UP Cards are amazing! We gathered all kind of portable and temporary architecture. We loved all their designs and the way they put them together.

Below you will find a more detailed summary of how this happened.

1-Historical links: We prepared some slides with carefully chosen engravings. We showed them London during The Great Fire of 1666. We placed special emphasis on the changes that this catastrophe caused in the lives of ordinary Londoners, not only in its consequences of the built environment. We chose one particular engraving where the children could see “homeless” Londoners after The Great Fire. This is important to us as we aim get them thinking about architecture and its inhabitants at the same time. We also showed them a map dating from just after the fire showing the extent of the damage and in this way the students also learned about the scale of the fire.

 Fire-Day3-13002-Architectural links: In order to help them in imagining their future city we showed them examples of contemporary architecture and architecture post disaster, including some utopian projects of the 1960’s, such as Archigram’s “Walking City”. We also showed several examples of recent temporary camps in Syria and in the US after Katrina Hurricane. In all these examples we focused on temporary and mobile architecture.

 new_orleans_pink_houses_graftlab010408_megan_grant_1GREE_living pod-1-1965 3-Science links: After an earlier conversation with the class teacher, we decided to emphasize different materials in architecture: from plastic and inflatable structures to fabric and glass. They learned about prefabrication, portable structures, light metal, wood, etc. This was done in order to prepare them for the final phase of the activity: the design and drawing of their temporary camp for an imaginary fire in London again.

air stream american 40´s colourscapelarge4-Engaging with children culture: In our presentations for KS1, we normally include some cartoons, to make links with movies that they are familiar with. On this occasion we chose: Howl’s moving Castle and Sandy’s House from Sponge Bob Square pants. We showed them several examples of simple structures such as Igloos to Tipis, as a way to give them ideas of how they can design a temporary house. We also used several slides from David Jenkins new book for kids, “An Igloo on the moon.” Finally we showed Buckminster Fuller’s dome and Drop city, both of which were very popular.

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 The_Treedome5-Individual versus group. During the drawing and presentation segment, the children were divided in small groups of four. To begin with they worked individually, we encouraged them to discuss their ideas with one another debates and before they started their designs. Once they had finished their individual drawings, they cut out their designs. At this stage, we asked them to work in groups and they had to decide how to glue their designs on the card given. In this section of the workshop, conversation and decision-making is crucial as we foster agreements about the position that each drawing (building) should occupy. At that moment we say that we are mimicking what architects, politicians and other urban agents do in real life. We explain that the city is made out of agreements and lot of conversations between different professionals about its future. Is important when we point out real mechanisms of urban development to include children in the process and empower them in the decisions making. They have to know, that even being children they have the rights and the power to complain about or praise anything in their urban environment.  LITTLE ARCHITECT-EATON HOUSE 14 LITTLE ARCHITECT-EATON HOUSE 156-Creative thinking. Last but not least, in our conversations with the children, we foster creative thinking and we encourage utopian ideas. We don’t care about the feasibility of their proposals, or, for that matter, about size, material or, of course, the costs. They are free to design whatever proposal they want because we say that everything is possible, maybe not in the present, but it will be possible in the future when some of them (our pupils) would have developed the technology. The idea is to transmit very clearly that they will change and improve the city because they will be the professionals of tomorrow.LITTLE ARCHITECT-EATON HOUSE 32 IMG_0921

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