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.
This 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.
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