July 25, 2016 / President's Letters

August 2016 President’s Letter – Planting Seeds for Our Future

Hope this finds you enjoying your summer and a much deserved vacation.  Time moves all too fast and before we know it, a new academic year will be upon us. With this in mind, I want to share with you some great things that several of your colleagues have been doing to invest in the future of our profession by introducing local elementary and middle school students to careers in Architecture and Design.
FAR & BioEYES – Our chapter’s FAR (Future Architects Resources) Committee was started in 2012 and inspired by Karen Lewand’s Neighborhood Discovery program as well as the BAF’s Kids in Design program. FAR’s initial classroom presentations to middle schoolers happened through the BioEYES program sponsored by the Carnegie Institution. The program brought volunteers to a host of Baltimore City schools as part of STEM-focused career days. These were effective in inspiring young people, but less so in providing follow-up for students interested in additional enrichment in Architecture and design activities. Arranging volunteers was also challenged by insufficient notice and late schedule changes, so FAR sought a better model for student outreach.
ASG & Beechfield Elementary School – At a FAR meeting in December of last year, Jim Wheeler and Churchill Banks of Ayers Saint Gross (ASG) gave a presentation about their firm’s relationship with  Beechfield Elementary School, which began 19 years ago as a corporate/school partnership. Over time it has evolved into a 5 week program that highlights multiple components of design (planning, architecture, landscape design, interiors & graphics) using a house design project. At the end of this, the approximately 24 students visit ASG’s offices and present their work to members of the staff. Recognizing several needs, ASG also helped raise money for school supplies and other items through holiday drives. They shared lessons learned over the years towards inspiring other firms to consider similar partnerships through FAR.
Adopt-A-School – Inspired by ASG’s example, FAR began this program which links one adopting architectural firm with a willing middle or elementary school, with the goal of establishing a long-term partnership customized by the two participants. The hope is that this achieves a variety of benefits including:   1) Empowering students to effect change in their communities; 2) Instilling pride in Baltimore’s rich architectural heritage and neighborhoods; 3) Introducing these careers to students who might otherwise not have considered Architecture and other design professions; 4) Reinforcing the transformative power of design currently underway in the 21st Century Schools program.
DCI & Patterson Park Public Charter School – This Adopt-A-School partnership is the very first such pairing and has achieved remarkable successes in a very short time. Important components of this success include an enlightened and supportive school principal, Chad Kramer of PPPCS, who has been an enthusiastic proponent from the very beginning and the inspired leadership of Luis Bernardo and Pat Lundberg at Design Collective, Inc (DCI). Pat, who lives in Patterson Park and is actively involved in the neighborhood association there, leads a group of about 16 volunteers. Melissa Rodriguez and Marisa Nemcik, FAR volunteers, worked hard to develop the class content and related exhibits. Over the past spring semester they have provided six hour-long sessions and related interactive activities towards the design of a community center and playground in Patterson Park. These concluded in late May with a school field trip to DCI’s offices.
BCT, JRS and CBH – To date, three more firms have started similar partnerships with city schools. Cho Benn Holback & Associates (CBH) is working with John Eager Howard Elementary School and hope to begin in the fall semester. Similarly, Brown Craig Turner (BCT) has adopted Baltimore Montessori Public Charter School and is working with their designated program coordinator to fashion a program there. Ana Castro of JRS Architects, Inc. has been an enthusiastic supporter of Adopt-A-School and is taking steps to finalize arrangements with the school they plan to adopt. Nariman El Said of Urban Design Group has expressed interest in co-volunteering with JRS towards increasing volunteers.
Your Firm and Which Fortunate City School? – One does not need to look far to see young people whose lives could be transformed by dedicated professionals willing to serve as role models. This is a great way for your firm to make a real impact on our community simply by sharing your own passion for Architecture with city students. Your chapter’s FAR Committee has done the legwork to simplify implementation of your own such adoption. In this way, you and your staff can begin to plant the seeds for a better future for all of us.
Take a first step by viewing the following links: http://baltimorearchitecture.org/programs/kids-in-design/adopt-a-school/  http://www.aiabaltimore.org/areas-of-interest/future-architects-resources/
Then contact me, Zevi Thomas (Programs and Outreach Coordinator) or Camessia Johnson (FAR Chair) for more information.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.  I can promise you that you will be amazed to learn how fulfilling these outreach events are to volunteers. Judging from past experience, initial reluctance about this foray into the world of middle and elementary school students is quickly replaced by the absolute joy of imparting our love for Architecture and Design to the next generation and witnessing their enthusiastic response.
Try it…you’ll LOVE it!
anthony sig
Anthony Consoli, AIA
President, AIABaltimore 2016
Campus Architect, University of Maryland Baltimore