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Summer Academy 2014

High School Students Design for the 21st Century

Studio: Apocalypse students preparing final presentation

Studio: Apocalypse students preparing final presentation

© Boston Architectural College; Photo by Sam Rosenholtz

The Boston Architectural College is pleased to announce the successful completion of the 2014 Summer Academy High School Design Exploration Program. For the month of July, high school students from the Greater Boston and New England Area worked closely and collaboratively with BAC studio leaders to develop fundamental architectural design skills and were challenged to create design solutions to relevant issues in today's society. On Friday, July 25, 2014, students presented their finished projects during an open house in the studio space of the College's 951 Boylston Street Building.

During the 125th year of the College, under the new direction of Henry Miller, BAC Manager of High School and Youth Design Programs, the 2014 Summer Academy's curriculum was revamped to focus on current design trends. During the first two weeks, students explored the city, with a special tour of the NADAAA Boston Office, as well as were introduced to freehand sketching, perspective drawing, model-making, mapping and diagramming. For the final two weeks, students were split into four separate studios where they focused on projects, which included: building a smartphone speaker, developing a 21st century urban park, envisioning architecture as poetry, and designing a disaster relief response.

"The idea was to create studios that reinvent the idea of what architects and designers do. Kids typically associate architects with designing buildings only. The studios challenged students to think about the design field in a different way," said Miller.

Specifically, one studio, entitled "Studio: Apocalypse", tasked students with developing a disaster relief design plan for the fictional country of Remkoolabbad that has been plagued by both natural disasters and civil wars. Studio leaders, Marianne Potvin and Leif Estrada, created a map of the country and outlined specific problems, including eight feet of flooding, limited water sources, cultural barriers, and typographical issues, for the students to solve and develop a suitable living area for the residents.

In the ten days students had to complete the studio, they created a fully formed and practical solution for the residents of Remkoolabbad. Their design transformed a refugee camp into a new community for displaced residents. The site was designed with specific features to inspire community building and support in the aftermath of trauma, such as a circular design placement of the shelters with doors facing inward toward communal areas for eating and gathering. The final design also featured a plan for the regeneration of a rainforest on the coastline to prevent future flooding into the community.

"In the news, you don't get a sense of everything that goes into disaster relief. There are so many problems that need to be solved fast," said Ben Volk, Summer Academy student, "It was interesting to try to find solutions on how to prevent disaster in the future."

Studio leaders focused on teaching students to plan for the unknown in order to simulate real life challenges for designers. Throughout the design process they would create additional tests for the students to use critical thinking to solve, such as planning for additional displaced residents needing housing as well as managing a budget from a fictional humanitarian grant from Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

The finished project featured a map detailing the design plan, models of the redesigned refugee homes, and rendered visuals of life within the community. "It was amazing to see what these kids were able to accomplish in less than 10 days with very limited prior design experience," said studio leader Marianne Potvin.

Summer Academy has been part of the BAC curriculum since 1973 and is open to all high school students entering grades 10 and above. Studio leaders and lead faculty are emerging design professionals and advanced graduate students from Boston area design schools including Boston Architectural College, Harvard Graduate School of Design, MIT, Northeastern University, Rhode Island School of Design, and Wentworth Institute of Technology. Students leave the program with a clearer sense of design professions, projects to strengthen a portfolio for college, and an expanded understanding of the impact of design around them and the ways design can change communities and improve lives.