summer camp

Glass in Architecture - Summer Wonders #ArchiTalks

Phew! I made it through 2 whole weeks of summer school.  You see, I've been busy teaching a class for Summer Wonders at Ace Academy, a local school for gifted kids, called "Architecture Through The Looking Glass".  Here's a peek into my class about glass in architecture. The course introduces young kids to a world of architectural studies, where the boundaries between science and art are blurred, just as much as the separation between discovery and imagination.  It's a space where I believe kids thrive. They effortlessly juggle reality and fantasy.  And that makes for a great architect.

Course curriculum summary

Over 10 days, we wove the history of glass with the history of architecture, threading the past with the present, and imagining the future.

What is glass? What are its characteristics? What is it made of? Is it available in nature? We studied natural glass in contrast to manmade glass, and made the journey from ancient glass-making to modern glass manufacturing - all in the context of how this magical material has transformed architecture.

What is the role of glass in architecture? What was architecture before glass vs. now? From medieval castles to elaborate renaissance cathedrals to contemporary skyscrapers, the exploration of glass as a building material has played a critical role in the evolution of architectural styles through history.

What did we learn?

We traveled through time to see the ancient architecture of Egypt, India, and the Americas; the innovative designs of the Greeks and Romans; and their evolution to Romanesque and Gothic architecture.

“Let there be light” got a whole new meaning when glass rondels and stained glass windows were incorporated into the churches and palaces. We’ve come a long way since then in just the last 150 years.

We explored the fascinating art of blown and spun glass as seen in the amazing creations of Chihuly, and finally the mass manufacturing of float glass as seen all around us in our present day.

The kids learnt about the post-industrial-revolution era of glass buildings and the green house effect. They constructed their own version of the Crystal Palace. They were introduced to modern architecture and the minimalist period, when the 'Glass House' designed by Architect Philip Johnson was made possible, thanks to the wonder of glass. We studied the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, and Apple's flagship store, also known as the Glass Cube, in New York City.

Today, we live in the glass age.

Is glass breakable? Bendable? Stronger than steel? You might be surprised to learn that our traditional ideas about glass are being shattered as we speak.

Structural glass buildings, intelligent glass, laminated glass decks and stairs, building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) glass panels, etc., celebrate advancements in glass technology.  We build taller and taller skyscrapers clad in glass curtain walls, no matter the climate.  As seen in the Burj Khalifa, Dubai, which holds the record for the world's tallest installation of an aluminum and glass facade. The architectural glass provides solar and thermal "protection" as well as an anti-glare shield from the intense desert sun, extreme diurnal variations, and strong winds.  Sigh!

So, what does the future hold? What innovations can we expect to see in glass technology in the coming years? Last but not least, the kids participated in a design exercise where they have to imagine and design the buildings of their future.

Multi-sensory learning

The idea acknowledges that kids learn in different ways and that students learn best when information is presented in different modalities - visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile. In that spirit, the course was peppered with visual presentations, discussions, and hand-on activities that resulted in a lot of projects.  Projects with large footprints. Sorry parents!

Learning by doing - glass in architecture

Kids love making stuff.  Of course!  They learn by doing!  And what's an architecture class without some model-making.

The kids built post and beam structures, pyramids, and tepees.  They built green houses, and skyscrapers.

I was amazed at how fast they were able to decide what they were going to make. They were always eager to head down to the treasure room to pick up materials from the piles of recycled everyday stuff. I found myself repeating the concept of planning vs. doing. But, they didn't waste time planning, they immediately got to work.

The kids made art with sugar glass. They designed and created rose windows.

Learning visually - glass in architecture

The kids loved the slideshow presentations and videos.  Below are links to some of the short videos we watched.

Blown Glass - Genuine Rondels Rolled Glass Float Glass Greenhouse effect The Glass Age - Who doesn't love the MythBusters? Part 1 & Part 2 Our Future - glass in architecture and our lives

Overall, it was a great experience for me.  And the kids, I hope!

As a mother of 2 young kids, I'm no stranger to the unbounded energy and passion that children posses.  But, teaching K-6th graders from 9am-3pm took my understanding to another level.  I have a renewed appreciation for teachers and what they do to for our children.  Walk a mile in someone else's shoes, right!  So, my heartfelt thank you to all you teachers out there, for your hard work, your creativity, and for pouring your heart into our kids future.



This post is a contribution to the #Architalks series of blog posts.  For other blog posts on “Summer”, please click on links below.

Enoch Sears - Business of Architecture (@businessofarch) Summer is a Great Time To Market Your Architecture Firm!

Bob Borson - Life of An Architect (@bobborson)

Marica McKeel - Studio MM (@ArchitectMM) Summer : A Review

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti) summer working, had me a blast

Evan Troxel - Archispeak Podcast / TRXL (@etroxel) Lake Powell

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC) Seasons of Summer

Jes Stafford - MODwelling (@modarchitect) The Dog Days of Summer

Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome) Summer -- Architecture Imagery

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel) #Architalks 20 "summer" and architecture

Stephen Ramos - BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC) 4 Secrets To Getting The Most Out Of Your Summer Internship

Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz) Summer Surprise

Michael LaValley - Evolving Architect (@archivalley) An Acrophobic Architect's Illuminating Summer of Roofs

Brinn Miracle - Architangent (@architangent) 4 Reasons Solar Power is a Hot Topic

Emily Grandstaff-Rice - Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia) Seasonal change

Jarod Hall - di'velept (@divelept) ... and the livin's easy

Drew Paul Bell - Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell) Summer Rhythms

Jeffrey A Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum) Do I Need to Hire an Architect?

Samantha Raburn - The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch) An Architectural Spark for your Summer

Kyu Young Kim - Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu) Summer in Seoul

Keith Palma - Architect's Trace (@cogitatedesign) [Dis]Connected Summer

Adam Denais - Defragging Architecture (@DefragArch) 5 Things to Make the Most of Your Summer

Jim Mehaffey - Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey) An Architect Summer


Architecture and Kids #Architalks

Last Summer, my 5 year old daughter attended a camp at Ace Academy in Austin called Summer Wonders.  I had heard great things about the program and it had won "Best Summer Camp in Austin" for 4 straight years.  But what convinced me that it was an absolute must-do, was that they were offering a class in architecture.  Specifically, "art in architecture".  Teaching kids architecture? Oh, what fun! I regularly indulge in sketch and design exercises with my kids.  We've designed playgrounds, neighbourhoods, pools, doll houses, etc. It's usually a 15-30 minute endeavour, and ends up looking like this.

Clearly, they are not developing advanced design skills, but it amazes me how much this quick exercise can attune them to their surroundings.  Needless to say, their imagination is not weighed down by the baggage called "we've done it this way for 30 years". It's part of what makes teaching kids architecture such a joy.

I have no secret wishes that my kids become architects when they grow up, nor do I have any grand schemes to brainwash them into loving architecture.  I just want them to have an exposure to architectural thinking, a lot sooner than a formal education at a college level. Much like foundations in science, math, language, art, music and sports, kids are never too young to learn a thing or two about architecture.

I have, in the past, done short presentations kindergarten classes about what informs architectural design. But this summer, I am going to teach 2 two-week sessions at Summer Wonders.

See course descriptions below for the 2 classes I have come up with.  If it sounds a little heavy for a summer program, don't worry - I've been assured that the kids ("gifted" or not) will lap it up.

Summer Wonders Session 1 June 20 - July 1 Architecture through the looking glass Did you know that lightning striking sand can create natural glass? This discovery was humanity’s first exposure to this magnificent material and we have had a love affair with it ever since. Used in architecture as decoration since the Middle Ages, its use is now ubiquitous - it allows sunlight in, opens up space, and even defines architectural style. It is considered the epitome of technological innovation. Learn about glass manufacturing, different types of glass, and the effects (both positive and negative) of using it in buildings. Let's discuss the greenhouse effect, experiment with colors, and discover it's limits. Explore how glass has been used in buildings throughout history, then design and construct your own model using this amazing material.

Summer Wonders Session 2 July 11 - 22 It's not easy being green Is green building about a home for Kermit? Or is it about designing buildings that work with the surrounding environment.  Learn about the history of the green building movement and it's current state of affairs. Find out the relationship between climate and human comfort. Discover what lies at the intersection of building science and architectural design. Understand the technologies that help us and that fail us - photo voltaics, rainwater collection, shading devices, cooling and heating systems. How can we make our living spaces more comfortable without paying a penalty?We’ll work on projects that illustrate how architects solve these problems using good design.

If you are looking for a summer camp in Austin for your kids, I strongly recommend that you check out all the courses offered and sign up. Registration is now open.

How I wish I were a kid again!

If you have tips for me, suggestions on class activities, or how to make this fun, please drop in a comment.



This post is a contribution to the #Architalks series of blog posts.  For other blog posts on “Architecture and...”, please click on links below.

Marica McKeel - Studio MM (@ArchitectMM) Architecture and Photography

Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols) Architecture and a Future Without Architects

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti) architecture and __

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC) Architecture and Travel

Collier Ward - One More Story (@BuildingContent) Architecture and Storytelling

Jes Stafford - MODwelling (@modarchitect) Architecture and Gaming

Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome) architecture and m&ms

Rosa Sheng - EquitybyDesign [EQxD] (@EquityxDesign) Architecture And the Era of Connection

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel) #ArchiTalks 18: architecture and... the bigger picture

Meghana Joshi - IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA) Architalks 18: Architecture and Mathematics

Amy Kalar - ArchiMom (@AmyKalar) Architalks 18: Architecture and ... Parenting

Michael Riscica - Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX) Architecture and Yoga

brady ernst - Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA) Architecture and Ego

Michael LaValley - Evolving Architect (@archivalley) Architecture and Ego / The Architect's Unique Struggle with 'Good' Design

Emily Grandstaff-Rice - Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia) Architecture and More

Jarod Hall - di'velept (@divelept) Architecture and the Myth of the Master Builder

Jeffrey A Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum) Architecture and Interior Design

Samantha Raburn - The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch) Architecture and Wrestling

Keith Palma - Architect's Trace (@cogitatedesign) Architecture + Memories

Adam Denais - Defragging Architecture (@DefragArch) [#ArchiTalks 18] Architecture and Strange Travel Etiquette

Jim Mehaffey - Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey) Architecture Generation.

Greg Croft - Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory) Architecture and Real Estate