I went into my daughter's kindergarten class today to talk about architecture. I wanted to share my love for architecture with these wide-eyed 6 year olds. My intent was to whet their appetite for creativity and design. Maybe one of these kids might get inspired to become an architect. As you might have heard "it's hard to become what you don't see". Actually, as I write this I am realizing that in 20 years, when these kids are 25-26 (and I am 60!), I could be hiring and working with one of them!
I also wanted to create an awareness about what architects do, much in keeping with the purpose of this blog. Of course, they didn't need me to tell them that architects design buildings. They already knew that. So, I talked to them about what informs architectural design.
They have been learning about 'the environment and human societies'; inquiring about 'who they are' and 'how they express themselves'; wondering about seasons and 'where they are in time and place'; 'simple machines' and 'how the world works'. These are their 'units of inquiry' thus far in kindergarten.
Doesn't all that sound like the perfect set-up for a presentation on what informs architectural design? It's like sowing seeds on a freshly plowed field that is all set for a ripe harvest.
We talked about Roman architecture and the exploration of innovative construction systems that gave us the arches, barrel vaults, and domes.
We talked about settlements in different climates around the world - how density of built environment is a response to climate, culture, and construction materials. We contrasted dense urban areas to the typical american sub-urban neighborhood, The kids remarked about the abundance of greenery in suburbia and I tried to draw attention to the abundance of paved road area.
We talked about architectural styles, sloped roofs and flat roofs, what works for extreme climates and what doesn't. I had to tell them about Frank Llyod Wright and Falling Water! 6 year olds are not the only ones who get excited about a waterfall through a house.
We talked about the different climate zones in the US. We talked about heat, humidity, and comfort. We talked about how the sun's path in the sky in the summer and winter are different and how we can take advantage of that when we design buildings to keep us comfortable.
Did I lose them? Did I overload them with too much information? Maybe!
Or perhaps, this is the moment (s)he will talk about when (s)he receives his/her Pritzker Prize in 50 years :)
These kids are the architects of the future. Even if none of them choose architecture as their career, they will design and shape the world in their own way.
Architecture is a very versatile field. It engages right and left brain. So engaging in architectural pursuits is prefect for kids of all ages who are trying to explore their gifts and interests.
I love the inquiry-based learning environment in my daughter's school. Every time I do one of these projects with her class, I wish I was a kid all over again. The school outlines 'units of inquiry' that delve deeper and deeper at subsequent grade levels. What I (selfishly) love most is that they encourage parents to come and present their expertise and knowledge - much more stimulating (not to mention inspiring) than listening to your teacher drone on about something that might be on a test. After all, the parent body is a vast network of people with real-world skills and a variety of talents, people from different backgrounds, every single one contributing as citizens of the world.
Viva La Education!