It’s only been two months since Khalid Dyer graduated from Patterson High School, but you would never believe this after looking at his resumé. At just 19 years old, Khalid has already completed two internships, is enrolled to start at Hudson County Community College in the fall, and has post-graduation plans to transfer to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.
Before spending his summer interning in our Baltimore office, Khalid followed the path of most high school students: He had a part-time job, played on the school basketball team, and hung out with friends as much as possible.
All of this changed his senior year when a few members of Urban Alliance (UA) came to speak at his high school and kickstarted his internship journey. Urban Alliance is a D.C.-based nonprofit that provides high school students with paid professional work experience with its partner companies.
This is CannonDesign’s first year as a corporate partner of UA, and we are thankful to Briana Jones for facilitating this arrangement and laying the groundwork for increased involvement in the coming years. Briana served as Khalid’s immediate mentor throughout his internship, alongside Erin Crowley and Ashley Roe; together they created an internship program that Khalid described as not only informative but necessary.
After meeting the team at Urban Alliance, Khalid applied to the program and completed a six-week business skills workshop to prepare for his internship. He was mutually matched with CannonDesign based on his interest in design (he plans on majoring in graphic arts for his first degree and fashion design for his second) and started at the office in July. Throughout his internship, he learned the ins and outs of Revit and SketchUp while making meaningful contributions to multiple Baltimore-based projects. Khalid brainstormed the potential needs of all members of the Baltimore office in drawing up a sitemap for an office relocation planned for the near future, and sat in on many meetings for projects throughout the office. Once, while attending a shortlist interview, Khalid impressed the entire interview team with his depth of knowledge and connections to a few of the project members from a past internship.
Khalid came into his internship unsure of how involved he would be in the design process and how relevant the experience would be to his career goals. At the end of the program, however, he had nothing but positive things to say about his time with the Baltimore team at his UA graduation presentation. Of the 25 members in his UA group, Khalid was one of a proud few who had remained in the program and excelled.
From everyone at the firm: Congratulations, Khalid, and thank you to our Baltimore office for paving the way to what we hope becomes a longstanding tradition of Urban Alliance interns!
Learn more about CannonDesign Life >
Last year, our Baltimore office partnered with Brehms Lane Elementary, a local charter school operated by the nonprofit organization Afya Baltimore Inc. We primed students with a STEAM Career Day to jump-start our endeavor to inspire design in their everyday activities. Over the next few months, the office planned and reworked an architectural-design curriculum that overlaid with their STEAM resource class. We posed the same challenges to ourselves as last year: Can we inspire 48 students to pursue a technical or design profession?!
Not exactly! But we could make do with 24 fifth-graders! We scaled down plans to ensure we kept a personable volunteer-to-student ratio, as well as a limited interruption from the students’ regular school programming.
Our curriculum was five sessions. The 2017-18 year started with a collaborative visioning session. While we had a framework and key lessons in place, we wanted the students to be empowered and lead their own path of design. This reactive position led to many insights and ideas that we would never have considered! We challenged them to re-think how they interact with their spaces, and what defines their surroundings.
“What are your least favorite spaces?” Among many other queries in the survey, we pitched this question to the class. Unsurprisingly, students answered with physicians’ offices and their library; however, they answered not for the reasons expected! They noted that their library lacked the organization and qualities that other public libraries provided. This could be attributed to the physical space, book selection, human personnel… and many other factors, but hey! We could work with this!
Final project = Library Dioramas! We ended the year with a return to the physical world. Dioramas served as the best method to showcase their new knowledge of architectural principles and design skills. We spent weeks collecting shoeboxes, cutting collage pieces, and 3d printing furniture to prepare for this culmination! Students assembled their dioramas in our last session. These would be later presented to the community showcase in the month following!
The Baltimore office is steadily deepening our roots into our local communities! As the workplace is our house for where synergy happens, we must remember to spread that energy with our friends for a better, healthier environment. Our partnership with Baltimore’s chapter of the Neighborhood Design Center (NDC), a nonprofit organization facilitating the development of healthy, equitable neighborhoods, allows us to explore pro bono services and involvement beyond the office.
The NDC provided a monumental opportunity: to design storefront and streetscape guidelines for Pennsylvania Avenue. The site is in plain-view from our office. This corridor holds historical and cultural significance to everyone, ranging from public interest due to the 2015 protests to the most important constituents – the residents and property owners. We chose to focus our planning efforts on this group as they were the most impacted, and deserve the empowerment and entitlement that comes from our design initiatives. Up until the Great Recession, the community was beginning to thrive. The ULI Technical Assistant Panel titled their report of suggestions “Restoring the Glory” as a reminder of the prominent Pennsylvania Avenue that was in multiple points of history.
Our work started with a series of community meetings to profile and understand the local issues and desires. Through many iterations of simplifying graphic prompts, we asked questions of “where are your issues / how can architecture help solve your issues?”. We found common themes of historical “resurrection” with bringing back jazz and entertainment motifs, as well as promoting health and safety along the corridor. With all the galvanized community feedback, we conducted weekly lunchtime charrettes to refine our storefront and streetscape proposals.
Early in 2018, NDC held a design review of our progress, where we received positive acclaim and a great deal of constructive feedback to further our proposals. As our deliverables will be a series of guidelines, we are continuing to dive deeper into our suggestions and their implications from a micro to macro scale. Stakeholders will be reviewed toward the end of Q1 2018. We hope to leave our mark in Pennsylvania Avenue’s history, and more importantly, see improvements to the health of these neighborhoods.
Special thanks to Richard Chou and Richardson Jean-Baptiste’s continuing efforts in leading this collaborative!
Site aerial of Baltimore and our office location.
One of a series of meetings with local residents and business owners
An example of visual boards to poll community participants