What began as a casual introduction between our firm and the New England Aquarium last summer, has now developed in to an impressive display of youthful ideas for urban resilient design all highlighted during Boston’s recent Design Week 2018.
Specifically, the New England Aquarium introduced us to the ClimaTeens – a group of nearly 50 15- to 18-year olds passionate about our planet, oceans, and forging a healthy, sustainable future for our community and the world at large. Teens accepted in to the aquarium’s educational program arrive with various levels of knowledge about climate change, but they are united by their collective desire to understand it fully and their commitment to learn ways to engage public audiences, particularly their peers.
The New England Aquarium staff was interested in exposing the teens to professions addressing climate change, other than marine biology, and our firm’s commitment and experience with sustainability and resiliency in the built environment made us an ideal partner. As our two organizations talked, we decided to offer the ClimaTeena a designer’s experience and after some discussion with City of Boston we settled on Joseph Moakley Park as the site for their charrette challenge. If you are unaware, Moakley Park is a 59-acre waterfront park in South Boston that has multi-use recreation and baseball fields, basketball and tennis courts, track, and playgrounds including a splash area for tots. According to the Climate Ready Boston Report, the park will be subject to sea level rise, storm surges, increased precipitation and extended heat waves which threaten the park’s current use.
With roughly only an hour for the design workshop with the ClimaTeens, it took some creative effort by Mike Cavanaugh, Craig Mutter, Jamie Graham, Ananta Sodhi, Marisa Nemcik, Bassem Almuti, Paul Kondrat and myself to develop some architectural representation tools to give the teens a crash course in architecture presentation. Each of us also worked with a group of teens during the design workshop to help them illustrate and explain their innovative visions of the future development of Moakley Park. After the workshop, Jamie, Ananta and Marisa turned the rough ideas into beautiful presentation boards. These boards were displayed at the Aquarium during the Boston Design Week and viewed by special guests and the public. With almost no rehearsal, the teens were also able to articulately present their ideas.
The young people of this region understand the City of Boston is on the frontlines of climate change. As our future designers, builders and adult users, we should understand their views and hear their ideas for our city’s development. I couldn’t be more proud of the ClimaTeens and our firm for the work done for this effort and I look forward to continuing to build on the relationship with the New England Aquarium.
Any questions regarding this event or CannonDesign’s approach to resilient design, please feel free to contact me Brett Farbstein.
Our Boston office was proud to take part in Architecture Design and Thinking Day on March 23 when we hosted a group of local high school students and guidance counselors for a fun, activity-filled day that introduced them to life in a design office. A joint initiative between the Boston Society of Architects (BSA) Foundation and the Boston Private Industry Council (PIC), Architecture Design and Thinking Day sought to connect youth with workforce partners to provide opportunities for students to identify rewarding career paths.
Our hosting team consisted of one facilitator (me) and two chaperones, Marisa Nemcik and Jamie Graham. The three of us share a passion for educating youth in the architectural profession, and we were all excited to play key roles in the event. We began the day with donuts and icebreakers and then worked with the students through a series of events, including:
- An association game that allowed the students to identify and respond to a large range of architectural images from different eras, locations and styles. This activity initiated a lively exchange about how buildings and spaces make us feel and allowed our team to highlight various design elements that contribute to building form and function, and human experiences. The students offered fresh and challenging comments that demonstrated a keen faculty for observation.
- We then broke the students into two groups and had them tour our Boston office, making stops at themed stations for architectural design, structural engineering, lighting design, virtual reality and interior design. Different staff members from our team spoke with the students about our design and communication process, challenges and opportunities for an integrated A/E practice, and their personal passions. The students asked important and interesting questions throughout this activity.
- Following the office tour, we asked the students to design and build a model of their personal ideal working space. This exercise simulated a real project assignment for the students, beginning with self-assessment and data gathering and also highlighting program development, design ideation and the actual building of the model. The analytical part of the exercise, however, appeared to generate less excitement than the actual building process. Five minutes in to the design charrette, students were already cutting paper, fabric and felt while also resolving structural challenges related to gravity. While some students built a room, others took a large-scale approach to a building on a defined site, complete with vehicle and service amenities. At the conclusion of the charrette, the students presented their designs to a captive audience of at least half of architects and engineers. To our great delight, the students did not exhibit stage fright or shy away from live presentations but instead presented their ideas confidently and with great humor.
- The day concluded with one-on-one interviews with each guest, allowing them to get a sense of this vital part of their future professional lives. With students interested in a wide variety of AEC careers, all different members (architects, engineers, lighting designers, etc.) of our team took part in these interviews. Finally, when the last crumbs of lunch pizza had been consumed, we said goodbye to our guests, hopeful in a few years they’d be knocking on our door for real jobs in the profession.
From our team’s perspective, Architecture Design and Thinking Day proved a great success. The day proved exciting, rewarding and stimulating for everyone involved, and provided a great opportunity for our staff to interact with a motivated and determined group of young people. It proved to be one of those experiences that reminds you how much you love your job and career.
After the students left, we met as a group and also shared thoughts about how humbling the day was for our team. The level of maturity, determination, passion and articulateness of these young people from Boston’s inner-city schools served to underline for us our privilege and remind us all of the great challenges that need to be overcome as we aspire for greater diversity, equity and inclusiveness in our field and our firm.
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“I know you can do better than this,” he says as he taps the stack of homework on his desk. At the top I see mine, littered with blue X’s and stamped with an admittedly generous score at the top: 1/10 – Epic Fail. I stare out the window and pretend not to care.
Six short years flash by, and I’m sitting at the Penn State Architectural Engineering 2017 Awards Banquet at the Nittany Lion Inn. The speaker booms, “And finally, the award for Best Overall Senior Thesis goes to…. get back up here, Chris!” I receive the award to a standing ovation from my professors and peers. On top of this achievement, I am set to graduate with both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees of Architectural Engineering simultaneously.
Now I’m sitting in an office in downtown Boston. I have a stack of business cards with my name on them. I have a set of initials after my name that mean Engineer-in-Training. My computer screen shows structural plans for a new high school facility that, to quote my boss, “Certainly does not lack innovation.” Looking over the plans and reminiscing over my own high school experiences, I look back on how I got here.
What makes a great mentor is seeing the potential in anyone. A great mentor doesn’t dismiss a student for their lack of will or understanding. Instead, they understand the tough facades that students build and continually look for new ways to promote self-confidence. My Physics teacher looked at me, an obnoxious and angsty teenager, and somehow saw my potential. He demonstrated his belief in me through mentoring me one-on-one on his own time for many weeks. Luckily for me, his belief turned out to be infectious. At times when I struggled, he would simply state, “I know you can do it.” And he was always right.
In a few hours I will pack up my bag and walk over to the Boston Society of Architects building on Congress St. I will sit down with three young high school students and teach them about the fun of learning and applying physics principles in structural engineering. The program, called the ACE Mentor Program of America (ACE), is a weekly mentoring initiative in Boston aimed at introducing the fields of architecture, construction and engineering to high school kids. The basic idea of ACE is to teach kids the concepts of design and collaboration in a “real-world” scenario. Students choose a discipline (architecture, structures, construction management or mechanical) and take on that role in a design project from an actual location in Boston with guidance from volunteer industry professionals. This year we are “renovating” an existing building on Summer St.
Before the session is over, I plan to share my story with the students in ACE. Too often I think adults hide their past mistakes. Truthfully, these students are far more patient and mature than I was when I was their age. Therefore, it’s not hard at all for me to state that each of them is capable of earning a degree in whatever they choose (hopefully structural engineering!) along with scholarships, awards and eventually a full-time career.
I encourage us all to find a way to incorporate mentorship in our lives, whether it be with a colleague, a student group, etc. The opportunities are out there – I know you can do it.
Chris Barlow, center, at graduation.
Check our blog for more insights and updates during #Eweek2018