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February 6, 2019
by Hayes Slade, AIA
Courtesy of Center for Architecture.
Courtesy of Center for Architecture.

This month, AIA New York and the Center for Architecture launch Discover Architecture!, a career discovery program aimed at sophomores and juniors attending NYC public high schools.

As high school students begin to think about future careers, they have likely been exposed to many possibilities in their day to day lives. Students regularly come into contact with people who teach, or are in the medical profession, or work in the food industry. They are barraged with news stories featuring politicians and people in media and legal professions. Sports, fashion, and entertainment personalities are front and center on social media. If they have a talent or affinity for these types of work, they know that there could be a future in it.

Although architecture is all around them—in their homes, schools, and every other building they enter—many do not have a clear understanding of an architect’s role in shaping these everyday structures. Those of us in the industry can usually point to a defining moment when we became interested in architecture and recall the forces that helped cultivate that interest into a career trajectory. These experiences include having a relative in the profession, visiting a particularly interesting building, or taking part in a related enrichment program.

This month, AIA New York and the Center for Architecture are proudly launching a joint endeavor, Discover Architecture! This pilot program grew out of the Presidential Theme “Building Community,” which focuses on supporting and growing our membership community. Our professional community needs to do more to demystify the practice of architecture to a broader audience. While only in its first year, Discover Architecture! has proven highly popular with student applicants and firm participants alike. The level of response that we had on the part of the firms is a strong testament to the passion that architects in our community have for the field in general and for mentorship in particular. As a group, we have demonstrated again that we are eager to open our offices and share our experiences and our time.  Time is, after all, our most valuable resource.

With broad outreach aimed at sophomores and juniors attending New York City public high schools, the career discovery program will connect students from 15 schools with 19 local architecture firms. 24 high school students will spend their mid-winter break exploring firsthand what it means to be an architect. The firms will host the students over three days, deepening their understanding of the profession by touring the office and interacting with staff, attending client or consultant meetings, completing software tutorials, and going on site visits. During the final day of the program, to be held at the Center for Architecture, students will be encouraged to share their various experiences with each other and will also be able to put their new-found knowledge to use by participating in a mini design charette led by Center for Architecture educators. The combination of individual and shared experiences should help the students come together. A peer group with shared interests like this will serve them well as they move to the secondary school application process.

There are a small handful of programs already aimed at this age group. Discover Architecture! is intended to supplement those offerings. At AIANY, one of our most valuable resources is our network, which is unparalleled in the field. Bringing students into that network creates a rich opportunity for them to explore the profession firsthand. It is our belief that nothing can substitute the invaluable insight that personal, daily experience in a working office would provide a young person in that critical decision point where they are selecting programs and fields to pursue in higher education.

Architects have become increasingly aware of the issue of exposure within the education pipeline. A student cannot pursue a career that they have never heard about or do not understand. It is significant that this pre-professional opportunity is free and openly available to applicants who are selected based on an application. It is not the result of familial connections or an inside track. This is exactly the type of transparent and meaningful outreach that could help shift our tremendous issue of awareness and access to the field. Students will not consider architecture if it is not even on their radar. We hope that providing an opportunity for students during this critical time in their education will help inform them about career paths in the architecture and design professions.

We also want to heartily thank all the firms that responded so enthusiastically. This would not be possible without you!

Andrew Berman Architect
Architecture Research Office (ARO)
Bernheimer Architecture
Desai Chia Architecture
DXA Studio
FXCollaborative
Gensler
Goshow Architects
Marble Fairbanks
Mitchell Giurgola Architects
Murphy Burnham & Buttrick Architects (MBB)
nArchitects
Robert A.M. Stern Architects (RAMSA)
Rice + Lipka Architects
Sage and Coombe Architects
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)
Slade Architecture
Spacesmith
WORKac

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