Architecture in Our Local Schools

February 22, 2017 | Dana Hensey

On career day in grade school, kids walk through the door to their classrooms dressed as doctors, policemen, and baseball players. It is quite obvious, for a doctor wears his scrubs and his stethoscope, a policeman or policewoman their dark uniform and badge, and baseball players don their signature home team cap. But what should the child wear who wants to be an architect? They can simply hold in their hands a sketchbook and some pens and pencils. This is what our very own Rick Sellers bears when he goes to school to teach children about architecture.

For years, Rick had wanted to provide a service to the Northeast Georgia community that targeted not only current architects, or emerging architects, but the ones who would become architects in ten or twenty years – the children.

In 2015, Rick signed up the Northeast Georgia section of AIA to man a booth at the Gwinnett County Career Fair. Inside Gwinnett Arena, five thousand 8th graders roamed around the exhibit hall. Some of them knew what architecture was, some did not. Some of them were already curious about the profession, and some of them were drawn in by the shiny renderings and fresh, modern buildings displayed in the 10’ by 10’ booth. Whatever their story, several hundreds of students came to our booth and learned about architecture. They looked through our sketchbooks, they watched as we virtually flew around 3D models on the computer, and they listened to our stories of what we do every day.

Ross Drummond said it best when he said, “I think we sparked at least a few young minds.” But just a few young minds was not enough.

Rick has since been leading the charge to reach out to more local schools. Now, he works with Gwinnett County schools, Forsyth County schools, Jackson County Schools, and Fulton County schools in various capacities, from serving on advisory boards to acting as a regular guest speaker. When he goes into the classrooms, Rick gives the students a short workshop. Not only does he teach them about architecture, but he lets them try their hand through a miniature design charrette. In this exercise, there are no wrong answers. Rick gets to the root of how the students think, how they come up with their designs, and what drove them to make these design choices. He shows them that architecture is not just drafting; it is design.

In the next few months, Rick will continue his educational outreach with added support from AIA Northeast Georgia members who hope to inspire the future of our profession. Who knows, in twenty years, one of these kids may be the next Frank Gehry or Zaha Hadid.

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