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Posts tagged ‘Youth Architecture Camp’

The Power of Design (and Designers): Architecture Camp with the Fam 1st Foundation

By: Kurt Lavenson, AIA

I was reminded recently that the transformative power of design reaches beyond buildings and spaces. When we’re lucky, we reach hearts. This year I was introduced by AIA East Bay chapter past-president Jeremiah Tolbert, AIA to the annual Architecture Youth Camp that he helps run for the Fam 1st Foundation in Oakland. The transformation project here is building self-esteem and design interest in a group of middle school kids who are under-served in their communities. It was a week filled with inspiration, generosity and learning in both directions. I learned as much as I taught and I was reminded that being both available and in the background are some of the most valuable things we can give.

The week-long camp was based in Wurster Hall, the architecture school at UC Berkeley. Jeremiah and the mentors who lead the program span the gamut from recent Cal grads to experienced professionals. We introduced the kids to site analysis, sketch-up 3d computer modeling, physical modeling, surveying, real estate development and city planning. We even touched on local politics when an Oakland councilwoman spoke to the group during our field trip to Mosswood Park, where the students designed a replacement for the recently burned down community center. Each day was packed with information and guest speakers. Eighteen kids went from rolling their eyes to asking serious questions, building models and giving public presentations of their ideas and solutions. The mentors knew how to manage the chaos and the boundaries while encouraging the campers to be politely assertive, ask questions and explore. They also emphasized that our presence there was a vote of confidence in the kids. The youngest mentor, a 14 year old boy who had been in the program before, commuted each day by public transit from South San Francisco. His commitment was a model for us all.

The group toured the Campanile and the new sports stadium at Cal. We had a guided bus and walking tour of the Temescal and the MacArthur BART line, where the mentors wrangled an impromptu presentation from the project manager for a multi building project going up nearby. We also had low-key visits from the professional football players who sponsor the foundation. On the final day our young architects in training presented their models or their computerized 3d slideshows. The parents cheered and the mentors were proud. The kids glowed. They had tasted the power of design and the power of ideas well expressed.

Site Analysis of Mosswood Park

Learning Sketch-Up 3d Modeling

Walking tour in the Temescal neighborhood

Making models for the new rec center design

In the top of the Campanile at UC Berkeley

At Mosswood Park, where the community center burned down

Volunteer to Help with the 3rd Annual Youth Architecture Camp!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016 – Saturday, June 25, 2016
Location: Cal Design Lab, (4th Floor of Small Tower) Wurster Hall

Click here to sign up.

The second annual architecture camp for underrepresented and at-risk youth needs volunteers!

This program, co-hosted by AIA East Bay and Fam 1st, exposes middle school students (12-15 years old) to architecture and design thinking as they assist Fam 1st with the development of their future Oakland-based Youth Center.

Volunteers are encouraged to take part in the camp from 9:00am-4:30pm, and engage with our campers for the whole day. If your time permits, we’d love for volunteers to come for multiple days, so that the campers see familiar faces. Full-day volunteers are appreciated, but if you can only donate half a day, that’s great too!

Parking is limited at the UC Berkeley campus, so there will be 3-4 passes available for those who need them. Volunteers are strongly encouraged to carpool.

We’re looking forward to another successful architecture youth camp!

Second Annual Youth Architecture Camp


AIA East Bay and Fam 1st family foundation co-hosted the second annual Youth Architecture Camp in June, a week-long program that exposes middle school students to architecture and design-thinking. Campers spent the week helping Josh Johnson and Marshawn Lynch, Fam 1st co-founders and NFL athletes, develop their future Oakland-based youth center.

Youth Architecture Camp co-founders Cameron Toler Assoc. AIA and Jeremiah Tolbert, AIA developed the camp with the support of Jeanette Osborne, Shalonda Tillman and Stephanie Chu, AIAS who assisted in planning, curriculum development and camp operations.

AIA members, design professionals, educators and architectural students volunteered at the camp throughout the week, bringing to life the design profession for the campers, and acting as a sound board as the campers brainstormed and built their models.


“The Fam 1st/AIA East Bay Architecture Youth Camp is important because it’s an opportunity for under-represented youths in our community to be exposed to architecture at an early age. We conceived an interactive, creative, and conscious lab to develop the camper’s perspective through the basic tools of architecture. And whether they become architects or not, it empowers them with design-thinking methods that transcend our industry and are applicable to a myriad of other careers. Also on a personal level, Cameron and I both being young black men in architecture, understand the additional challenges these kids are facing growing up so it’s especially important for us to try and empower them to change their environment… figuratively and literally.”
– Jeremiah Tolbert, AIA, Youth Architecture Camp Co Founder

“The real and most valuable feedback came from the parents on the last day of camp (as) the campers presented their projects to an audience filled with family members, friends, AIA East Bay volunteers, and Fam 1st founders Josh Johnson and Marshawn Lynch. All the parents agreed they never had an opportunity to attend a free architecture camp when they were young, (and) I witnessed a few tears as parents watched and listened to their children present their projects.”
– Cameron Toler, Assoc. AIA, Youth Architecture Camp Co-Founder


“I have been lucky enough to volunteer each year for the Architecture Youth Camp. I always walk away impressed and inspired after seeing the creativity and excitement of the youth that participate. Many of the young people that participate really don’t have an idea of what architecture is at first, but by Day Three they are aware of what it takes to create space. Each year I walk away hoping that we inspired students to not just look toward architecture, but to allow themselves to be creative in whatever profession they want to be in. The skills the camp gives them are more than just how to draw a plan or create a model, it’s problem solving and expressing their ideas. In the end I am always looking for ward to the next year and the next group of students to work with, so here’s to 2016. I Can’t wait.”
– Derrick Porter, Assoc. AIA volunteer

“I was first excited about joining this camp last year (the first year the camp started) because it provided me an opportunity to help teach young students about the role of architecture in society. It was a way for me to provide them what I never had at their age.”
– Omar Haque, camp volunteer


“Working with the kids at  camp showed me that an intuitive sense of designing and anunderstanding of design can come from anyone. The kids at the camp displayed abilities to learn and demon-strate proficiency from hand sketching their conceptual designs to developing their architectural models.”
– Andrew Lau, volunteer

“Youth Architecture Camp was an opportunity to engage with young students specifically on a topic I care about. It is also great to see the unexpected and fun viewpoints of the students, and hopefully to make them think a little differently about the built environment. (The most memorable experience) was the daily one-minute drawing competition—it was a great format to really engage the students with unusual buildings and to quickly encourage them to look, identify and sketch. A lot of the sketches were pretty good, but it is really about teaching them to look!”
– Louise Mackie, volunteer


A special thanks to all camp volunteers: Douglas Wittnebel, AIA; Winston Win, AIA; Kevin Coleman; Omar Haque; Andrew Lau; Raphael Wade, Student Member; Beina Toler; Gray Dougherty, AIA; Derrick Porter, Assoc. AIA; Paul Nabena, Assoc. AIA; Marco Hyman; Jeanette Osborne; Shalonda Tillman; Stephanie Chu, AIAS; Louise Mackie; Devi Dutta-Choudhury, AIA; Ally Watts, AIA.


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