Last month, AIA New York and the Center for Architecture launched “Discover Architecture!”, a 4-day-long pilot program designed to familiarize a wider audience, particularly sophomores and juniors attending New York City public high schools, with the practice of architecture. The trial career discovery program evolved from AIA New York’s 2019 theme, “Building Community,” proposed by President Hayes Slade, which highlights how the architectural profession positively impacts communities while serving as a legitimate means to social and cultural development.
Within the past few years, architects have become increasingly aware of their field’s issues regarding access and transparency, and how its training process impacts diversity and equity in the field. The architecture industry is complex, and not everyone understands the various roles, functions, and responsibilities that exist within the profession, especially young children. By giving students the opportunity to work in an office with experienced architects, the program provides them with a one-of-a-kind opportunity to explore the profession up-close, as well as a way to gain vital insight regarding possible career paths in the architecture, construction, and design industries.
Targeting sophomores and juniors, the program paired 24 high school students from 15 different schools with 19 local architecture firms, where the students spent their February winter break experiencing firsthand what it’s like to be an architect. The students spent three days at the firms, where they toured the offices, interacted with staff, attended meetings, learned software, and went on site visits. On the last day of the program, students were sent to the Center for Architecture in Greenwich Village, where they shared their various experiences with one another and participated in design challenges orchestrated by Center for Architecture educators. By culminating the program with a collaborative experience, students were able to become part of a network of people who can navigate challenges together.
This was just the pilot year for the free program, but it may be continued annually due to its success and popularity, according to organizers.
“We have been working very hard on getting this going for nearly a year now and are excited to see it moving forward…Personally, I did not study architecture because I didn’t understand the various roles within the building industry. I think there is no substitute for first-hand one-on-one experience for young people to make informed decisions,” said Hayes Slade, president of AIA New York.