As LW!’s Dir. of Education, Debi Germann, has the enviable job of exploring the West Side with local youngsters, encouraging them to look up from their shoestrings and take in the exciting architecture around them.  Debi does this through “Keeping the Past for the Future“, LW!’s award-winning youth education program (learn more here!).  

In addition to Debi’s established curriculum — whereby students work on projects like neighborhood mapping, row house facade design and even holding mock hearings of the Landmarks Preservation Commission — Debi is also able to call on members of the preservation community to volunteer their time in the service of education.  
In sharing with students their real-world experiences as architects or engineers, for example, these professionals give KPF students a glimpse at how the lessons they’re learning with Debi and their teachers translate into “real life”.  In November, Debi was joined by Lynne Funk of Rand Engineering & Architecture on a visit to the classroom.  LW! is incredibly thankful to our friends and colleagues at Rand for generously volunteering their time to benefit KPF students.  Enjoy the “report from the field”, direct from Rand’s Lynne Funk, below!  And if you’re interested in learning more about how you can be a part of KPF’s mission, let us know! 

A “Real Life Architect” Goes Back to School 
Posted on by Lynne Funk, AIA

I recently had the pleasure of visiting a fifth-grade class at the Bloomingdale School (P.S. 145) on West 105th Street in Manhattan and talking to the students about what it’s like to be a “real life architect.”

The students participate in Keeping the Past for the Future, an architecture and preservation appreciation course offered at Upper West Side schools through Landmark West, a non-profit historic preservation group. Their teacher is Samantha Deutsch, who Landmark West honored this summer as an “Unsung Hero” for inspiring students (and teachers) to learn about the buildings in their neighborhood and the importance of preservation. As part of the course, Samantha leads her students on guided tours of the landmarks and historic buildings surrounding their school, using the local architecture to reinforce classroom learning.  

Before my visit, the fifth graders had observed nearby row houses and their varied ornamentation. Each student was given an outline of a row house elevation, adding details at cornice level, around the windows, and at the stoop. I brought a set of plans from one of Rand’s projects at a nearby building and explained how the details for facades and roofing systems are drawn and scaled.
Rand Architect Lynne Funk explains the details of building design
to a class of budding preservationists at the Bloomingdale School (P.S. 145).
Samantha’s success in engaging the kids to learn about buildings and architecture was reflected in their questions: Some of the many questions they asked were: How long does a project takes from start to finish? (From a couple of weeks to a couple of months—or sometimes even years.) Who else beside the architect works on a building? (Engineers, masons, carpenters, roofers, plumbers, electricians, et al.) What’s a cornice for? (Mostly ornamental, but it also keeps water from dripping on the facade.) What should you study if you want to be an architect? (Math, design, art, writing, history.)

They were also very interested in what makes buildings stand up—and why they sometimes fall down. To explain how structural supports function, Samantha pointed to the vertical columns and horizontal beams in the classroom, and I described how concrete is reinforced with steel in buildings and how this system differs form the load-bearing walls in the row houses they drew.
I come from a family of engineers, but I loved to draw and to write, so my father steered me toward architecture. I would have loved to have been in a class like Samantha’s when I was in elementary school. Based on the enthusiasm I saw in her students, I have a feeling I was looking at some future “real life architects.”
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