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Architecture + Education Receives National Award

School helped found program 13 years ago to increase diversity in architectural education and practice

Beth Tauke introduces architecture to a gradeschool student of the Buffalo Public Schools.

Beth Tauke, associate professor of architecture and associate dean for academic affairs, coordinates the school's participation in the program. “Through this program, our students are learning how to teach and give back," she says. Photo: Douglas Levere

By Charlotte Hsu

Published June 19, 2014

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is bestowing a national award on an architecture education program that UB School of Architecture and Planning students, alumni and faculty help to run.

Called Architecture + Education, the initiative will receive the 2013 AIA Diversity Recognition Program award for introducing thousands of grade schoolers to architecture over the past 13 years.

Children in the program become tiny architects, blending imagination, art and science in projects that have included designing tree houses, a nature park for snakes and lions, dream bedrooms and a spaghetti tower playground. The goal is to help children develop an appreciation for the built environment, from individual buildings to public parks to whole cities.

Students and faculty from the Buffalo School contribute to the program by working with teachers and local architects, many of them our alumni, to engage kids in learning activities in the Buffalo Public Schools (BPS). The program’s chair is Linsey Graff, a UB architecture graduate and an architectural planner in UB’s Capital Planning Group.

Architecture + Education is an initiative of the Buffalo Architecture Foundation. Offered every other year, the program consists of the following components:

  • A daylong symposium in which BPS teachers, School of Architecture and Planning students and local architects participate in architectural activities and plan lessons that integrate design ideas into New York State core curriculum.
  • Ten classroom sessions, led by teams of School of Architecture and Planning students and local architects, during which schoolchildren learn about design and architectural principles, and use that new knowledge to design and build architectural models. The sessions use design and architecture to teach math, science, history, art and technology.
  • An exhibition of children’s work.
  • A three-credit course taught by UB architecture faculty in which architecture students study effective teaching methods for K-12 design education.
Alumni work with Buffalo schoolchildren on building models.

Students and faculty from the School of Architecture and Planning contribute to the Architecture + Education program by working with teachers and local architects, many of them alumni of the Buffalo School, to engage kids in learning activities. Photo: Douglas Levere

“For more than a decade, our students, staff, faculty and alumni have worked with practitioners and educators in the community to bring architecture into Buffalo classrooms. The children they work with come from diverse ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds, and for many of these students, Architecture + Education is the first time they’ve heard of architecture as a career path.”

- Dean Robert G. Shibley

Architecture + Education was founded in 2000 by the AIA Buffalo/Western New York chapter. Since then, 75 volunteer architects have worked with more than 2,000 students in 14 different Buffalo schools, Graff says.

Beth Tauke, associate professor of architecture and associate dean in the School of Architecture and Planning, coordinates UB’s participation in the program. Dennis Andrejko, former associate professor of architecture, previously served in that role. Kelly Hayes McAlonie, interim director of UB’s Capital Planning Group, was one of the program’s co-founders.

“The AIA diversity award is a wonderful recognition of the School of Architecture and Planning’s commitment to diversity in how we study, teach, research and practice the disciplines of architecture and planning,” says Robert G. Shibley, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning.

“For more than a decade, our students, staff, faculty and alumni have worked with practitioners and educators in the community to bring architecture into Buffalo classrooms,” he says. “The children they work with come from diverse ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds, and for many of these students, Architecture + Education is the first time they’ve heard of architecture as a career path.”

Tauke recalls one particularly moving story, about a graduate student who encountered a fourth-grader who asked, “Can girls really be architects? I’ve never heard of that.”

The student went on to introduce the little girl to several woman architects and their buildings, according to Tauke. Another student convinced five of his studiomates to join him in working with children after discovering that his first-graders were most motivated when they had individual attention.

“Through this program, our UB students are learning how to teach and give back,” Tauke says. “We have a crowd of eager graduate students waiting to jump on board for the fall 2013 A+E program.”

Graff, who received her master of architecture from UB in 2010, will attend the 2013 AIA Convention, being held June 20-22 in Denver, to receive the award. She has been involved with Architecture + Education since she was a student.

“People cannot help but to be inspired by the passion and creativity that is generated as a result of the program,” Graff says. “What makes the program successful is the interaction between local professionals, School of Architecture and Planning students and the children they volunteer to teach. The children are provided with an alternative way of viewing the world through a lens of architecture, while volunteers are provided with a sense of fulfillment.”