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The Collaborative Work of Public School Students and Professional Architects at CEPA

Opening night of the Architecture & Education exhibit at CEPA Gallery.

Architecture & Education

A teaching and learning program in the public schools by volunteer professional architects has kids working on design projects from construction paper arrangements of basic geometrical forms to planned remakes of their own neighborhoods—including concept essays, drawings, and three-dimensional tabletop models—to space explorer habitat modules. Finished work products are on display on four floors of galleries at CEPA, in the Market Arcade building.

The volunteer architects are members of the pro bono Buffalo Architecture Foundation. The architects devise projects that fit into regular school curricula in a variety of subject areas, and teach in tandem with the regular teachers.

Second-grade students at School 64 proposed a thoroughgoing remake of structures and facilities in the Elmwood, Amherst, Delaware, and Hertel megablock, adding amenities such as Shamari Bolton’s Museum of Science and Mars, Vito Verni’s ferris wheel, and Gabriella Pattoli’s handsome clock tower, to allow her, as she says, to “learn time on a bigger clock.”

In conjunction with their history classes, eighth-grade students at School 53 on the East Side considered tenement housing and its socioeconomic effects around the turn of the last century. Their work products included essays on living conditions in tenements, illustrated with historical photographs by Jacob Riis et al., and their own drawings of proposed alternatives to the tenement structures.

A “living in space” project by Discovery School third-graders included space station designs and apparent visits to various planets by the students, who wrote letters from space informing family members back on Earth of their planetary visits. The recipients, who may not previously have known about the space travel plans, might have found these communications—initially, at least—a little disturbing. “You will never guess where I am,” is how Anisia Lindsay starts her letter to her mom. “I’m on Jupiter!” And she ends the letter pretty casually: “Jupiter has 63 moons. Bye.”

Emily Smith writes to her grandma: “I just wanted to say I am on Saturn, jumping on Saturn’s rocks,” but then corrects herself to say she meant “Saturn’s rings.” Ethan Kane writes to his mom to tell her he and his friends are “having a great time” on Venus. “It is really hot where I live,” he says, but notes that “we have our own private bathrooms.” Megan Schumacher writes to her mom: “I’m having a great time on Saturn…Did you know Saturn is just gases? It does not have a solid surface, but has a solid core. Saturn is amazing!”

Fourth-graders at the Discovery School did a project about Buffalo’s grain elevators—what, if anything, to do with them? They wrote essays on why the elevators should be preserved and how they could be reused. Or some were of the opinion, just tear them down. And built cutaway models of a dozen or so elevators repurposed as a gargantuan silo school complex, with plentiful spaces for classrooms, libraries, science labs, workrooms, and variety of sports facilities. Even a hockey rink.

Fifth-graders at school 53 focused on Buffalo’s great city planning attribute, the Olmsted parks and parkways system, and related great city planning mistake, the Humboldt expressway, replacing Olmsted’s Humboldt Parkway. Asked to consider redevelopment alternatives to the expressway—anything, of course, would be an improvement—the kids’ solutions tended toward the whimsical. Somebody came up with the idea of a chocolate factory. Somebody else said replace the expressway with a river, with candy grass along the banks. And in conjunction—no doubt thinking of the Martin Luther King Park wading pool that perennially doesn’t work—a Hershey chocolate pool, with a sign: “No Swimming.”

And third-graders at School 64 did a project about “empathic architecture,” that is, custom-made for a specific client, considering a spectrum of social and economic and environmental factors. Taking Frank Lloyd Wright as their architect model, specifically with regard to the house and complex he built here for Darwin Martin. Their project was a school building in Haiti, for a little Haitian boy named Simon.

This somewhat brief-duration exhibit only runs one more day, through January 24.

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