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Community Impact

Apr 15, 2016

KidsBuild! 2016

KidsBuild! is the largest annual Family Design Day event and provides children with a hands-on, interactive learning experience. The event was developed by the Boston Society of Architects/AIA (BSA) in 1992 and for 24 years has been committed to creating learning opportunities for children through design and the built environment.

This year, KidsBuild! was held at BSA Space on Saturday, April 9 and Sunday, April 10, 2016. Guided by volunteer design professionals, over 250 families (more than 800 kids and adults) chose a construction site from a fictional city grid, designed and built a building, and were awarded certificates of occupancy from the city building inspectors.

What was it like for a family?

When each family arrived, they selected a building site from a color-coded map of the city, which corresponded to basic zoning laws. The fictional city was complete with streets, harbors, squares, and other familiar features. A sense of scale was explored through the standard building block established by a shoebox. On some sites, the buildings were as many as seven or eight boxes high, while on others the height was limited to one box. Some children arrived with a plan in mind—”I want to build a zoo!”—while others were interested to hear a list of ideas. One excited young builder even arrived with materials in hand.

After the site was selected, children moved into the construction yard to assemble their building. The yard was filled with donated materials: shoeboxes, milk cartons, cardboard tubes, fabric, and other miscellaneous items. To begin to understand the context that their buildings would exist in, young designers were encouraged to visit their site during construction. Design responses from one building to another came into play as the children began to receive or reject cues from previously completed buildings.

When finished constructing, children could stop to have their photo taken with their building, wearing a vest and hard hat. Next, the buildings were placed on their sites and participants requested a review from one of the roaming building inspectors. Building inspectors were architects and other design professionals who encouraged the young designers to explain their work, before granting a Certificate of Occupancy. Though variances were distributed freely, this was an opportunity to pass along information about planning, context, building types, and artistic expression.

Interested urbanists can stroll through this fantastic city built by 812 kids and parents—deemed KidsBuild! City—in the Atlantic Wharf lobby at 290 Congress Street until the afternoon of Sunday, April 17. City dwellers can see the high rises along Franklin Street and wander a few blocks down to cross the Fort Point Channel on one of ten different bridges. But before heading over to the Seaport, all visitors should be sure to check out the Animal Sanctuary on Purchase Street!

Thanks to support from BSA Foundation donors, KidsBuild! grew by over 300 attendees this year—and sold out in less than a week, with over 100 families on the waiting list. KidsBuild! is great fun for both children and adults. In fact, more than one parent was heard saying to their child, “Let’s just add one more element, don’t you think?”

Through KidsBuild! not only do many gifted future architects, planners, designers, and artists emerge, but many eyes are opened—for both children and adults—to the world of design and city making. Children planned, brainstormed, drew, and created an ideal Boston neighborhood for the twenty-first century, complete with hotels, stadiums, aquariums, airports, playgrounds, tree houses, and more.

KidsBuild! is a program of the BSA Foundation.

View even more pictures of KidsBuild! 2016 on Flickr and Facebook.

Images: KidsBuild! 2016. Credit: Mike Lawrie.