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Engaging communities + Inspiring vision

KidsBuild! 2017

KidsBuild! celebrated 25 years in April complete with a new logo, a ‘birthday card’ and a weekend filled with building. 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.

This year, KidsBuild! was held at BSA Space on Saturday, April 8 and Sunday, April 9, 2017. Guided by volunteer design professionals, over 250 families 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, blocks, 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 group of young designers even arrived with a SketchUp model in hand.

After the site was selected, children moved into the construction yard to assemble their building. The yard was filled materials donated from area design firms and companies: 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 stopped 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.

At the end of the program, extra materials were made available to area educators. One Boston Public School kindergarten teacher used her materials to teach counting, patterns, and shapes. [Shown left: Pre-K students at Young Achievers School. Image: Laura Wilson.]


Thanks to support from BSA Foundation donors, KidsBuild! continues to give both children and adults the opportunity to explore learning through hands on design.  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! 2017 on Facebook.

Images: KidsBuild! 2017. Credit: Ben Gebo.

KidsBuild is supported by:

To learn more about how the BSA Foundation is making an impact in communities, please come to BSA Space for a one hour “tour” of BSA Foundation programs. On the tour, board members and volunteers will tell stories about how Foundation programs, and the power of design, are positively changing the lives of real people. Foundation Conversations are held on the second Wednesday of every month. Events are free, but seats are limited. Check for upcoming dates and to reserve your seat.