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Engaging communities + Inspiring vision

KidsBuild! 2018

Now in its 26th year, KidsBuild! was held at BSA Space on Saturday, April 7 and Sunday, April 8, 2018. Guided by volunteer design professionals, over 750 children 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.

This year saw two welcome new additions to the process:

  1. a new workbook translated into Mandarin and Spanish was available, and
  2. young designers had the option of using a sustainability checklist as they designed their projects.

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 box. 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.

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. 

Thanks to support from BSA Foundation donors, KidsBuild! continues to give both children and adults the opportunity to have a lot of fun learning through hands on design. 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 even a Wicked Watah Pahk.

View photos from the weekend on Facebook.

KidsBuild! is supported by:

Image courtesy of Anthony Crisafulli.


KidsBuild! is a program of the BSA FoundationLearn more about how the BSA Foundation is making an impact in communities, showing the power of design, and positively changing the lives of real people.