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Community Impact

Dec 07, 2018

Notable Women in Design

Impact Story1

Image courtesy of Taylor Johnson.

A Youth Design Workshop at the Boston Public Library

In partnership with the Boston Public Library (BPL), the BSA Foundation launched a new program in October, "Notable Women in Design." The library's theme for their Fall/Spring programming was Notable Women and the BPL asked the Foundation to develop a program for students in grades 5 through 7 that would introduce the library's young patrons to women in the architecture world. This hands-on design workshop series, led by architects from BSA Space, was piloted at the Adams Street Branch in Dorchester all and will be offered at the Egleston Square Branch in Roxbury next spring.

The goal of the four-class series was to present an awareness of the history of women in the design professions through an exploration of the careers of four notable designers. These womenís contributions to the profession include a range of disciplines from furniture design to urban planning. Each week the architects and students explored a different designer, starting with a presentation of the designer's biography and career. A discussion regarding the dominant themes and styles of the work followed before transitioning into a student design project which took its inspiration from the work of the designer of the week. The goal of the design portion of the program was focused on opportunities to engage the students in real-world projects within their Boston neighborhoods.

The program began with a study of the life and work of Jane Jacobs, followed by a conversation about urban design and civic engagement and a group project to plan the new Allston Landing neighborhood in Boston. Week two presented the monument designs of Maya Lin and a student design project to re-imagine a proposal for a Boston-based monument to Martin Luther King, Jr. The third class introduced the students to the work of Zaha Hadid and to redesign the Adams Street library using the guiding principle of "What would Zaha do?" The final week wrapped up the series with the work of Ray Eames and a discussion of how the role of women in the design professions has changed over the past half-century. The students were enthusiastically engaged in a discussion of the Modernist aesthetic, how spaces and objects that seems familiar and comfortable today were bold and groundbreaking at the time Ray Eames was designing them. The final design project of the series was to create a bus shelter for a Boston neighborhood using a Ray Eames-type ìHouse of Cardsî building kit.

The workshops were designed for the students to use art, math, social studies, science, and language as they developed their drawing and model building skills, as well as to give them exposure to the design professions. At the end of the final week, when asked about their favorite class, one student commented that his was the Jane Jacobs urban design exercise because he enjoyed the team-based structure of the program. Another student's favorite session was the Maya Lin class because she was able to detail the project at the scale of the person and investigate how a user would interact with the sculpture. Each class highlighted the contributions made by female designers to the professions but revealed the universality of design as a human endeavor that has the power to change people's lives.