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Volunteering at School 21 with the RIBA Architecture Ambassadors Programme \

Hawkins\Brown RIBA Architecture Ambassadors had the privilege of running two workshops with 40 Year-9 pupils at School 21 in Stratford.

Tailoring the workshop to the school’s innovative cross-curricular approach, the pupils became the architects and were tasked with designing a bird house, bringing together their Design & Technology studies in clay and woodwork, as well as an ecology project focusing on a bird species of their choice, its behaviours and habitat.

Workshop 1 dived head-first into an introduction into the life and world of ‘the architect’. The pupils were divided into pairs, where one had to describe an iconic building to the other, who then had to draw the building from the description, leading to some surprising, impressive and often hilarious results! This task introduced the pupils to important pieces of architecture emphasising history, materiality, scale and the endless creative possibility that designing buildings can afford. Later, the pupils were introduced to a key principle of architectural drawing- the language of the Plan, Section and Elevation, where they each had to draw a piece of fruit or a vegetable using one of these drawing types.

The second workshop was a chance to experiment (and play) with timber and clay and look at techniques in cutting, cladding, tessellating, moulding, forming, imprinting, gluing and tiling to name but a few! This led to some beautiful and innovative outcomes that would eventually go on to influence the pupil’s final designs. The task emphasized to the students the importance of model making and testing as a key part of the design process.

The project culminated on the 24 March with the end of term school exhibition. Here the final birdhouse designs in both wood and clay were presented to the rest of the school and members of the public.

It was extremely rewarding to see the students respond so positively and creatively to such challenging tasks. It was a pleasure to carry out the workshops, and we hope to continue the relationship between School 21 and Hawkins\Brown in the future!

Many thanks to School 21 for participating and again to Fiona MacDonald for her continued dedication to the scheme.

Find out more about the RIBA Architecture Ambassadors programme.

“At School 21, we are keen to develop projects that involve real life research and a more authentic audience so it was great that Hawkins\Brown could support us by providing expert advice and workshops on our birdhouse project to attract wildlife to the local area. At the beginning of the project, a team of the firm's architects helped launch the project and explain how architects respond to briefs and generate ideas. They then returned in the middle of the project to critique student ideas and provide advice on different cladding techniques... We hope to collaborate on more projects in the future.”

Zek Hoeben, Lead Teacher, Art & Design, School 21

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