Without a doubt, one of our favorite times of the year is the one week we get to spend every summer at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin in Wisconsin, designing and building amazing structures with six incredibly talented teenagers from throughout Chicago’s public school system. Over the past three years, Public Workshop has been redesigning the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s (here) Newhouse Taliesin Fellowship program, transforming it from a week long intensive architecture boot camp, to an experimental design-build laboratory that tests the boundaries of how we can engage youth in making the places they live.
What makes this such an incredible opportunity for redefining what’s possible?
Although we are not part of the architecture school at Taliesin (here), we are lucky and thankful to have free reign of the house and school; the school’s resources and staff; and most importantly we are in the midst of a place that during Wright’s lifetime was about constant experimentation, refinement and learning by doing- Wright was constantly tearing things down, building anew and adjusting. This ’embedded’ spirit pervades our time there and makes it easier for me to transform my teenage apprentices from thinkers to do-ers. The history, the powerful buildings and beautiful countryside make conversations about ‘place’ and context a cinch. Lastly, my apprentices represent a complete cross-section of life in Chicago and have actually competed in an amazing city-wide architecture competition (Newhouse Competition here) against hundreds of other students to have the chance to be a part of this unique experience- they are hungry. Typically this is not only a transformative experience for them but also for me and the awesome staff from the Chicago Architecture Foundation. This week helps us test and redefine our conceptions of process, and product not just for working with youth but also communities in general. Apparently word has gotten around about the unique nature of this time and the Association For Architectural Organizations has scheduled their yearly retreat at Taliesin next week so they can see the process in action.
Needless to say, I….we can’t wait and are looking forward to sharing what we’ve learned and produced.
Check here and at the www.wedesignawesomethings.com website next week (August 8th-15th) for live updates by the apprentices from the field.