During our Fall 2022 Semester, the Architecture and Design Education program had many firms volunteer. Although each one was outstanding in its own way, WRT impressed us all with its strong initiative and unwavering support for design education. The firm has an interdisciplinary team of planners, urban designers, architects, and landscape architects working across scales to create transformative impact. Known for projects such as the renewal of FDR park and Paseo Verde, their work is a staple of not only the Philadelphia community but also across the nation as well. ADE would like to extend their sincerest thanks to the hard-working volunteers from WRT: Daniel Aguilera, Zoe Cennami, Katarina Marjanovic, Yasmine McBride, Anjel Soesanto, Tynx Taneja, and Beatriz Vergara Aller. WRT’s involvement is a testament to the firm’s commitment to community engagement and reflective of the culture that WRT has created that supports programs like ours.
Q: All of you spent a great deal of time working hands-on with the students to teach them what it is like to be a professional architect or designer. Why do you think it benefits students to be exposed to these ideas and professions at such a young age?
A: "Professionals in our industry should always strive to create more equitable access to education and exposure to the design field at an early age. Many of us can relate to identifying specific moments in our childhood or schooling where architecture, design, or planning processes and concepts “clicked". It is our responsibility to cultivate safe and joyful environments where students can have the opportunity to have these moments for themselves. Programs like this enrich the experience of the students and have the potential to create ripple effects which improve the profession as a whole." -Yasmine McBride
Q: We saw an all-time high volume of volunteers from one firm. What motivated WRT as a team to volunteer in the ADE program?
A: "WRT’s ethos revolves around creating an impact in the communities we work in. We truly care and understand that in order to create a transformative impact on spaces, we have to collaborate with the people that use and live in the spaces we design. This goal of creating places as a team attracts designers who value making an impact in communities to work at WRT. When people heard about this volunteer opportunity to empower kids, we got a lot of encouraging responses and support from management allowing a lot of us to volunteer" - Zoe Cennami
Q: ADE asks you to partner and plan with a team over the 6-week period of your lessons. Most of you were paired with a partner who also works for WRT. How do you believe this improved your company culture?
A: "ADE allows professionals like us to share our knowledge about architecture with the community! This gives my colleagues and I the opportunity to go beyond the office and into classrooms to share with young students why we do what we do. Teaching architecture together with my colleague in a classroom setting gave us more joy and value in our daily workdays and company. Interacting with students and seeing how they benefit from our lesson plans showed us that these students have potential (in the field). Witnessing the students learn and develop an understanding of what it means to think like an architect was memorable. With that said, teaching, interacting, and witnessing the results alongside a WRT colleague definitely made it our ADE opportunity rewarding." -Anjel Soesanto
Q: How do you feel learning to teach younger students about your craft has improved your presentation/management skills?
A: "You really have to know your audience! With every week and every new topic, it was interesting to balance what was more of a presentation with more interactive portions and see what got them excited. I feel I’ve improved in how flexible I need to be, the pre-conception of how it will go can totally be changed in the moment and you have to be able to adapt to the situation." -Katarina Marjanovic
Q: Like in any occupation or project, there will always be hiccups. Was there ever a complication in a classroom that arose and how did that encourage your team to think quickly in a new way that you may not have been accustomed to?
A: "In our 4th session we arrived at an empty classroom. It turned out our teacher had brought them to the library as she had to watch over two classes due to another teacher being absent. Eventually, we found an aid and were able to bring our students back to the classroom while their teacher stayed with the other class. Once we were ready to go, we hit another speed bump as we couldn’t get access to the shared google folder which had our presentation! With no more time to waste we just had to wing it based on memory. It ended up being totally fine as we verbally explained what we were going to show them in the presentation and sketched out a few things to get the key ideas across. After that, we jumped right into an activity rather than more presentation and it all worked out!" -Daniel Aguilera
Q: The main goal for ADE is to provide equitable education and access to Philadelphia communities. How do you feel that goal has your work in the schools?
A: "We all agree that investing in various types of education for young children allows them to pursue new goals and exciting new environments where they can thrive. Together with the ADE program, we have brought skill-building programs to Philadelphia’s educational environment, with passion and positivity highlighted as the key elements. This experience has allowed us to connect with our community and learn through hands-on participation. We have built upon skills we use on our day-to-day and expanded on teamwork, communication, and problem-solving skills. Developing inclusive lesson plans and allowing students to see themselves reflected in the materials while they develop their social and cultural identities through activities has brought a great opportunity for interconnectedness with our community and awareness of the role we have as designers." -Beatriz Vergara Aller
Q: If someone you knew from WRT was interested in volunteering for ADE next semester, what would you tell them about the program?
A: "I would encourage them to do this program and tell them how amazing it was to be able to be a part of something this fun and rewarding. It was great to see how much the children already knew about architecture because they had done the program in previous years. It was very fulfilling to see their enthusiasm and happy faces when they realized we were coming to class that Thursday. The students were very interested to learn about our jobs and the types of buildings we work on. I would definitely encourage other people to take the opportunity and volunteer with ADE." -Tynx Taneja
Interested in volunteering with CFAD's Architecture and Design Education program? Please reach out to Michael Spain (email@example.com), Liza Niles (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Carly Clifford (email@example.com) for more information.
“If you can design one thing, you can design everything.” – Massimo Vignelli More...