Institute appeals for architects to go into schools

Brampton Manor School and Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners

Source: Lucie Goodayle

Children from Brampton Manor School take part in the RIBA’s National Schools Programme pilot with RSHP architects

The RIBA is launching England’s first nationwide architecture programme for schools.

After a three-year pilot it announced it would roll out the scheme across England – with Wales next in its sight-lines.

The pilot was delivered in more than 200 primary, secondary and special needs schools by 349 so-called “architecture ambassadors” from 170 practices. They reached more than 18,000 young people.

Now the RIBA is appealing for hundreds more architects around the country to sign up, as well as for schools to get in touch.

RIBA’s learning manager for schools and young people, Fiona MacDonald, who leads the National Schools Programme, said: “We know architects are incredibly busy people so we were really blown away by their generosity and energy in wanting to take part and by how strongly they felt about inspiring the next generation.”

Workshops are tailored to each school’s needs and interests and to how much time ambassadors are able to volunteer.

In the pilot this ranged from a one-off workshop to half a term of weekly sessions, “more like a residency”, she said.

The focus is on hands-on activities linked to the curriculum, so pupils learn to engage with the built environment around them.

The Hampton School with Design Box architects

Source: Paul Cochrane

Children from The Hampton School take part in the RIBA’s National Schools Programme pilot with Design Box architects

“There’s a discrepancy between the type of learning that happens in schools and in architecture schools where the learning is much more open-ended,” said MacDonald who plans to share the scheme’s findings with the government.

“We want to make the schoolchildren citizens who question things and are confident to have opinions and to participate in their communities.”

The programme, which is free, was deliberately targeted at schools so that all children have a chance to benefit, not just those whose parents are already interested in architecture or are likely to take them to museums.

>> Also read: How can we design for young people when we don’t consult them?

“We’re ambitious and want every young person to have an inspiring experience through architecture while they are at school,” said MacDonald.

“It’s heartening to see how much the profession has wanted to engage with these audiences. Whenever we go into a [special needs] school we are inundated by architects.”

Architects have also enjoyed understanding how youngsters experience spaces and the streets around them, she added.

“Lots of really fascinating things have come up and the architects tell me they’ve ended up learning lots themselves,” she said.

RIBA president Ben Derbyshire said: “We are committed to empowering young people through this nationwide programme. The huge enthusiasm and commitment of the individual architects and their practices in giving their time to make this programme possible is impressive. We are proud that our pilot project has already reached 18,000 young people, all over the country, and we look forward to inspiring thousands more.”

For more information or to register interest visit the RIBA’s learning section.

RIBA film about the National Schools Programme.