By Shawnya Meyers

Each summer, the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design hosts Design Camps in several cities across the state to engage youth in the design professions. While each of the four camps in Fayetteville, Little Rock, Hot Springs and Wilson teaches the same basic principles of design, some of the camps have a special focus centered on their particular surroundings.

Set in the middle of downtown Little Rock, Design Camp in the City naturally provides an opportunity to look at urban design and the issues that come with being in a city.

This year, the campers got to tour the Robinson Center, the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library and Learning Center, and the headquarters of Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects, where they talked with architects and interior designers. 

Design Camp students got a behind-the-scenes tour of the Robinson Center.

The camp was led by Carl Smith, associate professor of landscape architecture, and Alison Turner, clinical assistant professor of architecture. Smith also has a background in urban design, while Turner also has a background in interior architecture. Between the two, they were able to provide perspectives from multiple fields of design. Smith said he is out of his element when it comes to interior design, so it helped to have Turner’s expertise on the subject.

“As much as you consciously try to devote equal time to the three disciplines, you find yourself accidentally favoring one,” Smith said. 

Smith talked to the students about the relationship between buildings, the landscape and open space while they explored the grounds of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum and the Heifer International Headquarters campus.

Between the field trips, the students went on a site visit to an alley along President Clinton Avenue. The students were tasked with turning the alley into a functioning destination with an aesthetic and useful space for the community. Students built a scale model to show off their designs for the alley and then presented them at the end of the week.

Professor Carl Smith asked the students how they would turn this alley into a functional community space.

Throughout the week, the campers also worked with two current Fay Jones School students, Mary Beth Barden and Allie DeStefano.

Barden, who is pursuing architectural studies, was drawn to design camp because of the experience it offered. With a desire to teach in the future, she said the camp gave her a chance to work with younger students.

This is Barden’s second year helping with design camp. Last year she worked as a daytime teaching assistant for the Fayetteville camp, but this year she was an overnight leader in Fayetteville and was a teaching assistant at the Little Rock camp.

She said helping with camp is rewarding because she can see the youth becoming more confident throughout the week as they take risks and are open and willing to learn.  

“You’re never going to start learning in life if you’re not open to it,” Barden said. “Getting to be part of that learning process is just so rewarding.”

Having Fay Jones School students help at the camps gives the campers an opportunity to find out what it’s like being a student in the design profession. Barden said one of the campers at Little Rock, Leila Horsman, asked her about her degree and why she was doing it. Leila has been debating between architecture and engineering, and Barden was able to explain some of the differences to her.

Leila Horsman, a senior, said she’s considering studying architecture at the Fay Jones School thanks to Design Camp.

Leila will be a senior at Central High School in Little Rock this year, so she’ll start applying to universities over the next few months. She said the camp helped her decide if architecture would be a good fit, and it pushed the University of Arkansas onto her list of top contenders.  

“Before I wasn’t really positive this is what I want to do,” she said. “Right now, I think I pretty much am.” 

For younger campers, design camp gives them an opportunity to start thinking about their futures.

Audrey Eoff and Mason Engstrom, both ninth-graders from the Little Rock area, said they are considering going into the design field when they’re older.

Audrey said the camp got her interested in interior design, especially meeting with the interior designers at Polk Stanley Wilcox. She said she wants to learn more about the field and how it works.

Mason, who comes from a family of engineers, said he enjoyed buildings but wasn’t fond of math, so he came to Design Camp to learn more about architecture. He said his father is a photographer and his great-grandfather helped design and construct the I-430 bride, which he sees every day, and both of those men also inspired him to look into the design field. 

“Right now, I want to be an architect,” he said.

Mason Engstrom is examining a model while touring Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects in Little Rock.