By Lauren Robinson
Ted Mosby might tell you that even though it takes a lot of time and effort to become a practicing architect – four, maybe five, seasons – the profession is rewarding.
It might not be rewarding in such a way that practicing architecture means designing a skyscraper in New York City, where Mosby, a fictional character on the television show How I Met Your Mother, works and lives. However, future architects, landscape architects and interior designers might very well have the opportunity to use their skills in locales around the world.
The Fay Jones School is encouraging design innovation in an audience younger than the average college student. The annual summer Design Camp is geared toward junior high and high school students interested in elements of design.
Alison Turner, a visiting assistant professor of architecture, has been teaching the camp longer than any other professor, since its inception in 2009.
At the camp, the young students are shown what the profession is really like, Turner said. Sometimes, that differs from their expectations, often drawn from depictions of architects on television programs and in films.
“We’re not Ted Mosby,” she said. “We don’t design skyscrapers by ourselves.”
This year, for the first time, the camp was held at Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs, in addition to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Turner was the sole professor to teach at the new Hot Springs location in late June, though she also co-taught the Fayetteville camp the week before with colleagues Phoebe Lickwar and Aubrey Pate.
“The gardens are beautiful – it was a great place to hold the camp,” Turner said. “I was a little concerned that there might not be enough other elements besides landscape architecture to talk about or for the campers to see, but there are plenty of things at Garvan Gardens.”
This year, the theme was outdoor classrooms. The Fayetteville camp designed for an area adjacent to a pond at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, and the Hot Springs camp designed for a slope near the Evans Children’s Garden at Garvan Woodland Gardens.
Camp attendees toured some of the architectural structures at their design sites. At Crystal Bridges, they toured the exhibit focused on the work of Moshe Safdie, the museum’s architect. At Garvan Gardens, they toured Anthony Chapel, designed by Maurice Jennings and David McKee, both alumni of the Fay Jones School.
Then, the campers dipped their toes in by getting to know their designated sites. They spent hours evaluating what they had to work with: by measuring landmarks and incline and taking notes on what they could see around them. All of those details factored into their final projects, which they worked on individually, adhering to a set of guidelines administered by the architecture faculty.
“They sketched their ideas, they thought about what an outdoor classroom should be and what different kinds of components it should have, and then they built models and then they made finished drawings of it – floor plans and sections,” Turner said.
The students exuded confidence in their ideas, Turner said. At Garvan Gardens, several of the students’ parents attended the final presentations of their projects.
Also new for the camp this year, the Fayetteville session was held in Vol Walker Hall, which recently underwent major renovations, along with the addition of the Steven L. Anderson Design Center on the west side.
The improved and expanded building is advantageous to this summer design camp in many ways. Unlike their previous Fayetteville base at Memorial Hall – where the landscape architecture department was located for many years – Vol Walker Hall contains examples of old and new materials and design styles.
“A lot of what we do is designing spaces, so trying to get the campers to understand how different spaces feel,” Turner said. “This building has a lot of different spaces for them to see.”
Because there is a fee for the camp, it attracts students who are truly interested in elements of design and architecture.
“Most of the kids are excited to be here,” Turner said.