The nonprofit Project H empowers youth through design education, positively transforming communities and highlighting the power of design to impact social issues. Last December, a new film about their work with students in rural North Carolina, If You Build It, inspired ARCADE and IDSA NW to host two events around the topic of community and design. One was a holiday celebration last December, Collective Works, which drew a diverse gathering of designers and design enthusiasts of all walks. The second was a youth design workshop organized by ARCADE and IDSA NW that took place over the weekend of December 7–8 at MakerHaus. For the workshop, members from MakerHaus, Teague, Architects Without Borders – Seattle, Architecture for Humanity – Seattle and other local designers taught middle- and high-school students about the design process and how design can improve people’s lives.
A critical component of the workshop was to define a project that could be prototyped by students over the course of a weekend. Architecture for Humanity and Architects Without Borders provided the topic: Little Free Libraries. Anyone who cares to is invited to build and display a freestanding library in front of their homes, in gardens and other public spaces to house books that are exchanged freely around the notion of “take a book leave a book,” promoting literacy and encouraging community interaction. Started in Hudson, Wisconsin, this is now a worldwide movement, and there are many Little Free Libraries all over Seattle.
The professional designers worked in pairs with small groups of students to define a vision for their Little Free Libraries and make them into a reality. The process started with brainstorming a wide variety of ideas, which were distilled down to three concepts per group. Then each group selected one idea to prototype (the students said this was the hardest part!). Next came fabricating the prototypes. The designers trained the students on rapid prototyping techniques, and the groups built the prototypes together. The weekend culminated with the students presenting their final concepts.
The workshop was a transformative event for everyone. The students learned each stage of the design process and were able to make their ideas real, which had a tremendous impact on them—they loved being able to bring their concepts to life! The professional designers facilitating the workshop expanded their thinking and participated in different aspects of the design process than they might in their typical workdays. One parent said that this workshop solidified his son’s interest in pursuing design as a profession. Another emailed after the workshop to say: “I just wanted to tell you that my son absolutely loved his weekend at MakerHaus. What an awesome program you designed. He is still talking about it! Thank you so much!”