AIA Columbus Receives One of Nine 2011 Accent on Architecture Grants from AAF

On the first day of Camp Architecture 2010, a group of wide-eyed elementary and middle school students took a bus tour of downtown Columbus, Ohio, to see the green buildings and rooftop gardens of their hometown. The following day, with guidance from a small group of dedicated architects and a structural engineer, those students built bridges and skyscrapers using Popsicle sticks, toothpicks, and mini-marshmallows. They even tested the structural integrity of their creations on pans of Jell-O meant to simulate earthquakes.

This weeklong summer day camp, launched last year by AIA Columbus and its 501(c)(3) affiliate the Columbus Architecture Foundation, helps students aged 9–14 engage with their built surroundings and experience the design process firsthand.

As Camp Architecture creator Marcia Rees Conrad, AIA, explains, the goal isn’t simply to steer campers toward the design professions. “The camp is a wonderful tool to enhance children’s education by putting a face on science, technology, engineering, and math. It also helps them become aware of their built environment, which will help them become more involved members of the community in the future.”

The American Architectural Foundation (AAF) agrees—and to help underwrite the costs of Camp Architecture this summer, AAF has awarded AIA Columbus a 2011 Accent on Architecture grant. AAF established the Accent on Architecture grants program in 1997, in partnership with CNA and Victor O. Schinnerer & Company, Inc., to support local design organizations whose programs enhance the design awareness, appreciation, and understanding of the communities they serve. Over the past 15 years, more than 200 organizations have benefited from the program, which has been made possible by the generous contributions of CNA and Schinnerer. Since 2005, AAF has focused on supporting K–12 design education through the program.

Planning is well underway for this year’s Camp Architecture. Each day will include a talk by a local design professional or other city leader, and activities will range from building cities out of cereal boxes to designing model solar-powered homes. Campers can also look forward to tours of the city and the Ohio State University campus, as well as a visit from some unlikely clients—cocker spaniels.

One of the most enjoyable days from last year’s camp featured the Pads for Paws challenge, which called on campers to design model dog houses that were warm, dry, safe, and responsive to the dogs’ individual needs. That challenge is once again on the schedule. This summer, campers will also design other habitats such as birdhouses and a “kitty city” for a group of feline tenants.

With its Accent on Architecture grant, AIA Columbus hopes to leverage its resources to open the camp to additional students, provide scholarships to campers with financial need, offer stipends to the volunteer assistants who help run the program, and help fund the purchase of daily supplies. The current economic climate has hit the architectural profession especially hard. To support the recovery of the profession, AAF worked closely with the AIA Council of Architectural Component Executives (CACE) during the 2011 grant cycle to actively seek applications from AIA components and their affiliated 501(c)(3) organizations. This targeted solicitation of applications also reflects AAF’s appreciation for the outstanding work that AIA components are doing in K–12 design education across the country.

Among the AIA components and affiliated organizations to receive 2011 Accent on Architecture grants are AIA Central Virginia, AIA Philadelphia, AIA Portland, AIA San Francisco, AIA Triangle, the Center for Architecture (AIA New York), and the Dallas Center for Architecture (AIA Dallas). The National Building Museum also submitted a compelling application and rounds out this year’s list of Accent on Architecture grant recipients. To learn more about the 2011 grantees, visit AAF’s website at

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Posted in: 12 Design Education, AAF Culture, Accent on Architecture Gala, Accent on Architecture Grants, Center for the Advancement of Architecture, Community Engagement, Creative Placemaking, Print
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