The shape of things to come

20th June 2003 at 01:00
Two upcoming events show the role of architecture and design in modern life. Carolyn O'Grady reports.

Whether by coincidence or grand design, teachers looking for projects and events on design and architecture will soon be spoilt for choice. Two major events - Architecture Week and Designers Into Schools Week - coincide at the end of the month. For Architecture Week (June 20-29), around 300 projects for schools have been organised, ranging from talks through exhibitions and visits by architects, to hands-on educational projects and in-school workshops.

Events include an exhibition of students' and architects' work exploring local regeneration at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in London; a display of ideas by local schools for GP surgeries at Bradford Central Library and a project called Mud Glorious Mud in which post-graduate students at Plymouth School of Architecture work with school students.

Dallington School, a small independent school in Islington, north London, began its architecture project on bridges several weeks ago. The first task was to paint imaginary bridges, which resulted in some beautiful artwork.

Some of the creations, however, were imaginative rather than practical. But the group of pupils from Years 5 and 6 have been working with staff at a small architectural practice called 51% Studios to produce the real thing.

They began by looking at different types of bridge, including arch, suspension and pontoon or floating bridges, before moving on to designing their own. Their ideas will come to fruition on June 21, when the children and architects will build a temporary model of one bridge in the school grounds.

Designers into Schools Week (June 23-27) is a national scheme in its second year which signs up leading figures in the world of design to work with students and teachers in schools. "It's a practical response to the long-standing criticism that the teaching of design within the Damp;T curriculum is too linear and formulaic," says Julia Thomas, development manager for learning at the Design Council, which is organising the week.

"We're trying to give teachers the opportunity to broaden their repertoire of design teaching techniques by working with professionals."

During Designers into Schools Week last year, Kenneth Grange, a Cornish designer, asked students to go off and talk to an elderly person and come back with something that person found difficult and then work on solutions to that problem.

At the same time, designer Wayne Hemingway and students at a Wembley school were drawing up blueprints for the dining area the school was then managing without. This year, he will be helping students plan meeting spaces.

Such projects help teachers realise how important it is to start making rough prototype models early on, says Julia Thomas. "In schools, pupils tend to make very nice drawings, only to find they don't work in three dimensions. Professional designers show that design is a very dynamic process."

Architecture week is organised by RIBA and the Arts Council. For information and resources on Designers into Schools Week go to: To register interest for next year's event, contact Julia Thomas Email: Tel: 020 720 5264

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