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Exploring 'My Dream House,' as Crafted by New York's Most Design-Savvy Elementary Schoolers

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Welcome to The Amateur Architect, wherein Curbed drops in on kids' summer classes hosted by The Center for Architecture Foundation in NYC. Now in its 10th year, Summer@theCenter offers 8 to 19-year-olds weeklong programs in such fields as dream-house designing, architectural sketching, and skyscraper planning. This column will feature some of the stories, projects, and the young designers themselves, so, please, do follow along. First up: My Dream House.

The greatest thing about allowing 9 and 10-year-olds to design their ultimate dream house is that, no matter how many slideshows of housing styles you make them sit through—"Victorians, castles, different types of modern, Fallingwaters," as Safia, 10, enumerates—and no matter how many lists they make of necessary house parts—sink, sofa, toilet—designs will invariably dissolve into an architectural diet equivalent to root beer barrels and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. On a recent Friday afternoon, at the end of their weeklong immersion into the world of home design, this batch of CFAF students are all keen on telling you what exactly goes into each room of their elaborate cardboard models: a sink in the bathroom, a stove in the kitchen. A trampoline room on the first floor. An IMAX theater on the roof. A driving range on top of it all.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, getting them all to prepare informal soliloquys about their cardboard-and-scrapbook paper masterpieces proved to be a non-issue. The most talkative was Clare, 9, who, not a minute into reporter-class introductions, shot her hand up in the air.

Instructor: Uh. Do you have a question?

Clare: Two questions. One: do we call her "Amy" or "Miss..." whatever? And two: will she be here tomorrow?

During one-on-one time, Clare was off running: "I like arts and crafts and, well, I'm kind of crazy. I think architecture and colors just add more crazy and that's kind of cool." Her aesthetic (below)? "I didn't want to put a wall here, I wanted it to be open. So I put up some plastic to look like glass." Her inspiration? "A woman who lives in my building is an interior designer and architect. When they designed the inside part of our building again, she was one the one who designed it and it looked really cool." Her amenities? A rock wall, bowling alley, dart room, sparkle hammock, and rooftop soccer field. Have a look:


Next up: Julian, 8, with a flop of curly red hair and penchant for hopping up and down whenever he came back from the hot glue station with a new structural addition to his beach bungalow (below). "There's also going to be a water slide, if I remember it," he insisted. "It's going to be glass, so when you look up, it'll be like they're floating in the air. If I remember to put it in. I really really hope I remember." (He remembered.)


When asked why he was at the CFA he responded dutifully: "I like art and architecture." "Why do you like architecture?" He didn't look up. "Oh, I have to remember the hot tub."

There was no prelude with Safia. "So. It's a Victorian Modern," she said, matter-of-fact. "I actually got inspired by this house upstate that I really like." Her lovely, prim setup, which actually looks like a real-life house (below), still boasts a running track and bowling alley below the main floors. Clare, at some point, cuts in: "What's that light blue?" Safia looks up. "This? Paper." "No, what are you using it for?" Safia blinks; it's obvious to her. "The trim."


Of course, there are many more, including Solomon's house on Mars, Luca's glassy spread with a rooftop basketball court, Lilu's horse stables, and Ella's chinchilla farm. Take a grand tour:


· Center for Architecture Foundation Summer Programming [official site]
· All Amateur Architects posts [Curbed National]