Inspiring the Next Generation of Architects

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Having worked on many exciting projects, I have to say that being a dad has been one of the most rewarding to date and raising two girls has been an incredible experience. They often ask me what I do and I am happy to indulge them in everything that is architecture, except for door schedules, which they could not fully understand just yet…. but I am hopeful that they will someday enjoy them as much as I do.

When I remember my childhood, growing up in the inner city of Chicago, the only architectural role model I had was none other than Mike Brady. As silly as it may sound, I consider myself lucky to have been exposed to the career of architecture through a television show. Now, I find myself wondering how many life trajectories can be altered by exposing children to people who can inspire them to broaden their possibilities in terms of a career path and life potential.

My oldest daughter, much to my delight, has been participating in a program that introduces students, ranging from ages 8-15, to the field of architecture and design. She has learned a variety of things and her confidence has increased as a result of this, but what really amazes me is that the intentional diversity in the program introduces her to kids from all walks of life. The work that is produced by the participants is amazing, thoughtful, and creative. When my daughter brings home her projects, I think about how great it is that this program exists and I wonder what her creative outlet would be if she did not have this in her life.

The Alberti program, which is run through the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, is a studio workshop that teaches students about Architecture, Community, and Environmental Design. Sustainability is the general theme of the program and the students get hands-on experience solving problems through design providing them with an invaluable opportunity to meet with design professionals from various backgrounds. Through the process of working in groups and presenting their work, participants also learn critical thinking, collaboration and presentation skills.

The core mission of the program is to create a diverse environment and inspire students that would otherwise not have access to college level resources by reaching out to underserved schools in the St. Louis Public Schools District. The far reaching goal is that the program will lead to a more diverse population of professionals in the field of architecture and design. As such, the program recently was honored by receiving the 2016 AIA Diversity Recognition Program. This award recognizes programs that actively commit to increasing diversity and inclusion within the architecture profession.

The Alberti program is led by Gay Lorberbaum, senior lecturer at Washington University, and is assisted by students enrolled in the architecture program. The program is free to all participants and is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts and generous donations from other sources.

Local Professionals are often a regular part of the program curriculum. They provide lectures, tours, and are leaders that educate the students on a variety of topics to serve as fodder for the project at hand. The program runs during the fall, spring and summer. During the summer period, participants are able to use the studio spaces as their desks while making their creations. Imagine being a kid again and realizing that you are creating in the same space as someone you aspire to be.

The Alberti program is a wonderful example of how we, as creative leaders, should share our knowledge and inspire those that dare to dream but don’t know how to get there or don’t have these examples in or near their lives. Your local schools, universities, AIA chapter, and the 1+ website are great resources to find similar possibilities to engage. I encourage everyone to get involved and inspire because you never know whose life you can change.

Current participant quote: “I like going there because I can express how I am feeling through art”

Former participant quote: “Because I attended, it greatly influenced my decision that architecture was the career path for me!”

Former student teacher quote: “Seeing the kids design freely was inspiring. It gave me an appreciation for children as thinkers and an understanding for how important this work is.”

Pictures provided by the Alberti Program
Opportunities to support The Alberti Program:
  • Be a guest lecturer, host a field trip, or site visit
  • Donate materials and supplies
  • Give a tax-deductible financial support
Contact for more information:
General information and enrollment:
Gay Lorberbaum:
Posted by Martin Padilla, Project Designer