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Architecture By Kids

The Qatar Foundation invited Architectural Democracy to make a workshop at the 2019's WISE summit (The World Innovation Summit for Education). We brought there the "Architecture By Kids".

Architecture By Kids matters because kids learn:

- how to observe cities and find better ways to build them

- to simplify a problem and make compromises to find a solution within a deadline

- that there is no perfect solution like in mathematics and the best argument isn’t the loudest one

- that making things with the hands helps to think

- that problems bring opportunities

Architecture By Kids matters for us all because:

- Teaching children about architecture will directly influence parent’s behavior and sensibility towards a better understanding of cities and of society in a deeper level

- It will speed up the needed improvements and awareness which usually comes only within generations

- In times of long term societal and environmental changes, it is essential to engage and empower children and youth in planning and in decision making*

- there is a lack of research, experience and practical tools on how to engage children in complex issues that involve multiple stakeholders and political decision making

* (Participation of kids into societal and political matters are guaranteed by the UN declaration of children’s rights, and is at the core of the preparatory work for the National Child Strategy in Finland (2019))

Picture: On the wall the diferent schools in Doha, would list their needs and plans alongside the 3D build up

The Process

Our workshops/camps are usually done with two teachers, who can speak different language, in a safe cosy environment, at best surrounded by nature.

Parents can join in full time or leave for a coffee, but if they join, they wear the workers yellow hats, meaning, parents take orders and execute, kids are the architects!

The structure of the camp simulates real architecture challenges. The camp opens the basic architectural concepts, such as scale, dimension, light, material, and space. The workshop introduces the urban planning processes and pays attention to the rules of how cities are made of. Everything is done in a playful way. The structure of the camp is based on three main tasks: Mapping and analysing environment, designing a dream house, and designing a city. At the very end, when the new city or neighbourhood is built, the teachers bring in some everyday life scenarios into that city and the architects will imagine how it unfolds! A story telling of the city.

The process is built so that kids learn a mix of techniques and basic principles and are confronted with constraints and problems such as material scarcity, the ownership of the city, a day in the life of another person, etc.

This educational product is embedded within an overarching work entitled "Architectural Democracy". The main goal of this research and company is to make the complexity of cities more understandable to all citizens and enable with that understanding, a deeper participation of citizens in the decision-making process.

Picture: The 3D of the planning of the stand for Qatar on the right side. One can see a map of Doha on a scale that would suit the size of the stand. These puzzle pieces were done out of wood.

The personal experience in Qatar

The Qatar Foundation lodged us in a 5-star hotel at the CBD of Doha, the corniche, the heart of city. For reference of living costs, the beer at the hotel’s sport bar costs 12 euros and the expresso 8. Flying with Qatar airways is always a pleasure, presentable staff and acceptable food. There is always a vegetarian option. So, after the Penne pasta with Mediterranean vegetables with grated red Cheddar and the double Dewar’s white label blended scotch whisky, we landed at the Hamad International airport and were taken by a luxurious taxi, which of course, being of high class, had no signs of being a taxi.

Rome is the city of failed bike schemes, such as from uber, due to vandalism, in Doha the vandal would be the sour heat. We cooled ourselves in regular visits to the hotel's swimming pool illuminated by its surrounding skyscrapers. The breakfasts were splendorous as well, with two of my favourite companions for the morning start, smoked fish and the New York times. And in these papers, one reads, of the November 19th edition, of the Xinjiang region detained Muslims into indoctrination camps. From the Marriot Marquis hotel to the Qatar national convention centre, we were bus shuttled or sometimes by taxi. A 20 to 40 min ride, depending on the traffic. The local taxi drivers are mostly from east Africa. One of them, from Uganda, was listening to Uganda gospel music and ranting about the poor working conditions, that their bosses would mistreat them and abuse of them. I paid with 10 euros after he excused the card payment was not working, which was likely to be. The lack of trust from superiors is not always unfended. The workers must too, behave the way they wish to be treated and not overcharge clients without receipts.

My speaker’s badge mistyped as usual my name, this time, I had become an accent to the o of the Aibéo. At the convention centre we bumped to other speakers naturally, during lunch, the short breaks we h

ad. From the gate 55 to the room 1216, a life of numbers we forget as well as faces we will never see and visit cards which will fade in to white with time. I kept 7 but gave out all I had brought with me, surely over 20.

You know the trip was busy in work and in social life when the book brough came back unread or the unpaid invoices brought to the trip remained untouched. I read 30 pages of Richard Sennet’s “The uses of Disorder” but admittedly its not an exciting reading.

Going to the middle east, it is hard to avoid the malls. This is well to be seen how it affects the citizens, the kids in our workshops always built-up malls in all corners of the new city they planned. These could be anywhere, equipped even with ice skating rings, empty of course and with much biryani rice parlours.

After all this work, we were treated with a 3-star Michelin dinner at the new museum designed by Jean Nouvel. The museum’s curational work and architecture did impress me, but not the work of the Chef. The tartelette, the confit lamb shoulder nor the date and saffron cheesecake made me believe this to be a 3, nor even a 1 star Michelin work of cuisine.

The summit ended for me in a grill with some of the heads of the Qatar foundation in a private party. Such invitations are officially for networking but unofficially for romances!

The next day, at 1:30 am, I flew to China, for more lectures in Architectural Democracy. Over the course of three days, this summit in Doha had more than 160 sessions, 230 speakers and contributors, and 3000 participants. We met plenty of personalities that visited our booth, including the singer Shakira and the Sheikha Moza bint Nasser Al-Missned. My bags to China were filled with the leftovers of the workshop. All the fancy built up of the exhibition stands were going to the dumpster, a terrible site to witness after having so many people there talking about sustainability.

Architecture By Kids locations & timetable

Our camps usually take place at Hyrsylän Koulu in Finland, but we have done also internationally. For example in Qatar.

Further reading

The Case for Architecture Classes in Schools, by Vicky Chan from, 2018

The Child in the City by Colin Ward

Drawing Up an Urban Planning Manual for Chicago Teens, by Mimi Kirk, 2017

Pedro Aibéo, 2021


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