School of Architecture + Art Hosts Summer Design Academy for High School Students

School of Architecture + Art Hosts Summer Design Academy for High School Students

By Danny Sagan, Associate Professor of Architecture

Last July, we ran the first annual Summer Design Academy for high-school students. Led by architecture alumnus Josh Chafe, M’08, the week focused on design and making and introduced participants to the studio culture of Chaplin Hall. Students from Virginia, New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Vermont began the week with a field trip to Burlington, where they explored the downtown with Rolf Keilmann of Truex Cullins. Students were introduced to professional practice by Josh while touring Truex’s offices and also visited to Ed Barnes’s Catholic Church, Church Street Market Place, and the Billings Library on the UVM campus.

Studio projects for the week included an exploration of 3-D form with a cube exercise, where students explored a great variety of solutions. Participants also learned basic drafting, 2-D composition, and how to photograph their work and assemble a portfolio. The final project was a group design-build project made of bamboo, rope, and fabric. The resulting spatial sculpture served as a place to exhibit their work at closing ceremonies. The academy concluded with students presenting their work to assembled parents and friends. Participants had clearly learned a lot in a short period of time and were hungry to learn more about architecture. Many, even seniors, said they wished they could return next summer and one student has already applied to the School of Architecture + Art for next year.

Burlington-based CBS affiliate WCAX-TV profiled our Summer Design Academy.

“The budding builders are creating things large and small, tackling topics like scale, proportion, light, and design in a mix of studio, seminar, and field experiences,” WCAX’s Keith McGilvery reported.

Chafe told WCAX that Norwich’s Summer Design Academy offered participants experience relevant beyond the field of architecture, including how to work in a group, create on the fly, and reject ideas without guilt in order to start over.

If you know of any standout high school students who you think would be a good fit for this summer program, please email Prof. Danny Sagan at with their name and contact information.