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Planning 101

A new summer arts program gives kids dreaming of building the cities of tomorrow a crash course in city planning today—with Pittsburgh as their classroom.

Photos courtesy of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation





What I did on my summer vacation: built a city.

It’s not as outlandish as it sounds, thanks to a new collaboration between Carnegie Museum of Art and Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture, with support from Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation and the Riverlife Task Force.

This summer, for two weeks at a time, groups of kids aged 8-10, 11-13, and high school-aged will join peers with similar interests to get a one-of-a-kind look at city planning and design. Called Urban Revolution, it’s one of the Museum of Art’s Architecture Camps and Workshops, a new addition to the museum’s Summer Arts program.

“ When Marilyn [Russell] called to say ‘let’s partner,’ I was very excited,” recalls Kelly Docter, K-12 Outreach Coordinator for Carnegie Mellon’s School of Architecture. Russell, chair and curator of education for Carnegie Museum of Art, knew she would be incorporating architecture into the museum’s summer-camp mix for 2005; she just wasn’t exactly sure what form it would take.

“ I realized that both organizations were trying to do the same thing—give kids rich experiences exploring architecture from a number of different perspectives,” Russell says. “The Museum of Art has an incredible collection that includes paintings, drawings, architectural models, and the Hall of Architecture; and Carnegie Mellon has professional facilities and tremendous expertise in the teaching of architecture. Why not join forces and make those experiences for kids even better? That’s the beauty of this kind of collaboration; it benefits everyone.”

All architecture camps for 11-13 year-olds and high school kids will take place on the Carnegie Mellon campus, where class space is more plentiful, and instructors from the University’s School of Architecture will lead the camps. Participants will also spend time exploring images of cities in Carnegie Museum of Art’s collection of paintings and in the Heinz Architectural Center, where Russell and Docter are working with Curator Tracy Myers to organize an installation of complementary drawings and models from the Center’s collections.

Urban Revolution goes a step further by taking kids out of the university and museum setting and challenging them to really think big. As Docter points out, Urban Revolutionists will have one of the best cities in the country, if not the world, to explore as a case study: Pittsburgh.

“ This is a wonderful city to get kids to appreciate the old while also thinking about the new,” Docter says. “We have fabulous buildings in Pittsburgh.” And, thanks to the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, kids in the two-week Urban Revolution program will tour some of Pittsburgh’s best
vintage architectural treasures. The Riverlife Task Force is also pitching in to give the kids a look at the riverfronts and an assessment of current and future development along Pittsburgh’s waterways.

Finally, after seeing for themselves all that city planners, architects, and builders have to contend with when creating, maintaining, and modernizing cities, Urban Revolutionists will return to the museum and the Carnegie Mellon studio to design a city of their own. Docter says they’ll first have to consider three important elements of any city plan: housing, open space, and commercial/industrial space. They’ll also be asked to think about all that a city should have in it.

“ It’s interesting what comes to mind when you ask kids to think about the important elements of a city,” Docter notes. “Boys often think first about things like sports stadiums—but when you ask them what would happen if their sports stadium catches fire, they remember, ‘oh yeah, we need a fire station!’ It’s a great exercise; the kids soon realize that things like a jailhouse, a fire station, and theaters are integral to a city.”

The most important thing kids will take away from the two-week Urban Revolution, Docter says, is the iterative nature of the whole process: the constant discussion; the thinking and rethinking.

“ This is an incredibly important part of design,” she notes—and, as these kids will learn, it’s the part of planning the buildings and cities of tomorrow that you can’t learn in a textbook.

“This is a wonderful city to get kids to appreciate the old while also thinking about the new. We have fabulous buildings in Pittsburgh.”
– Kelly Docter, Carnegie Mellon School of Architecture

To learn more about Carnegie Museum of Art’s Summer Arts and Architecture Camps and Workshops, review the Calendar insert in this magazine, visit, or call 412.622.3288. Registration is open throughout the summer months, and scholarships are available.

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