Paying it Forward: SB Architects Hosts Architects of the Future

When a group of nearly forty eight and nine-year-old boys sits still and gives you their full attention then jumps in to work with you side by side for a full morning, you know you’ve got them interested. That’s just what happened at the San Francisco office of SB Architects last week. 

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For the ninth year in a row, SB Architects hosted the entire 3rd grade class from the City’s Town School for Boys for a morning field trip to learn about what architects do and get some hands-on experience. For nearly a decade, this tradition has ranked among the highlights of the year for both students and mentors alike.

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Like many traditions, this one started with a personal relationship. A close friend of the firm, a teacher at San Francisco’s well-regarded Town School, was looking for interesting field trips for her class. Introducing her students to various professions, and showing them what adults do every day out in the “real world” beyond the classroom ranked high on the list. When she asked, we jumped at the chance. Firm-wide, we saw it as a chance to give something back to the profession in a very different way, by introducing young minds to the joys of being a designer.

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In nine consecutive years, the format has remained pretty much the same. The class arrives at our studio at around 10:00, and listens to a brief talk about what we do and why we do it. They are especially interested to hear why each of our designers made the decision to be architects – the frequent references to playing with Legos as a kid invariably sparks a lot of vigorous nods in the audience. After an initial introduction to architecture, the boys break into groups, each lead by a mentor, to design their own projects. Provided with a basic floor plan and furniture templates, they go to town on their projects for the rest of the morning, with lots of direction and advice from their mentors. It’s an all-hands-on-deck experience.

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Meanwhile, one of our talented designers is hard at work on a project of his own. Our designated designer this year was Mickey Mazerac. Working with the same basic plan, his goal was to wow the kids with innovative, sustainable, out-of-the box thinking, and he did not disappoint. Watching Mickey’s multi-media presentation was the highlight of the morning for the students.

One of the biggest rewards from our perspective, is the excitement the students take away with them about architecture and design. We are paying it forward, and the reward we receive in return is immediate.

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Nine years ago, we began with a single school for boys. We’ve since expanded to include a girls’ school and a co-ed charter school, inspiring a range of children to be the architects of the future.