The first meeting took place after we participated in AGM’s Model Citizens event, a LEGO-building competition for architects held as part of the NZIA Festival of Architecture. Context Associate Natalie Snowden and parametric designer Soto Solis visited Avondale Primary School to deliver a bumper box of LEGO and answer students’ questions about a career in design.
As a result of the students’ curiosity, we invited the group to visit our North Island studio and experience life as an architect first-hand.
“The pupils were so onto it. Their enthusiasm is heartening for the future of design. We were blown away by the sophistication of their thinking, especially in planning their career choices,” says Natalie.
Ahead of the studio visit, we gave the group a design challenge of their own. An open brief, students were tasked with designing anything and modelling it using Paint 3D, a free three-dimensional computer drawing programme. Upon receiving the designs, we placed them in virtual reality (VR) for students to walk-through.
“We wanted to give the students a window into how we design places and spaces. While we still start with paper and a pencil, our workflow today is built around constructing virtual buildings and sharing the experience using virtual and augmented reality,” says Soto.
“You could see the excitement building on the students’ faces as they experienced their designs in full immersion. It’s much like when a client inhabits their unbuilt space for the first time,” says Natalie.
The students may have been surprised by one aspect of the VR walk-through, however: a scarily lifelike depiction of their school mascot, the Avondale spider.
The morning closed with another question and answer session, where students showed particular interest in understanding the housing shortage and the importance of providing warm, dry and safe homes to the people who need them most.
“The students showed a great deal of compassion and were really interested in our work designing social housing. The future is in good hands,” says Soto.