The process of the Makersville project:
1. Brainstorming-Using house designs from Halloween and Christmas house design projects, project manager, Lawrence Pierre along with his peers and Mr. Codio and Mr. Yetema began to envision a model town that has been years in the making.
Initially based off of Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom design, the final product illustrates how designs change considerably over the course of a process. After some discussion, the group shifted its ideas away from a utopian vision to a more realistic combination of rural, suburban, and urban landscapes. According to Lawrence, the most challenging aspects in this phase were the departure from the theme park idea and the initial orientation of landscape characteristics.
Included in the model are elements such as wind turbines and solar panels. These came about due to the group’s desire to achieve a more sustainable, one might say Utopian vision.
2. Sketching-After the group settled on an idea, Lawrence began to sketch the waterways, retaining some of the inspiration from the Magic Kingdom design. Wanting the design to be unique, the group decided to make some changes and create water features that speak to what one would find in many towns in temperate settings. After discussing with landscape architect and Creative Connections teacher, Yetema, how the topography of the land would slope into the waterways that flow into larger bodies of water and create watersheds, the group’s design took on aspects more in line with realistic landscape features.
3. AutoCAD for landscape-Using various commands such as spline, which allows one to add curvature to line work, Lawrence began to create the Makersville vision in AutoCAD. Due his proficiency in AutoCAD, Lawrence felt as though he could move into Adobe Illustrator in order to enter the laser cutting phase. However, he soon learned that the design process isn’t always linear, and so, at this point, the sixteen separate pieces of the model were all at different stages of development. The work was tedious as each layer chipboard had to be designed separately, and consideration to shapes made the AutoCAD portion of the process a good look into what it might be like to design a jigsaw puzzle. Lawrence notes that one area upon which he would like to improve is the gaps between the sections. One way the group worked to remedy such inconsistencies was to use the landscape features commonly found in temperate forest regions to cover gaps.
One point that really hit home for Lawrence was time. This project’s deadline is May 26th, the evening of WHSAD’s annual art festival, and many of the final design’s issues Lawrence feels are in part due to working with a deadline. One notable flaw is the height difference between portions 6 and 10. Lawrence said that with more time, he would add a couple layers to section ten so the two parts would be level and the transitions more seamless.
4. Adobe Illustrator-Among the new experiences for Lawrence in this project, Adobe Illustrator added another item to his toolbox. Because the laser cutter would not recognize the AutoCAD designs, Illustrator was an essential bridge between the computer generated designs and the tangible models.
5. Laser Cutting-This was Lawrence’s first time using the laser cutter, and while it did not prove a difficult machine to use, Lawrence did learn a thing or two. For instance, when initially cutting each piece, Lawrence followed the manual’s instructions to the tee and so every segment took about five minutes. However, as often happens when one grows more familiar with the equipment one is using, Lawrence decided to increase the speed of each cut. Finding that there was no impact to the precision of the cuts, Lawrence was then able to advance through this phase more efficiently.
6. Model Details–
-3-D designed aspects (houses, bridges, etc.). Numerous students were involved in the construction of features such as buildings, flora, and infrastructure. This portion of the project was something of a “Calling all WHSAD” as students from various grades were able to get involved, whether it was painting one of the model buildings, placing the shrubbery, or some other component that provided the exterior touches. This portion of the process proved to be the most inclusive and collaborative and allowed students time to perform something of a meditative task that enabled them to socialize while at the same time create.
Mentor Interviews by Alexander Diaz
The past two weeks I’ve had the pleasure to talk to both Mr. Codio, WHSAD’s Senior architecture teacher, and Mr. Yetema, a Creative Connections coach with experience in landscape architecture about the neighborhood 3D project done by seniors and showcased at the art festival. As this project took time and effort, their answers, along with WHSAD Senior, Lawrence Pierre’s, insights, revealed the development and outcome of the project.
Below is the interview that took place with Mr. Codio
Alex-When did the idea for this project come to mind, was it recent or was this something you had on your mind for a while?
Mr. Codio- So one of the biggest things that you want to see in a child’s life is to keep their imagination going and architecture is all about imagination. With a 4 year sequence where you begin to understand about drafting, understanding about perspective, understanding about detail a sense of scale. So, I really want the final year of these students life to actually see how everything is put together and showcased. Because at the end of the day as much time we should try to stay within that box and the computer screen… or even drafting it or sketching it, you always want to see that 3-D life come. And architecture is about that, especially to me and to a lot of my students want to see what they built and you need all the aspects and one of the things that is lost a lot is the hands on work. Being able to simply put together designs, sketch, render it and then actually model and lastly even be able to paint it to make it come to life in a small scale is amazing. Because one of the hardest things for students now these days is… they finish a project and that project just stays within that computer, but actually bringing it out brings a sense of childhood back. No matter how old you get, you will always have that sense of when you were younger, things you wanted to see and the realm of architecture is always like that.
Taking a sheet of paper, folding it up, and opening it up again and sketching all the contours, the lines that it makes and bringing something or making something come to life. And there’s a sense of about childhood, as well as what we learn throughout education.
So this project was, even though it was brought up 10 years ago, we wanted to make sure that we were ready to implement this project. The undertaking took about nine months of planning in terms of re-teaching the programs again (AutoCAD, Revvit, Rhino, Twinmotion etc.), as well as teaching the basics on how to scale designs, look at floor plans and the layout of homes, understanding a little bit about landscape architecture, and understanding about climate and vegetation. So all those things are being taken in consideration with this project.
Alex- Alright was the project itself (The sketching, models, and planning) done recently or has the project been stored for the past 10 years?
Mr. Codio- No, this was done this school year. So pretty much all the years prior to that, everything was just rendered and we had little prints here and there, but it was never done to this scale. One of the hardest things was of course space. I was gonna have a room, so now that we have a little bit more room and space as I have to find a way to move this and keep it. But, we have the students and one of the greatest things is that even though COVID happened and as soon as COVID came down and we were able to have people at the school again, the students gravitated more towards this project. They wanted to get out of that box and actually build.
Alex- So it was a sense of childhood creativity?
Mr. Codio- Yes! It was something that energized them that made them say “You know what, this is a cool project. Let’s do it!” Because they saw the importance of not only designing, but putting something together and having fun with it, and that’s the end goal: having fun while learning.
And that’s the hardest challenge as an educator, how do we appeal to students’ standpoints? Of course I could’ve had them done a floor plan, design, model it and render it on a computer. But to actually take on that challenge you need a good set of students. Pretty much the entire senior cohort to help make this come to life.
Alex-So you feel a sense of pride when you see this project, as this project was in the making for so long. But did you have any problems coming up to this point?
Mr. Codio- Yes, there were various problems. One of the hardest issues was when I was speaking to the students about topography, how we were going to do the layout of the space, what’s the height, what’s the scale we were going to use. At first we were going to use a one eighth scale, and we plotted out that it was going to be a one eighth scale. But then we realized that when we were printing, the models were a bit too large, so we had to bring it down to one sixteenth. Therefore, we had to adjust the contours, the layout of the space, the land and how everything was set up. To make it more real for upcoming classes, for next year’s classes that are becoming seniors. To give them an idea on how we are gonna improve our model.
Alex- So a bigger scale project and better than this one?
Mr. Codio- I’m not saying it’s better than this one, but a little more challenging. So with this model, we learned a lot of mistakes, well not really mistakes, but we learned how to better develop. In terms of how to use materials to build; one of the things we used were chipboard. We then realized once spray-painted, it started warping. So we had to find a way to incorporate plexi-glass. Then we realized we wanted to light it up as well to show the visualization. Because a lot of times a great idea could start off great and the implementation of how it looks visually has to be adjusted. Because no one will see it if its not visually appealing to the eyes as well, and this will create an obstacle and we had to work around on how people view the space in different lighting. Like we wanted to make sure it was in the dark. So we had to choose a proper lighting to showcase the design.
Alex- Alright so you mentioned to me that you would make another project similar to this next year, so what would it be?
Mr.Codio- Yeah! I was looking for the next project to be more relatable to the students of Brooklyn and make a Brooklyn utopia.
Alex- Oh, That’s going to be amazing!
Mr.Codio- I want them to see what Brooklyn will look like in the future or how we could make a better Brooklyn. Because I have 5 classes, I’m thinking about doing 5 districts, and how we’re not only looking above ground but below too, like the train system, how things are arranged.
Because one thing about architecture and design, I see people a lot of times create certain projects… which is good. But you have to modify, because at the end of the day, if you don’t modify it, your brain is going to conditioned to the norm. And that’s one thing I’ve risked, having students being familiarized with the same projects. With them saying “Ok we did this, oh the last senior class did it and we’re going to do it again, ok great.” But that’s not a challenge to myself as an educator, especially in architecture.
Alex- Alright so another question, how would you look back on this model in 10 years?
Mr. Codio- 10 years I would say…it was a good beginning and to be honest that’s a good question. It was a great accomplishment to be able to connect and listen to my students in a different perspective. Because sometimes as educators you tend to guide your students and push them. This was one of my first years where my students guided me in the ideas they wanted. Because originally I wanted this project, and I was looking at it in a different light and it wasn’t my project. It was a new age project where students were bringing it to life, I was just an individual to help build the structure, how to put it together, and think about what works and what does not work. But in terms of design, it was me taking a step back and seeing what they wanted to design. Me taking a step back to see what they wanted to implement and show the site model and as well the buildings that it shows. So that’s one thing I always try my best to do, to give students the opportunity to choose what they want. So each year I always tell students that in the realm of architecture, what type of project would you like to work on? And lets see how that fits in, because architecture is endless. So that was one of the things that I was so proud of, to be able to step back and watch my students go forward and all they needed was a push. But that’s pretty much all that it took to take the next step, a little guidance here and there, so it was a great way to actually step back and watch something come to life and see students take charge and be autonomous. One of the things that I learned a lot,is even though students like their architecture and designing aspects, some of them are artists, painters, and designers. So they found their purpose while working at this school project, after them designing on CAD, they were actually able to take a paper and bring the buildings to life as well.
Alex- Alright so I don’t have any more questions, but obviously you have a very strong connection with your students. It’s something in my years of school experience that I’ve never seen in school.
Mr. Codio- I look for a lot and I look forward to what ideas you might have. Because once again, I’m an adventurous person, I always like ripping up the curriculum—
Alex- And then make it yourself.
Mr. Codio- Let’s see what you want, because architecture is endless. There’s no need for us to rely on just one program. If you want to learn something new, go ahead. Same project, but using something different, if you want to model make instead of a 3-D print, let’s do it. Because students were able to create a site plan not from the 3-D printer, but using other technology: laser engraver, their hands, x-acto blades, to build a model because without this site it would’ve been on a flat surface. So every student skill sets, they were actually shown and being incorporated in the project. Even purchasing if it needed to be purchased, and even lighting needed to be purchased. What type of vegetation and how do we change something so rigid into something more organic. Like this tree that originally designed, but the students said “Let’s make it more organic.” and I had to step back and say “You know, you’re right.” Lets find a way to make it organic and make it blend in with the site, instead of letting it stick out.
So I look forward to having you and your cohort, to become a senior.
Alex- Alright thank you so much for your time!
Mr. Codio- You’re welcome.
Below is the interview with Mr. Yentema Prothro, head of WHSAD’s My Brother’s Keeper club. He collaborated with Mr. Codio and the seniors on the site project as he had prior experience with landscape architecture. Below he discusses the thought process behind the project and how a simple idea can turn into something everyone can admire.
Alex: Alright, how did you get involved in the project and what made you dedicate your time and effort to the project?
Yentema: Ok, originally I’m here for My Brother’s Keeper group which is MBK. But in discussion they found out that I have an undergraduate degree in landscape architecture. So that’s something that I was interested in, and even just by being around that room and seeing the projects they were working on, it actually sparked my interest. So I asked Mr. Codio and my supervisor if there was any way or need to help or bring my background, my educational background to the students’ project. And they said absolutely and so from that I would dedicate Mondays every week to come in and assist on the Makersville project.
Alex- So, how did you feel about the project…and how it all came together?
Yentema- It’s amazing how it all came together. I was there when it was first being developed…by the time I arrived, they already had the plan, which was just a sheet of paper, an idea, none of it 2D and 3D ideas. So I was able to take part in the immediate beginnings of the project, and I saw it come from an idea, even the, what is it… the frustration of bringing in an idea to fruition. I saw the entire process, so I was impressed by the end of it. Because I only came there every Monday, my time coming in I got to see the incremental growth and development of it. So I was always surprised and pleased at each level, especially once the modeling started happening and putting everything together. And as a designer, it’s always great to see something on a 2D piece of paper, coming to the 3D world.
Alex: So it was immersive in a way–
Alex: What influence did you have on the students, the seniors, who were involved with the project?
Yentema: I think the student who’ve I’ve worked with the most or the most closely would be Lawrence. And we introduced him to the idea of topography and grading because that is my background in landscape architecture. This helped him through what he’s envisioning as his design and how to actually make that feasible on a 3D model. So how to understand grading, which just means slope and pitch. With how it interplays with water, because it had a water source under the plan, so one key question was “how do you account for drainage?” So teaching them ideas of topography and how to think about that in a realistic view point was one area that I could help.
Alex: So stuff like plumbing and the situation with water?
Yentema: So not even to the level of plumbing, but more broadlight, so if it rains on one part of the plan…on the west part of a plan. It would eventually run to the east. Or would it run to a home in a detrimental way, because to plan this around by a river, you have to understand what that means when it rains and when it’s flooding.
Alex- So were there any problems collaborating with other students, like problems communicating with each other or trying to process an idea? Situations like that…
Yetema: So again, I mostly spent time with Lawrence, but I also called Lawrence the “project manager” because I got to see how he actually was involved and also facilitating the design with other students. And in a conversation, I can see with him that he has to understand his language, but also the language of others. Designers have different languages, even if we have the same idea, the way we communicate those ideas can be different. So I watched his understanding of that and sometimes frustration of trying to make sure nothing gets lost in translation. So Lawrence was not only a designer, but also delegated tasks. Who did you tell to do this task?, who did you tell to do THIS task?. So he had to get comfortable with taking the leadership role. Someone who is facilitating, but also double checking time, timelines, deadlines, etc.
Alex: Alright, so do you think the project will influence future students, like if they see the project, they’ll be motivated to do their work. Like “I don’t want to do my work, but if I finish it, I might have my work viewed so others can see”.
Yentema: I think this project will serve as a great example of not just doing the academics either. But the visual side of the project, so again ending with a person designing something…to whatever enjoyment designing has, it fails in comparison to seeing it actually built. So for example, younger students, freshmen, sophomores, their thinking of design work in general, is wanting to show them the design process on a flat piece of paper. But it’s another thing to show them the flat piece of paper to the model. Because the model is just like I grew up playing with Legos. Seeing a bucket of Legos isn’t the same as seeing a Lego house. So when you see the bucket of Legos, you say “that’s fun”, but when you see someone with the same bucket, you say “I want to try this now”. And even when I was there for the event, I could see that vibrancy and also that enthusiasm and curiosity in the younger students. Like “Oh, I can do this too!, I can make something like this.” So the idea of “I can make something tangible”, I think will definitely influence other students to try it and be curious about it.
Alex: So how do you feel about the final result of the project? Do you think something could’ve been done better or do you think it was perfect just the way it was?
Yentema: The catch 22 of design, is designers never feel completely done or perfect. You have to be willing to say: “It’s good enough” and not in a negative way. It represents what I want to represent, which I think is what that motto does. All the major aspects are there, all the major design elements are there. You can always tweak something: a tree placement, the coloring of a house, the width of a river. But the major design, I think was done very well, as well as the artistic elements of the painting of the homes, the skyscrapers. And I would tell Lawrence, “You have to be comfortable saying all is well” and step back from designing.
Alex: So like a form of acceptance…like in a positive way.
What did you learn from this experience, as a whole. What did you learn, something new that you take on with future projects. Like if you’re here next year, would you help students in a similar manner as this year? What will you improve on in your teaching skills?
Yentema- Great, I think what I learned is several things. First, is how to share my experience with students, but given autonomy to run with them. Like the independence to make a mistake because it’s easy to overshadow and to see the error that is about to be made and sometimes if it’s a small error, I’ll allow it to happen. So [the senior] can learn from it because I also used to go through this in undergrad and I love making designs and modelmaking. But I had to make sure I was realizing that “This wasn’t my project”.
I’m facilitating, helping understanding that this is their project academically, but also socially. So they have to figure out the social balance, figure out how to assign things and how to step back, how to take initiative. And I can’t always hold hands and do that, you know I can see it and watch it happen, and in some cases I have to allow it to happen and be there to help or explain it or improve it.
Yentema: I would look back on this project, because I believe it’s the first of its type here at the school. I would look back on this project, not as a starting point, because there are a lot of things in place now to encourage this type of development academically and socially. But I’ll think of it as a major turning point in where people can tangibly see growth and that growth, looking at the students joy as…their families and friends were watching it and also their esteem. It’s much bigger than a side note, and so understanding that, what happened there was much bigger than just an assignment, because I saw that with the students that it was a sense of accomplishment, and I will always see that project as not only a statement of accomplishment, but also a challenge for other students, like you can see what happens, you see can see what can be done. Now it’s your turn, so not only is it a symbol of accomplishment, but a challenge like “you can do this, you can do more, you can do something similar.”
Alex: So the students are experiencing this project as if it were an actual job, like this is a work environment. And they’ll actually need to learn this because no one will be there to tell them “hey this is wrong, you should do this, this and this. Yeah so that’s something some teachers should do more, unless a student is in a dangerous spot that can lead to a domino effect. Which will ultimately lead to a bigger problem and so how do you think you’ll look back on this project, let’s say in a couple of years?
Alex: Alright as a final question, what would you advise students next year, how would you let them form ideas or help them?
Yentema: I would encourage students from a social aspect as well as a designer aspect, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. One thing I like about this project is that I asked them in the beginning,“Is this based on an actual site?” and they were like “No, it’s a completely new site,” and I was like great. Because we were often given limits, when we were thinking and imagining/dreaming, and we approached this without any limits.. Obviously, when you start designing things, you have to have some limits. For example, water, you have to think about grading, and have homes/skyscrapers, try to get rid of all limits in the beginning and just dream. Dream of a world of design, based on your imagination and then later you can bring about some idea of reality to it. So start off dreaming first, and I think that’s life in general, like start dreaming as big as possible, but then you have to attach that to some idea or reality. But let the dream start first, let them soar, go beyond any boxes you’ve been given. Dream, dream outside the box and design out the box with the understanding there are tangible realities that you have to be mindful of.
Alex: Ok so… I don’t have any more questions, but you seem like a very strong leader and you guide other students to see what they do.
Yentema: Oh, thank you!
Alex: Thank you so much for your time!
Yentema:Yes, I appreciate it and good questions that you asked!
Alex: Thank you!
Yentema: I was glad I was able to take this interview!
Mr. Codio and Mr. Yetema, who I’ve had a pleasure interviewing, both believe that thinking out of the box is what got them to bring the project to fruition. Because of the success of the Makersville project, both instructors hope to create a similar project for next year’s senior cohort.