education Events

High School Students Showcase Architectural Projects at City Hall on Friday

The Art and Geometry of St. Louis Buildings

Over the last several months, students in Debbie Raboin’s Art and Kelly Wamser’s Geometry classes at O’Fallon (Illinois) Township High School have toured St. Louis landmarks and studied their history. This open house showcases their final projects, including artwork, 3-D models, PowerPoint presentations and a City Hall cake (isn’t that a must-see?). In addition, OTHS students will provide music for the background in the rotunda. This pioneering program, developed with the assistance of the St. Louis Building Arts Foundation, is an exciting new model for the use of architecture in unexpected places in the high school curriculum. Over 150 students look forward to sharing their work with you.

Date: Friday, May 11th

Time: 7:00-8:30 p.m.

Cost: FREE
* Music and refreshments provided

Venue Information:
St. Louis City Hall
1200 Market Street
St. Louis, MO 63103

Readers may recall that this blog covered this program earlier, in a March 16 post entitled This Week in Preservation Education, and that I was fortunate to be part of the program. I urge you to please attend to show your appreciation for the people who will be shaping our region’s future.

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This Week in Architectural Education

by Michael R. Allen

On Wednesday, Landmarks Association of St. Louis presented a version of its What Are Buildings Made Of? (WABMO) program to 25 students of Ranken Technical College.

After an introduction from co-worker Susan Tschetter, I gave a 20-minute slideshow talk with short histories of common local historic and modern building materials as well as some discussion of how the use of each material influenced and enabled different common building forms. Landmarks staffer Doug Johnson followed with a presentation of actual building materials, and finally we screened the ever-relevant …It’s Just One Building to make its subtle and effective case for sound preservation planning.

The highlight of any WABMO program is the walking tour, and despite windy weather the tours went well. Richard Mueller, Karen Halla, Susan and I served as guides for one-hour walking tours of the eastern section of downtown. The Ranken students were lively, engaging and attentive — an ideal group. I knew I was in for a good time when one of them pointed at the Arch and shouted “Look, there’s Union Station” but then proceeded to listen attentively to my explanation of the role of the Old Courthouse and the long-gone Merchant’s Exchange in pulling commercial St. Louis westward.

My tour’s stops ranged from the Adam’s Mark Hotel (the epitome of bad 1980’s architecture and an example of a terrible re-cladding of an older building) to the Old Post Office, and included spirited conversation. When I offered the students the chance of leaving the tour at the designated end time or continuing to see a few more things, they all stayed on the tour.

The challenge with architectural education again seems not to be finding a convincing message and compelling information but rather getting the message to the public. Our city’s great architecture is an “easy sell” in many ways. People can’t help but notice the wonders of the built environment here, even if they have not yet encountered encouragement and explanation. The more we provide that encouragement and explanation, the stronger our cultural appreciation for architecture will become.

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This Week in Preservation Education

On March 13 and 14, I was fortunate to take part in an interesting architectural education program involving students from O’Fallon High School (Illinois). The 10th grade honors geometry and art students — led by teachers Kelly Wamser and Debbie Raboin — are studying and researching historic St. Louis buildings and architecture with the aid of the St. Louis Building Arts Foundation. The program this week came about through the excellent work of Lynn Josse.

The goals of the program include research, photography, presentations and — most interesting — 3-d scale models of buildings being studied. The students toured various buildings downtown and midtown with Lynn and historian Mimi Stiritz, and studied information put together by their teachers and Foundation volunteers. At lunchtime both days, the students came to City Hall where I spoke in the Kennedy Room about my work with Landmarks Association of St. Louis and how preservationists are actually architects of the future.

Programs like this are the backbone of effective historic preservation efforts. Without public education, our ideas will never become widespread. That education must be geared toward those young people nearly at the brink of lives spent shaping the world. Notable also is the great collaboration in the effort — two architectural advocacy organizations, a Metro East school, several building owners and St. Louis city government coming together to make something happen shows that at least some people get the “big picture” and are willing to share that view.

I look forward to seeing how these efforts transfer into the students’ work, this year and beyond.

Downtown education

The Need for Architectural Education

by Michael R. Allen

Last week, the owners of the downtown office building where I work (917 Locust Street) had a worker spend time meticulously painting the steel doors at the rear exit and elevators. Meanwhile, the building is missing most of its downspout in rear, has a section of lobby ceiling that is unpainted after a repair and is generally fraught with more urgent maintenance issues.

While the intent of the owners seems to be future conversion to condos, making the deferred maintenance logical, the timing of the door painting was more than a little strange.

Sometimes it’s easy to conclude that very few people understand how buildings work. Would it not be great if someone undertook an educational project designed not to teach people about particular architectural styles or architects but about the mechanics of old buildings? From wealthy developers down to homeowners, the need for basic architectural education remains pressing.