architecture, construction, and design event for children in Boston



KidsBuild! is turning 25 in 2017!

KidsBuild! is a hands on, interactive learning experience for children.  The event was developed by the Boston Society of Architects (BSA), a chapter of The American Institute of Architects, which is committed to creating learning opportunities for children through design and the built environment.  KidsBuild! is a program of the BSA Foundation.

Ask a child to describe his or her home; they often have a difficult time finding the words to communicate the image in their mind.  Given a few words of encouragement and a pile of building materials they begin to explore their imagination and build what they cannot find the words to say.  Children have fun creating their vision, as they explore the possibilities of planning, design and construction.

The event takes place in a fictional city complete with streets, harbors, squares and other familiar features.  Each family selects a building site from a color-coded map of the city, which corresponds to basic zoning laws.  A sense of scale is explored through the standard building block established by a shoebox.  On some sites the buildings may be as many as 7 or 8 boxes high, while on others the height is limited to one box.

After the site is selected, children move into the construction yard to assemble their building.  This is done with the donated materials such as shoeboxes, milk cartons, cardboard tubes, fabric and other miscellaneous items.  To begin to understand the context that their buildings will exist in, the young designers are also encouraged to visit their site during construction.  Design responses from one building to another come into play as the children begin to receive or reject cues from previously completed buildings.

When complete, the building is placed on the site and the participant requests a review from one of the roaming building inspectors.  The inspectors are architects and other design professionals who encourage the young designer to explain his or her work.  It is also an opportune time to pass along information about planning, context, building types and artistic expression.

The target age range is 5 to 13 years of age, but the event appeals to all ages.  Each year, we have hundreds of children participate. The activity takes a minimum of 2 hours.

KidsBuild! was developed by the Boston Society of Architects (BSA), a local chapter of The American Institute of Architects, in conjunction with the 1992 national AIA convention in Boston and held at the Museum of Science. In 2007, the event moved to the Institute of Contemporary Arts on Fan Pier and stayed for the 2009 and 2011 events.  KidsBuild! moved to the new BSA Space in Atlantic Wharf in 2013 and has since been held annually.

KidsBuild! is a Learning by Design Family Design Day. Family Design Days encourage children and adults to observe, explore and design together. In these hands-on monthly workshops, families are introduced to architecture and design through exhibit tours, walking tours or slide shows, and then complete a hands-on design activity. Architects and Design Educators lead the activities focused on the built environment of Boston and the world.

Julie Misiewicz, KidsBuild! Planning Committee Organizing Chair
Polly Carpenter, AIA, Senior Program Manager/ Director of Learning By Design Programs