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People and Process

The Architecture Handbook is the result of an incredible collaboration among members of Chicago’s architectural community, local high school teachers and students, and the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

In August of 2004, the Chicago Architecture Foundation brought together a group of individuals committed to architectural education for high school students. The group included principals from 6 architectural firms in Chicago, including Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and Holabird & Root, administrators from the Education to Careers department of the Chicago Public Schools, Chicago Architecture Foundation staff and school of architecture admissions officials from the Illinois Institute of Technology, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Harold Washington College.

The goal of this meeting was to discuss the current state of architectural education in the high schools across Chicago. The principals in the architecture firms stated that they are looking for college graduates who have problem solving skills and experience working in teams. They need employees to be well-rounded and have skills beyond drafting. The colleges expressed that they want students who have strong math, reading, and writing skills. An emphasis on hand drawing is also important for incoming freshmen.

As a result of this meeting, the Chicago Public Schools officially agreed to partner with the Chicago Architecture Foundation to create a college-prep architecture curriculum that addressed concerns of colleges and future employers regarding student preparedness.

Three advisory teams
Three advisory teams came together to brainstorm ideas, develop content, and test lessons and activities for The Architecture Handbook.

Architecture Professionals
More than 40 members of Chicago’s architectural community volunteered their time and energy to the project. These architects helped inform the content and design of the curriculum and added their valuable professional expertise. Ten of these volunteers were paired with CPS teachers to visit their classroom and test out activities from the book.

Pilot Teacher Team
Ten teachers from Chicago Public Schools participated as part of a pilot team to test the book as it was being written. For two years these teachers used a working draft of the curriculum and met monthly to discuss what worked and what didn’t work. The monthly meetings were supplemented with classroom visits by CAF staff and architect volunteers. The valuable feedback provided by these teachers during the process informed key components of the textbook including the integration of math and reading throughout and the focus on student outcomes and assessments.

Student Advisory Committee
At the onset of the project, 14 students from across Chicago were invited for the first student advisory team meeting. The intention was for the students to meet quarterly to test out lessons and provide creative feedback. The students decided that, to be more effective, they had to meet once a week. For an entire year, a core of 6 students came to CAF every Monday to test out activities and give feedback.


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