Vicki Smith’s dream space included a walk-in closet, second-floor library and wooden floors made of toothpicks. Randy Yohre’s dream space was a little simpler — all he needed was a bed, a bathroom and an Xbox 360.
The Scottsdale teens have been designing their own living spaces at this year’s Summer Architecture Camp at Taliesin West, the Frank Lloyd Wright school of architecture in north Scottsdale.
The classes take a different spin on summer camp. Instead of kickball and marshmallow roasts, the students take on drafting, building, drawing and designing.
Vicki Smith, 14, said most of her friends were staying home this summer while she created a stained glass window shaped like a polar bear.
“I like working with my hands and building things,” Smith said.
The architecture courses for kids were started in 1990 by Shawn Rorke-Davis, who spent most of her childhood on the Frank Lloyd Wright campus. Her father worked as the physician for the faculty and fellows, so she was surrounded by Wright’s ideas.
After receiving degrees in psychology and sociology, Rorke-Davis returned to the school to teach. Now she conducts classes for children in the summer, and travels around to Valley schools to instruct teachers in how to incorporate architecture into their lessons.
“Architecture is critical to other disciplines — science, geometry, math, art — you have to write about it, you have to speak about it,” she said. “In real life, you use those skills all the time.”
During the classes in Scottsdale, Rorke-Davis challenges the students to design their dream homes in small spaces, like oneor two-bedroom homes.
“They’re used to four-bedroom, three bathroom houses with a great room,” she said. “One kid asked, ‘Where is the cook going to sleep?’ ”
Over the years, the students have designed homes under water, floating on clouds and on fictional planets, she said.
The students don’t use computers; they have to measure and calculate the square footage of their creations by hand. They also build 3-D models, which also have to be to scale.
“They’re also surprised to learn how much they know about themselves,” Rorke-Davis said. “They’re looking at themselves from a different viewpoint.”
The classes continue until Aug. 4. Each session is limited to 20 students. Prices range from $145 to $295. Information is available at www.franklloydwright.org.