A MAP and Skyline High School Project

Interview

MAP’s Matthew Horton in conversation with Peter Goldstein, January 2016
 
Matthew Horton (MH): How do you think that a focus on architecture impacts students overall and prepares them for post high school jobs and education? 
 
Peter Goldstein (PG): At its core, architecture is a multidisciplinary undertaking involving mathematics, science, history and the arts, as well as a host of other disciplines.  And, an education focusing on architecture and design thinking allows students to develop their creative problem solving skills.  Being exposed to these skill sets and ways of thinking in high school helps prepare students for college and for future success in the 21st century workplace where there is a high demand for creative and critical thinkers who can solve complex problems.  
 
MH: Did the students gain specific tools or knowledge through their participation in Ignite Ferris Plaza, tools that they would not have otherwise gained?
 
PG: Absolutely- first and foremost the students were able to collaborate on a real world project in a historic park in downtown Dallas.  The students in the Skyline Architecture and Building Trades Clusters visited the site and met with industry experts before beginning work on their designs.   During this part of the process they worked closely with artist Janeil Engelstad of MAP, Dustin Bullard from Downtown Dallas, Inc., and Rick del Monte and Tony Veno from BECK.  Once they finalized their designs, they had the opportunity to work with Osborn Contractors and BECK to design and build the concrete forms, and pour and finish the concrete benches.  The students then learned how to create the mosaics with tile artist Cassandra Emswiler Burd.  Working with this accomplished team of industry experts, the students learned a host of new skills and most importantly how to collaborate and work with a team of professionals to execute their designs.
 
MH: Having the opportunity to permanently and observably contribute to the urban landscape by designing a public art work is a rare opportunity for high school students. Do you think that the students saw this as an unusual opportunity? If so, were they more invested in the process because of this?
 
PG: Installing a work of art in the public realm is a big responsibility, and the students stepped up to the challenge.  The students saw this project as an opportunity to showcase their creativity and design skills, and have a positive impact on the city.  And, they took great pride in crafting the project from start to finish.  While researching the site, the students learned a lot about the history of the city, and understanding the site and its history helped inspire their designs and was an important motivating factor. 
 
MH: You had a chance to directly observe the students throughout the entire year-long project. What changes did you see?
 
PG: At first, I don’t think the students fully grasped the potential of the project to activate the space and enhance the existing beauty of the park which includes a dramatic fountain, and beautiful old oak trees.  What I enjoyed most over the year working on the project, was watching the students collaborate and discuss and share their ideas, learning from one another and from our partners.  The experience created a strong bond between those who worked on the project- we are all very proud of the work and hope that it reflects a sense of pride in our city. 
 
MH: How has the Dallas community reacted to the project?
 
PG: The feedback from the community has been very positive- it is a real pleasure to see people sitting under the trees on the benches that the students created, enjoying the fountain and the sights and sounds of downtown Dallas.
 
MH: Anything that you would like to add?
 
PG: I would like to thank all of our partners on the project especially Janeil Engelstad of MAP, Doug Palmer from the Skyline Building Trades Cluster, and Tony Veno from BECK for their time, encouragement, and support.  Working on a project such as this involves a lot of time and dedication, and it has a transformative effect on our students and community- it is a win-win where students can engage with the city and help to make it a better place.