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The making of an architect




Oak Park is a hot bed for free opportunities to educate and inspire young creative talent. We can all look back to moments that have influenced our lives and careers.  


When I was 8 years old, my dad and I stopped by an immense construction site in the middle of our small hometown, Bartlesville, Okla. I was struck by the dramatic tower before me and the variety of construction resources strewn across the site. Some of the materials were three-dimensional geometric parts that were covered in a green patina finished metal. I asked my dad (a petroleum engineer), “What are those sculptured parts and why are they green?” He explained that the parts were clad in copper and were washed with a light acid to accelerate the oxidizing or patina of the material. This was simply an aesthetic decision by the architect to create a contrast with the exposed concrete frame. 


I thought to myself, “You mean that people actually think about things like this?” I was helplessly in love with architecture and never looked back. Following graduation from architecture school, a family friend gave me his signed copy of The Story of the Tower by Frank Lloyd Wright.  


This kind of experience on children at an impressionable age can be a defining moment. In Oak Park-River Forest we have a wealth of architects and designers that are committed to enriching our children’s educational experience with creative programs. 


The Architecture Adventure program brings professional architects, engineers and interior designers into the Dist. 97 classrooms to inspire students about architecture and design. These experts work hands-on with the students and teachers to open their eyes to interests and talents they never knew they had. This year the Mann School fifth graders imagined and constructed their own miniature city. Each student designed, cut out cardboard, assembled with hot glue and painted their buildings. All of the buildings were assembled into a striking skyline. The goal of the organization is to visit every classroom once a year


Linda and Mark Keane (former Oak Parkers) have devised and developed NEXT.cc, which is a 24/7 distance-learning technology. The design education program for K-12 students aims to foster an appreciation of and citizenship toward the built environment. NEXT participants access www.next.cc.com through their computers to explore design connections through writing, speaking, drawing and modeling. This wonderfully illustrated and creatively composed site is perfectly suited for our digital savvy children. 


“NEXT.cc introduces architecture to children with fun and free tools, languages, discovery, and design journeys,” says Keane. 


The Architecture and Photography Camp at Triton College is open to ninth grade students within Dist. 97. All of the students are selected by their art teachers and receive a scholarship. The intent is to introduce students to architecture through photography, while serving as a bridge as they enter high school. The four days are dense with a tour of Wright’s Oak Park, a Froebel Block workshop at Unity Temple, a design charrette at Triton’s architecture studio, an architecture boat tour along the Chicago River, a day of building models and editing photos for a show to friends and family. The camp also provides an opportunity for the students to begin to picture themselves as architects or photographers in a high energy environment. 


Oak Parker Garret Eakin is an award winning residential architect, the co-author of Interior Architecture, and an adjunct professor at the School of the Art Institute.