When Kids Rethink the city with ARCHICAD

During the past few weeks, Enzyme had the honour of joining OWN Academy in a summer workshop in which 9-13-year-old Kids took an important responsibility: rethink the public spaces of the city.
This two weeks workshop is part of a summer course organised by OWN Academy. Their philosophy is to promote a learning process in which students practising real life works hand to hand with professionals. The young students get in contact with real professions and “learn by doing”. They experience the insights of disciplines such as Architecture, Filmmaking, Marketing, Design, Business Creation and more.
During this time, they put on the hat of Architects and Urban Planners. They jump out to the streets of Hong Kong to understand the public spaces and interview the people in the area to understand how they do their life in that part of the city, what they like and dislikes, what are the problems, what could improve the way we enjoy our urban area and how we can improve our daily lives within the spaces we share.
As part of this workshop, Enzyme has been assisting the kids to convert all the feedback obtained with this research,  into ideas to propose as real projects. We sketched, discussed and finally model in ARCHICAD in order to have a better understanding of the proposals in 3 dimensions and ultimately in VR using BIMx.
The objective of this method is to learn to design using digital tools and break the barrier to see what these tools can add to the thinking process.
How would a 10-year-old kid react when facing a Building Information Modelling Software? We always mentioned ARCHICAD is pretty intuitive… But how can we measure it? We were not sure of how the experience was going to develop.
The area chosen for the analysis was Hillier street in Sheung Wan. We choose this area since it has been also part of the Re-Generation Hong Kong proposal we did some time ago at Enzyme. We had already analysed the area and we had a lot of information about it so it was very helpful in order to assist the information research and feedback from students.

“…one cannot help being surprised by the unexpected creativity of their young minds.

The amusing part of working with kids is that one cannot help being surprised by the unexpected creativity of their young minds. Since the exercise started the reactions and occurrences of the students were fresh, intuitive and fearless. At first, they were shy confronting strangers for interviewing. But the more they learned from their conversations the more they felt enthusiastic about the potentials the area could offer.
The proposals were bold and fun at the same time. Of course, they went beyond the real possibilities very often, but this is good since reality is always the one to put constraints on the creativity of a wild mind. Better that than put constraints to the initial ideas.
They wanted trees in the streets and stairs that climbed around them, bridges to cross above the traffic venues and multilevel platforms to allow people to play, read and cook if they have to. Why not? We do not do these things on the streets anymore? Pools and gardens for people and animals, let’s not forget about them. Shaded areas for those who want to play table tennis or foosball while having a drink from the free vending machines…
All these ideas were enlarging since they starting place all these ideas into an empty ARCHICAD file. The first interaction with the software was similar to the one that adults have. First, we need to help them to understand the basic possibilities of 3D and 2D modelling in order to get engaged with the tool.

Shy at first while learning how to do slabs, walls, doors and windows, they got it fast and soon the screens were full of impossible geometries in 3D space. As a fun anecdote, I would say that the reaction to the Objects library was something I would never expect. Was like opening a bottomless chest of games and toys for them to play. They would type what they want and what they found would give them new ideas. From tables to swimming pools and cars; refrigerators, trees and slides. They lost any fear to use a tool that was giving them wings to freely design.
But not everything was having fun trying crazy stuff… There were also proposals in which they show they really understood the problems of the city. Elevators and ramps to connect the different levels of the steep streets of Hong Kong. Simple gardens with shading public sitting areas. Colourful streets in which pedestrians are more important than cars. Parking lots near the newly transformed urban parks. But also giving the possibility to the restaurant in the area to receive delivery within a pedestrian venue. These were some of the solutions that kids can propose to real problems. Is good to remember that we should have fun while improving reality.
By the end of the second day, every team of 2 to 3 students had their proposal modelled in ARCHICAD and exported to BIMx. With the help of the cardboard glasses, every team presented their proposals to the invited audience formed by professionals of the industry of Hong Kong.

It’s incredible how comfortable they are working with the technology using this collaborative tools!

With the help of Alfie from OWN Academy, they put together a presentation describing the whole process. They described the analysis of the area, using Google Earth, the summary of the interviews that they did on site, the ideas they came up with, their sketches and images from the Archicad model… It’s incredible how comfortable they are working with the technology using this collaborative tools! They even asked us to learn how to use teamwork in Archicad, but seemed too much for a two-day training to us!
Apart of having a lot of fun with all students and members of OWN Academy team, we learned a great deal from these young minds and especially about the openness with which they take the challenge of learning technology.
If you are curious you can find the proposals and the presentation here: link1, link2, and the links to the BIMx models: link to BIMx.
We want to thank specially to Press Start for arranging the venue and the team from OWNAcademy: Natalie, Alfie and Christy for a great week of learning and for the opportunity to think about our city together with this brilliant young minds!
As official Archicad training centre, we face very frequently the challenge to train this BIM workflow to adults and professionals of our industry. They come to us sometimes with pre-conceived ideas, fear and sometimes with the conviction that they wouldn’t like to change their methods or learn new stuff… that makes the learning process difficult for both them and us. On the other hand, these past couples of weeks we have seen a group of kids craving for learning and taking this course as a game. Using technology in their favour to create their imaginary world. Using Archicad as if they were playing with another type of “Minecraft”.

Their attitude, their passion and their lack of fear made them achieve amazing results in only 6 hours of training Archicad. Starting from the scratch! Archicad was so intuitive to them that they wouldn’t even listen to our structured explanation and would start already playing with the construction elements and library objects… Do and then ask.
This definitely taught us a lesson for future training!