Magazine article Techniques

2012 Cliff Weiss Memorial Essay Contest Winners

Magazine article Techniques

2012 Cliff Weiss Memorial Essay Contest Winners

Article excerpt

Nairn Owens attends Phelps Architecture, Construction & Engineering High School in Washington, DC.

I was 11 years old when I decided that I wanted to be an architect. I built small buildings with LEGO pieces and video tapes. I would draw boxes and squares to make bigger shapes, always thinking about my designs but without any guidelines. My creations were wild. They were chaotic, sometimes physically unrealistic to build or sustain. But I didn't give up my dream of becoming an architect.

In the eleventh grade, I enrolled in Phelps Architecture Construction and Engineering High School. Phelps is a career and technical education school that offers architecture as one of its nine CTE majors. At first, I thought that architecture was going to be one of those easy courses that wouldn't really benefit me. I soon found out it was more than that. This course taught me the basics of what architects do. I am now designing, sketching, analyzing and thinking like an architect; I stay up late at night doing architectural projects. Phelps' CTE program sponsors many different field trips to sites that are related to its CTE majors. I have been to Howard University's School of Architecture and Engineering. We were able to meet and talk to architecture students while they were working on projects. To my amazement, I found that the first year architecture students in college were doing projects similar to the ones we were doing in our junior year of architecture at Phelps.

Last week I spent a school day at Reagan National Airport with one of the airport's lead architects. He was certified with a master's degree in architecture. He talked me through everything I would experience in 20 years. That is 20 years of my future that I can see already. This week, I interned at an architectural firm known as H.O.K. This firm is known around the world as one of the best architectural firms. They have about 17 global offices. They gave me their contact information and offered me an internship. Next week, I will shadow an architect at a firm in downtown DC. This opportunity was made possible by the American Institute of Architecture (AIA). They are also giving me an opportunity to intern at their DC headquarters.

A few weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to enter a contest to design a park that will actually be created at the waterfront in Southwest Washington, DC. I went to the site and met with the architects who have planned this new site at the waterfront. I doubt if I would have had all of these experiences if I was in a regular high school. Not many students in DC or the nation can say they have had these opportunities in less than a half of a school year. I'm seeing and experiencing things that many students don't experienee until they enroll into a university.

CTE programs provide so many opportunities for its students. Every student should be able to experience what I am experiencing. If so, school and learning would be so much more fun. There is no other program that allows you to apply what you learn in school to solving real problems. At first I took my school for granted, but now I know it is not an average high school. It has occurred to me that what I am learning at Phelps will prepare me for college, work and my future in general. It's the missing link I have been searching for since I was a child designing small buildings and drawing different landscapes. Now, I am able to design structures and spaces that can come to life, be real and get approved and built. Very few 17-year-olds can say they can do that.

As a senior at Phelps, I will be in the first graduating class from this school. As I prepare to enter college, I am thankful for the CTE program and teachers I have been blessed to have. I believe I am more prepared to enter into any architecture school than any student who has not had my experiences. I am 17 years old with two years of architectural training. CTE has opened my eyes and provided me with the skills I'll need to succeed at whatever I choose to do in life. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.