01 February 2012

Teaching Architecture in Junior High

I used to use FloorPlanner to give students a quick taste of designing houses. And it's perfect for that, but no more. Plus it's free, and a lot of software out there is just too expensive to put on a whole classfull of computers. Then I heard about Home Designer by Chief Architect. They have amazing pricing for schools, the software works on my crappy old computers, and it's powerful enough to really engage students and teachers alike.

If you're simply looking for some decent architecture software without wanting to go all full professional CAD-type stuff, look no further. I just wanted to mention how valuable I think it is to design and technology students alike.

First, technology. We have a construction unit in the class, but I don't really have a shop to give them experience constructing anything besides spaghetti-mallow towers. So I offer them a little experience on the other end of the process, in architecture. As it is an introduction class, and each unit can only take up a week, I think a few days with this software is perfect to give students a taste of what goes into the design and construction of a house. There's really no need to grade anything; the kids love working with the software. So I just give them credit for working with it, and chances are, they'll all go home to tell their parents (a) to buy the software at home, and (b) to sign up for my class that goes more into detail.

Which brings me to how I use this in a design/communications class. Aside from state and federal standards saying that I should include drafting in my curriculum, I think playing with the software really exposes students to visualizing things in new ways. They have to design in a pretty abstract setting: looking straight down on the house plans, using a bunch of symbols to represent ideas. Then they get to look at their designs in 3D and find out what they did wrong and come up with ways to solve the problems. It's like a self-perpetuating education, where problem-solving is its own reward.

Plus, I used the grandfather of this software when I was their age, when I wanted to be an architect. (I still want to be an architect.) Whether or not any of these kids becomes an architect, I'm telling you, this software is worth it.


  1. Check out Google Sketch-up and Homestyler by AutoDesk as well ;) Both free and online!

  2. I love SketchUp and I use it often. I briefly tried Homestyler and it looks a lot like FloorPlanner with a a few pros and cons, so if I didn't have a budget to purchase Home Architect, or if I had a lab of Macs, I'd use them. (There is no good architecture software for macs.)