As a child, Frank Lloyd Wright played with building blocks and gazed at the walls of his nursery decorated with engravings of buildings. He went on to become one of the most iconic architects in American and world history. Perhaps it was his early exploration of structures that determined his life’s trajectory.
Local youngsters may be setting their own constructive career path thanks to MoLab, Inc. This nonprofit organization hosts Camp Spark – Igniting Knowledge! which focuses on different themes throughout the summer. The architecture and design session has proven to be popular with campers.
Twenty rising sixth-eighth graders worked on art projects, building activities and design challenges, such as a friendly competition to create the tallest, free-standing structure. “They were given a budget of $50 they could spend on various materials,” explained Aimee Hills, camp director and co-founder of MoLab, Inc. “They were judged on originality, height, aesthetics, strength and how it would withstand an earthquake and high winds.”
Campers also got an opportunity to build interiors and exteriors in the virtual world using SketchUp. “It’s what real architects use,” said Hills. “It’s education software so it’s free and user friendly, even for beginners.” In addition to making models and renderings, campers also learned about Frank Lloyd Wright and his contributions to architecture and design.
Led by the camp’s instructor Michael Mezich, participants studied Wright’s spaces and learned that he often designed complementary furniture to occupy his interiors. Campers took inspiration from that practice and, using only cardboard, created a chair in two hours that could hold their body weight. “All of them accomplished it and one group even did a toilet,” laughed Hills.
The pinnacle of the camp was a tour of Lewis Spring House, the only private residence Wright designed that was built in Florida. In 1950, George and Clifton Lewis asked Wright to design a home for them. They chose an idyllic, five-acre parcel in Leon County that featured a natural spring. Construction on the home was completed in 1954 and the Lewis family moved in.
Campers were given a tour by Byrd Lewis Mashburn, the daughter of George and Clifton Lewis. She said children are her favorite visitors because “they’re the most fun.” Mashburn grew up at Lewis Spring House with her parents and three brothers, and volunteers as the president of Spring House Institute, Inc. This nonprofit was established to save the building for the benefit of the public.
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