Stuckeman school summer camp creates a place for passionate future designers

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Conceptual thinking skills? Basic representational skills? Basic design principles of space, scale and relationships? Assignment: Create a spatial composition defined by planar elements that will then be used to explore the drawing conventions of an axonometric drawing. Does this sound like a summer camp for high school students?

It is in Penn State's Stuckeman School, where 112 campers will gather for two week-long sessions of Architecture and Landscape Architecture Camp. “One week cannot possibly accommodate the interest any longer says,” said Reggie Aviles, camp director and instructor in architecture. “Dan Willis did such a good job launching the camp, and the reputation has catapulted.”

Now in its 11th year, the camp will host 56 students for each camp session in July, during which they will become engrossed in design challenges to get a hands-on impression of the life of an architect and landscape architect. They will learn about the profession, mingling with students from inner cities, regional students and students from as far away as Puerto Rico, Venezuela, California, Texas, Virginia and New Jersey. About 5 percent of them will actually enroll at Penn State – some will walk away from architecture and landscape architecture, entering different fields, but the others will go straight down those adventurous halls of the Stuckeman Family Building.

Started in 2003 by professor Dan Willis, the camp has taken on a life of its own. In fact, landscape architecture was just added into the mix three years ago. The camp mimics the open-air interior style of the Stuckeman programs for the college-level students. The style is unique; in one week, the students will tackle the tricky design challenges hurled at them. They will visit Falling Water, an engineering firm in State College and a local construction site, all in five days. Primarily sophomores and juniors attend; the interdisciplinary challenges target projects and exercises that fit their maturity and interests.

Their first assignment on Day 1 is random — random shapes — cut and assembled into a sculpture. On Day 2, the campers visit Falling Water. On Day 3, they return to their sculpture to meet the project maker — themselves. The student is now going to select (choosing a scale) a bus stop, church, museum, etc., to create a design with scale and functionality. They will integrate 45-degree angles, orthogonal cuts with this first project. They will also be drawing with detail.

Interestingly, this camp has become a pet project for 1969 Architecture alumnus and American Institute of Architects architect Jim Faridy and his wife. They take great pleasure in providing a sponsor scholarship for a student. They visit the camp with personal gift copies of a coffee table-size book on the history of Frank Lloyd Wright, providing one copy for every student enrolled in the camp.

“We get a big kick out of visiting the camp and meeting the young students. We try to help the kids, and I say things like, go find an empty piece of land and just think of the building you can build there. I take great pleasure returning to my projects — all 1,008 school designs and 36 libraries and fine arts buildings,” said Faridy.

Aviles says the camp strives to have funding and endowments for at least five students. To learn more about attending, or to provide a scholarship, contact Aviles at Camp session weeks are July 14-18 and July 21-25. For more information, visit

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Last Updated May 10, 2013