Inside ArcStart: National architecture high school residential summer program

Inside ArcStart: National architecture high school residential summer program

High school students interested in architecture can partake in the condensed yet fast-paced ArcStart program, which offers a three-week long practical and experiential introduction into the field.

The program exposes students to an all-encompassing architecture education, contingent on studio time, hands-on projects, interacting with architectural graduate students, and excursions to various Michigan-based firms. The program’s residential aspect also gives students a taste of university dorm life.

The ArcStart program offers a unique opportunity for young students interested in architecture to experience studio culture firsthand alongside current undergraduate and Master’s students. During the summer term, the students share studio space with undergraduate transfer students, first year Masters of Architecture students, and the Master of Urban Design students. This allows ArcStart participants to see informal desk criticism, studio pin-ups, and formal reviews, while taking part in their own, scaled-down versions.

ArcStart aims to provide a studio instructor to student ratio of 1 to 10, along with capitalizing on the exclusive readily available Taubman College facilities, such as the Digital Fabrication lab, where students can interface with machinery and even digitally produce their own projects and site models.

Though only a few weeks, the competitive program quickly builds students skillsets, as ArcStart coordinator and Taubman PhD candidate Joss Kiely can attest.

“Students begin with a very minimal skill and craft in their work and we see that change drastically in a very short period of time,” Kiely said. “After the three weeks, someone who came in knowing very little about how to draw models and design space can really come away with a very carefully considered final product.”

Kiely stated that the first week is primarily focused on drawing techniques that teach students to consider documenting space.  The students also partake in a park pavilion design project, where they imagine seating arrangements in a semi-urban context.  The week’s series of exercises shows students how to work with ink and pencil drawings along with building site and topography models.

During the second week, students begin to work on their own with a larger project that was just recently introduced. Students spend the week researching and applying their recently acquired skills to design a summer swimming pavilion on the site of the Huron river.

The final week consists of designing a smaller airport terminal for Northport, Michigan.

Throughout their stay, students also travel to local sites to see modern and contemporary architecture designed by both international and Michigan firms, such as Detroit-based architect Minoru Yamasaki.

“In that case, they learn a little more about Michigan itself and the architectural legacy here in the metropolitan Detroit area,” Kiely said. 

For more information on ArcStart, visit

Images taken by Yojairo Lomeli and are of the 2015 ArcStart cohort