2022 Summer Camps: Connecting Students and Architecture
By: Brooke Schwartz
Although built over one hundred years ago, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin still serves as a living, evolving way to look at architecture and the world as a whole. The space still breathes new ideas through its community connections and educational programs. This summer, Taliesin is hosting two new in-person summer camps, Minecraft Done Wright and From Detail to City, which use new and different mediums to take in the land Wright left behind and help use it to create a connection between students and architecture.
Minecraft Done Wright will be taught by Platteville Middle School reading and language teacher Jay Gesin. The camp, which is running from July 18th to July 22nd, will have students explore Wright’s principles of design and his connections with nature through Minecraft: Education Edition. While Gesin’s interest in architecture started at his job in a publishing house, his students connected that interest to Minecraft. “I’m not an architect, but I love creating things and I love stories,” Gesin said. “I see the way students create in Minecraft and I watch how their brain works and solves problems. I liked watching how my students were creating projects that they really cared about.” This led Gesin to start running summer Minecraft programs at his middle school in 2015. Since then, he has become a part of the Microsoft Mentorship Program and he has been a part of local projects as well as global ones. His one-week summer program will draw inspiration from Taliesin and the land around it. “I like the idea of creating experiences at Taliesin, and I want more students in Wisconsin and the region to grow up having a connection to Taliesin and Frank Lloyd Wright,” Gesin said. “I’m picturing students building in Minecraft in the same drafting studio as Frank Lloyd Wright’s apprentices, and I think that’s going to be a powerful experience.” Gesin said the connections between Frank Lloyd Wright and Minecraft are plentiful. Early in his life, Wright showed interest in architecture when he would play with Froebel blocks, wooden blocks that Gesin said are very similar in idea to the cube structure used in Minecraft. “There’s this great Harry Truman quote, that ‘not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers’”, Gesin said. “I have a similar one, that not all Minecraft builders will become architects, but all architects in the future will have played Minecraft as children.”
University of Chicago educator Luke Joyner will be teaching From Detail to City: Exploring Scale, offered to students ages 15-18. The camp will take place from June 27th to July 1st and will pull heavily from some of Joyner’s personal architectural passions. Joyner said that living in a wide variety of places and paying attention to everyday spaces has inspired how he looks and thinks of architecture. While Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings are not everyone’s idea of common spaces, Wright also kept this idea of everyday spaces and their functionality present throughout his body of work. “Even though Frank Lloyd Wright is often seen as an example … of very privileged architecture, there’s still a lot in his thinking that had to do with what it’s like to actually imagine the extraordinary within the ordinary everyday,” Joyner said. His week-long camp will take these ideas and help students interact with them by thinking across scales, something Joyner noted is not a new idea, but will help students grow in many ways. “The idea (is) that you actually pay attention at every scale, from the scale of the absolute smallest craft and material all the way up to actually thinking about implications on life at a very large scale and beyond the scale of the building,” Joyner said. “Especially at Taliesin, it’s an amazing place to be able to think in that way.” Joyner said one of the things that makes Taliesin a special place is how alive the space and the land around it is. “I think the extent to which this place can be, not just an artifact, but a living thing, and can be … an example to inspire people in their own ways,” Joyner said, “not necessarily to copy but to sort of be inspired by examples of fundamentally different ways of being in a space, of being in different spaces at different scales, I think is really exciting.” Joyner acknowledged that it’s ambitious, but he hopes his camp will help students think of buildings in a different way and start to consider how the social and the spatial are twisted together, especially as students move up in scales.
From Minecraft blocks to city blocks, Taliesin continues to serve as a laboratory for new ideas and new ways to approach problems. Gesin and Joyner are just a few of the people who are helping to continue building Taliesin’s legacy and the land around it. As Frank Lloyd Wright said, “We create our buildings and then they create us. Likewise, we construct our circle of friends and our communities and then they construct us.” Taliesin’s ever-changing community and landscape has helped create the atmosphere of learning and innovation that invades the building and continues to grow with time.