City Builders Academy: From strength to strength

Author: Pooja Raj

MADE held two academies in July 2016 due to the sheer amount of students who applied to be part of our City Builder Programme. Nearly 50 young people took part from a range of different schools across the region.

This takes the number of young people who have taken part in City Builder to nearly 200 since it began in 2012. Feedback from students, teachers and parents tell us this has made a real and lasting difference to the participants and we want to be able to continue to offer this. 

Whist demand increases - this year we had to hold two academies rather than our usual one - the climate for funding this kind of opportunity is challenging. To date the academies have been made possible by grants from individual trusts and foundations for which we are very grateful.  This does mean however there is not always continuity of delivery year on year.  MADE are looking at ways to deliver a more sustainable programme for future generations of young people, if you would like to discuss how you could be involved with this please contact Sally Robertshaw

Below is an account of the second July academy written by MADE administrator Pooja Raj who supported both academies

During the one week program the students had a number of talks from built environment professionals, The speakers helped the students to understand the range of professions available to them in the built environment. 

On Monday the students got thrown into the deep end with the density exercise, this exercise helped the students to understand urban form, development economics and scale. After this the students learnt about the basic principles of good design which they would be asked to apply to their design challenge.  They also learnt about the basic visual representation techniques which was a skill they needed in order to represent their ideas, including model making, they also visited Paul the modelmaker from Glenn Howells Architects to get some tips from a professional. Learning about sustainability in design was important as the brief asked them to include sustainable solutions in their proposal. One of the hardest things to explain to the students is often the concept of concepts.  We encouraged them to look at the bigger picture and use a concept to help them respond to opportunities and constraints within the site.  

We took the students on two site visits, the first one was around Digbeth and the Markets to understand the site and its context, the other site visit was to Eastside Park, to understand design the methods used by the designers to created different spaces and experiences for the user. 


The students were then given a design brief to work to, they had to design three spaces around Digbeth including a a public space.They could of created buildings or open space or museums, anything they wanted however, it needed to have a concept and be sustainable and be suitable for the site in Digbeth. They had to think about transport and access as there are proposed tram line extensions and access to the new HS2 station in this area.

Over the week we asked the students to think about many things: density, height, massing, urban forms, public realm, visibility, access, transport, visual appearance and materials to name but a few.  Many of these ideas were new to the students and we were delighted by how well they grasped these ideas and applied them in their designs.  

The judges asked many questions about their designs, gave feedback and constructive criticism. Overall the judges were very impressed by the proposals, their representation and the presentations. They were all well thought through and they had a good amount of information.  The winning team got prizes along and our City Builder of the Week award, chosen by the volunteers recognised the students who had particularly embraced their City Builder experience.  MADE were proud of every individual who took part and wish them every success as they take their next steps.

We would like to thank all of our professional speakers, judges and the amazing volunteers - Patricia Gomez, Dorthe Riss Jones, Jess Glover and Elise Houdijk who gave up their time to coach the students throughout the week.