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Dept. of Buildings Teaches Harlem Kids About Architecture and Engineering

By Jeff Mays | October 25, 2011 2:04pm
A student in a fourth-grade class at P.S. 175 draws her favorite building as part of the DOB's Junior Architects and Engineers program on Tues., Oct. 25, 2011.
A student in a fourth-grade class at P.S. 175 draws her favorite building as part of the DOB's Junior Architects and Engineers program on Tues., Oct. 25, 2011.
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

HARLEM — The Department of Buildings came to P.S. 175 in Harlem Tuesday looking to cultivate the next generation of architects and engineers.

As part of its Junior Architects and Engineers program, DOB First Deputy Commissioner Thomas Fariello and Executive Director of Technical Affairs Gus Sirakas spoke to students at the school about how buildings are erected, the importance of construction and the department's role in that process.

"We write the rules about building a building that other architects and engineers follow to make sure they are safe," Fariello, an architect himself, told students.

Sirakas and Fariello did a simple exercise with the kids designed to show the role architects and engineers play in the building process. They rolled up and taped four pieces of paper and made them into columns, asking the students how many of their books the four columns could hold.

As they passed the five-book mark, one student predicted a dictionary on top would cause it to topple.

"One more dictionary," the fourth-grade class chanted.

But it wasn't until six dictionaries and a total of 27 books were stacked that one of the columns gave out.

"You see how we can take little pieces of paper, change the shape, and it holds all those books?" Fariello said.

"Architects come up with the design of buildings, how big to make the classrooms, so you aren't bunched together. Engineers say stop at the 26th book so the building can stay in place."

The students — wearing yellow hardhats and junior architect and engineer stickers — also drew pictures of their favorite buildings, which they will deliver to the DOB when they visit its borough offices to get a behind-the-scenes look at the building process.

"We live in a city of construction, and therefore, it's important that our children understand how their neighborhood was developed," Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri said in a statement.

Sirakas, an engineer, said the program helps expose the kids to a profession they might not have otherwise thought about.

"This is the place to start when they are young. This is the best place to get the kids interested," he said.

For students like Donovan Burgos, 9, it worked.

"I love that they showed us lots of stuff about buildings," he said. "I learned how they build buildings and how much they weigh."

Sonobia James, 9, said she liked hearing about how the DOB played a role in new buildings like Yankee Stadium and the World Trade Center.

Zhane Ramsey, 10, added she thought the paper columns would only hold 14 books.

"I think I can make buildings and design them," added Arialdy Rondon, 9, who said she liked the idea of becoming an architect when she gets older.

Tylik Johnson, 10, a fifth-grader, was a special guest in his former fourth-grade class because his teacher knew how much he was interested in architecture. Many of Johnson's drawings have been of buildings he created in his head.

Tuesday, he drew the skeleton of a building with a crane lifting steel, after he learned about their role in the building process from Sirakas.

"It's fun," Johnson said of his design. "I like drawing stuff that people can live in."