Q&A with Steve Ziger at Ziger/Snead Architects
I am a founding partner of Ziger/Snead Architects where I oversee maintaining the highest standard of design excellence for the firm’s cultural and institutional projects. Several years ago, Senator Catherine Pugh asked what I and others, including MICA President Fred Lazarus, thought about a Fashion High school in Baltimore City. Through this and other discussions her concept expanded to include other design arts of Architecture and Graphic Design, and evolved to include middle and high school students.
Education: University of Illinois
First job: First in architecture was at RTKL
Best advice for aspiring designers: Seek a mentor, get involved, and keep a sketchbook.
What is the Baltimore Design School?
Baltimore Design School is a new Baltimore City Public transformation school, offering a combined middle and high school with a focus on Fashion Design, Architectural Design, and Graphic Design. Currently moving into a newly renovated facility in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District, the new school will be an anchor to strengthen the district. A unique public-private funding plan utilizing community tax credits and loans guaranteed by a lease to Baltimore City Public Schools has made the new $26.85 million facility possible.
Do you ever wish a school like this existed when you were growing up?
You kidding?!? This is my dream school. I knew I wanted to be an architect when I was seven years old. While my high school had an amazing art department that gave me a strong foundation, it wasn’t until college that I was able to really explore my passion for design.
This summer the school moved into a beautifully renovated facility designed by Ziger/Snead. How are the students, faculty and visitors taking to the new space?
Everyone is absolutely thrilled to be in a building designed specifically to inspire young designers. Test scores have increased since the move, the students are taking great pride in the facility, and are engaging with the building in a variety of ways. They are exhibiting their creations on all the walls, are designing murals, and planning environmental installations.
When will the first class of students graduate?
We currently have 6th through 9th grade students. Our first graduating class of designers will celebrate in 2017.
Do you expect that most graduates will pursue a higher education, or will they more likely hit the workforce immediately?
A design-based education will prepare our students for any path they choose, but our aspiration for our students is for everyone to pursue higher education. We offer a rigorous academic program infused with design.
Are your students looking for internships?
We are working toward an internship program for seniors in design studios throughout the City, starting in 2016. A number of architectural and design firms are already on board. If your readers are interested, they should contact the school through the website.
Tell us about the long-term vision for the school.
We hope the school becomes a national model for the importance of creativity and critical thinking skills for public school students. Our curriculum is designed to cultivate students who see problems that need new solutions, envision possibilities, and imagine a better world as a result. Partnerships like the one we have with the Adobe Foundation’s Youth Voices Program are critical to achieving this aspiration, and we hope to continue to develop other partnerships with fabrication- and design-based companies.
How can our readers become more involved with Baltimore Design School?
We are looking for volunteers, speakers, books, design and art supplies, and, importantly, funds to support our unique program and curriculum. We need resources to purchase special equipment such as digital fabrication technology, sewing machines, design software, computers, cameras and photography equipment, gym equipment, a dance floor, a green roof, and, importantly, to support our faculty and students with opportunities for professional development and field trips. Check out the website, www.baltimoredesignschool.org.
Want to see more images of Baltimore Design School? Click here.