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9 Architecture Summer Camps for High School Students

Architecture, with all its reputation for intensity, is a very niche field– navigating the path to becoming an architect can feel extremely overwhelming. A big reason for this is the lack of design exposure in high schools. If you’re feeling lost for reference as you prepare for university, summer camps are a great way to test your affinity towards architecture, urban planning, architectural history, or any other interconnected design field. These short programs are low-commitment, low-budget ways to foster creative passion, and one way or another will help you answer the big question of what to major in. Not to mention, you’ll come in contact with a huge network of like minds, from students to professors to professionals– there’s no such thing as too much networking! As a bonus, you’ll skill-build, resume-build, and portfolio-build to ease the college application process. The work you do with summer programs is great proof of design capability, and admissions committees will love to see this type of background. 

Registration Deadline: Early Admission: March 31, 2024, Regular Admission: varies

Dates: varies by camp 

Location: Austin, Texas (in-person)

Eligibility: 8th-12th grade students for the 24-25 academic year

Cost: varies by camp, $700-$800 range. A $50 Early Bird Discount is available if you register by March 31st! Students receive a $100 discount (total) for registering in two camps and a $200 discount (total) for registering in three camps (on top of Early Bird discount).

Perks: Partial need-based scholarships are available for Texas residents, which will cover 90% of the total fee. Eligibility is dependent on Free and Reduced Lunch or Texas Medicaid status. 

This set of camps explores a diverse set of creative technologies, from video game design and animation to personal branding and theme park design. You’re free to pick any number of camps, to expand your interests or develop new ones. As you’ll learn, design is highly interdisciplinary– any practice/exposure makes you a better designer, and all skills will transfer to architectural practice. Every one of these camps will provide you a fun, stimulating environment to foster your creativity, become comfortable with digital software, and get to work on portfolio pieces. The small class size also ensures you’ll get personal attention, so don’t worry about prior experience! 

UT Austin’s School of Architecture is an extremely prestigious program. In your week with them, you’ll have access to state-of-the-art facilities, seasoned faculty mentorship, and a vibrant design community. It is a chance to interact with students, professors, and alumni, giving you a glimpse into college life– you may even return to UT Austin for your undergraduate studies! 

Registration Deadline: Early Admission: March 1, 2024, Regular Admission: May 1, 2024

Dates: Session 1: June 10-15, Session 2: June 24-29

Location: Charlottesville, Virginia (in-person)

Eligibility: 10th-12th grade students for the 24-25 academic year. Priority admission is available for applicants from underrepresented groups (BIPOC, first generation backgrounds).  

Cost: varies along a tiered tuition system! Check out Design Discovery’s website to see what income tier your family falls in (free for (< $100k per year)

Perks: 15% need-based scholarships available! 

Hosted by the University of Virginia School of Architecture, this 6-day program aims to demystify the field of design, and what a career in it might look like. One of the biggest challenges design-oriented students like you face as they select a university and a major is the obscurity of design as a profession. Through firm visits, tours of construction sites, and conversations with all varieties of faculty, you’ll slowly but surely learn what it means to be an architect. Hopefully, this knowledge will help you narrow down your preferences, and give you a rare taste of life beyond education. 

Design Discovery offers a dynamic blend of hands-on projects, lectures, workshops, and field work. You’ll be trained and familiarized with a Fabrication Lab to experiment with physical modeling. The program encourages collaborative learning and critical thinking, always backed by a supportive environment where students exchange ideas, receive feedback, and refine their skills. You’ll be able to direct all questions and concerns to current architecture students, gaining valuable insights into what may be in store for you at the college level. If you’re looking for a network, this is one of the best options!


Registration Deadline: March 1, 2024

Dates: Cohort 1: June 17- 21, Cohort 2: June 24-28

Location: Berkeley, California (in-person)

Eligibility: 9th-12th grade students for the 24-25 academic year. Priority admission is available for Bay Area residents, low income students, and students of color/BIPOC applicants. 

Cost: Free! (travel and lodging not included for out-of-town participants) 

Perks: 1:1 college and career mentorship, Certificate of Completion, networking opportunities

If you’re looking for applicable, immersive, hands-on projects, the Young Women’s Design and Building Institute is for you! This week-long camp is a deep dive into the sister worlds of construction and design, featuring a variety of skillbuilding workshops such as carpentry, welding, screenprinting, applied math, architectural drafting, and more. Each year, students collaborate with a different local nonprofit client to design, realize, and implement a production project. Past camps have experimented with unique installations like a parade float for the San Francisco Pride Parade, custom furniture for a homeless shelter, sandboxes and wind sculptures for a local preschool, etc. Not only will you hone your creative and technical abilities, you’ll also be making a real contribution to a population that needs it– you’ll learn how fabrication relates to identity and community, and get a taste of the real-world impact you’ll make as an architect. Most importantly, you’ll be empowered by a network of like-minded students and educators from around the world, and have the opportunity to build lifelong connections. Colleges will always, always, always appreciate a community-oriented designer! 

Admission is by application only, with a maximum of 16 selected applicants– no experience is necessary, and you’ll be equipped with all the materials and equipment you need to succeed. Decisions are released March 15, 2024. 

Registration Deadline: varies 

Dates: varies

Location: varies (in-person)

Eligibility: 6th to 12th graders for the 24-25 academic year. Priority admission is available for applicants from underrepresented groups (minority and low-income backgrounds). 

Cost: Free! 

Perks: Top projects receive a Hip Hop Architecture Camp Prize Pack which includes $100 gift cards, headphones, merch, and more! Older participants are eligible for scholarships:

-Hip Hop Architecture Camp x MillerKnoll Scholarship ($10,000) for college-bound seniors 

-Hip Hop Architecture Camp x Bergmeyer Scholarship and Internship ($1,500 and one week paid internship in Boston) for public school juniors and accredited college-bound seniors. 

Hip Hop Architecture Camp is a unique chance to explore architecture, urban planning, and design through the unique, interactive lens of hip-hop culture. In this week-long experience, you’ll venture into basic architectural concepts like form, volume, structure and site using your favorite songs, lyrics, and artists as inspiration. Professionals from a variety of fields, including architects, dancers, DJs, and activists will guide you as you use these concepts to create a physical and digital model of a city, as well as a song + music video about your chosen topic. Each camp has a curriculum specifically designed for its city– this past year, locations included Atlanta, Memphis, Dallas, Hartford. That means you'll have a chance to reimagine your own community, and examine how the spaces you see everyday intersect with social justice and racial equity.  You’ll learn why architecture is about more than construction- its about culture, and what better way to curate that culture than with art? Expect a deeply creative journey that encourages critical thinking, teamwork, and self-expression, all while incorporating music, dance, and history! 

Registration Deadline: March 30, 2024

Dates: July 7-20, 2024

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (in-person)

Eligibility: 11th-12th grade students age 16+ for the 24-25 academic year

Cost: $3475 for residential program, $2750 for day commuters. Tuition includes meals. 

Perks: Academic, cultural, and recreational field trips  

This intensive 2-week camp is, out of all the options on this list, closest to a simulation of architecture school. The program is structured exactly like an undergraduate curriculum, with a healthy mix of lectures, studios, and labs. In a city as historical as Philadelphia, every corner is a classroom– this camp embraces that philosophy, with daily excursions to buildings, squares, parks, and museums. The architecture of Philly’s residential districts is very specific, and unlike anything you’ll see outside its borders. This is a great opportunity to enter a world and examine it from every angle– something you’ll have to do all the time in your education. 

This program has a triple focus on residential architecture, urbanism, and interior design. You’ll be able to enjoy the iterative nature of creation, and watch your work be shaped by constant critique sessions and constructive feedback exchanges. This exposure to back-and-forth interactions with mentors and peers mirrors the real-world architectural discourse, where ideas are shaped by collaboration. Final work will be showcased in a public exhibition, open to professionals, faculty, and parents– an event like this would look strong on a college application! 

Registration Deadline: Early Admission: March 31, 2024, Regular Admission: April 30, 2024

Dates: Studio 1: August 6-13, Studio 2: July 9-16

Location: Mill Run, Pennsylvania (in-person or virtual)

Eligibility: High school enrolled students age 17+ in the 24-25 academic year. Gap year students are also eligible. 

Cost: $1300 total for tuition, room and board, and meals. Early admits are discounted by $200. 

Perks: Full/partial need-based scholarships are available by application to cover tuition (housing, meals, materials, and instruction)! This fund does not cover travel or miscellaneous expenses. 

Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpiece and undying legacy, now offers residency programs to aspirational high schoolers, a rare opportunity to live and study among great architectural names. This one-week program examines organic architecture, a style of design that manufactures harmony between people and nature. This program is one of the only places you can explore complex ideas like ecology and environment at this early phase of your education! Not to mention, you’ll have the chance to independently explore the famous building, as well as High Meadow and Cheteyan Studios nearby. If you are unable to travel to Pennsylvania, virtual attendance is also possible. 

Residencies are of 4 varieties: drawing + model making, portfolio prep, biophilic design, and design + build. Studio 2, ideal for older students and gap years, will guide you in producing 3 projects for a college portfolio! This is a big advantage, as most university applications will require a comprehensive design portfolio. In any session, you will make great strides in assembling a body of work that communicates your unique skills, personality, and identity, something admissions officers love to see. 

Registration Deadline: June 14, 2024

Dates: July 14-20, 2024

Location: Champaign, Illinois (in-person)

Eligibility: 11th-12th grade students age 16+ for the 24-25 academic year

Cost: $1100 including tuition, room and board, and meals  

Perks: kenneth Jacobs Memorial Scholarship (partial tuition) for two students 

This one-week design studio is a crash course in architectural technique– site work and exploration takes a backseat to studio tasks, like learning softwares, physical model-making, 3D printing, etc. If you’re interested in how an idea becomes reality, or the manual labor behind architectural beauty, this camp is for you! Very few high schools teach technical drawing or expose you to the required skills for an architectural education, so this experience is invaluable if you want to get ahead. It’s one of the most surefire ways of knowing you’ll like the architecture major, and you’ll get to make the decision alongside a cohort of peers in the exact same position as you. It is a larger program with about 70 participants, but many later return to be undergraduates at UIUC– a prestigious school, with lots of options for design studies! 

Despite its technical focus, Discover Architecture still ensures an activity-packed two weeks, including a weekend field trip to Chicago, where you’ll take a boat tour of the city and its most prominent architectural landmarks. You’ll be challenged to problem-solve, trained in group work and collaboration, and exposed to culture, theory, and history. This is the architectural trifecta, so if you want a holistic experience this is the way to go. 

Registration Deadline: first-come first-serve, registration open April 16, 2024

Dates: July 8-19, 2024

Location: New York, New York (in-person)

Eligibility: 9th-12th grade students for the 24-25 academic year

Cost: $395, with a 2.5% fee for credit card payments

Perks: Financial Aid is available on a case-by-case basis!  

Pratt Summer Scholars is another interdisciplinary take on introducing architecture. The workshop explores world-building through the use of video game engines and Augmented Reality. This technology is still new, and quite hard to get your hands on outside the classroom. As you design your digital world, you’ll also be tasked with physical and digital drawings that more closely mirror real-world architectural deliverables, so you’ll definitely be gaining drafting skills. This is a unique workflow that you may never be able to experience outside Pratt, so if you’re interested in gaming or AR be sure to check this option out! 

Pratt, being a design-focused school, has many options if video games are not your forte. Summer Scholars also offers figure drawing, object drawing, painting, and portfolio development workshops– these will guide you through exercises in perspective, light, and material, and will still be highly influential on an architecture application. However, eligibility is strict– be sure to check that you fall within the acceptable age category before choosing a camp! 

Registration Deadline: March 17, 2024

Dates: July 9-21, 2024

Location: Houston, Texas (in-person)

Eligibility: 11th-12th grade students age 16+ for the 24-25 academic year residing in the Houston area

Cost: Free! 

Perks: College application + portfolio making seminars

Led by award-winning faculty members and practicing architects, this program will expose you to design thinking, spatial analysis, and production alike. You’ll be taught and mentored by faculty, undergraduate students, and graduate students, so you’ll hear from every voice in the Rice University community. You’ll be working 95% hands-on, and also develop verbal presentation skills. In 2024, Rice’s School of Architecture is expanding to a new wing, so you’ll be able to take a hard hat tour of the active construction site, and see the building even before current Rice students! 

One of the great benefits of this program is its residential nature– you’ll be living in a dorm with a roommate (another student from the program) so you’ll foster community in a unique and personal way. If you want to feel like a college student, Rice Architecture’s Summer Immersion can definitely give you that. 

One other option – Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you are passionate about research in architecture and design, you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded by researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.

Neha is a current senior at Rice University studying Architecture with a minor in Mathematics. She loves crochet, thrifting, and Taylor Swift, and is excited to help Lumiere’s students find their passion!

Image Source: UT Austin logo


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