CityVision is a semester-long program that prepares students to become active participants in observing and shaping their communities. The program provides fundamental knowledge of the design process to approximately 60 middle and junior high school students each year. Since its inception in 1993, CityVision has encouraged over 1,000 young people to identify issues of concern in D.C. and in their communities, and develop the skills to affect positive change.

Early CityVision sessions are devoted to teaching participants about the basic elements of the design process. With that design foundation, participants work in teams to explore selected sites where they observe and collect information about the community’s most urgent needs. Each team then develops a creative solution that addresses those needs, and creates architectural drawings and models of their designs. The program culminates in a final public presentation, in which team members defend their work to a panel of professionals, their family and friends, and community members.

Student Projects

Students focused on several developing areas in the District during the 2011–2012 school year. In the fall, the Museum proposed three sites in Columbia Heights, the Navy Yard, and in NoMa. All three sites were underdeveloped and vacant parking lots in otherwise vibrant and growing neighborhoods. The students were challenged with developing this land to fit in with what already existed, and strengthen the neighborhoods with valuable in fill of vacant property. The students devised a number of creative solutions that would attract people to the areas, such as libraries, parks, and outdoor shopping opportunities. All the designs contained sustainable elements, such as green roofs and water management systems.

In the spring, students explored three sites near the Anacostia Metro Station. This provided an opportunity for our participants to think about design as a real-world agent of change in a community that has historically been underdeveloped. Students’ designs focused on connecting the Metro Station to the commercial and residential areas surrounding it. The students’ designs included an outdoor park and concert venue, increased access to fresh food, and unique architectural elements that would attract visitors to the area.

The NoMa Team, Fall 2011

The team exploring the NoMa neighborhood planned and designed for a vacant parking lot in the center of the growing neighborhood of NoMa. Students noticed that there were a lot of offices, but not many entertainment options in the area. Their interviewees confirmed this, and said that they had no reason to stay in the area after work ended. To help create a more vibrant neighborhood, the students proposed a movie theater and bowling alley. A library offered a community focal point, and a multi-use park with areas for kids and dogs offered much needed outdoors space. Their design incorporated green roofs and water management systems in all the buildings they designed.

Team Blue Tortuga, Spring 2012

Team Blue Tortuga, whose name and building were inspired by a mural of a blue turtle near their site, explored the land directly above the Metro in Anacostia. Their task was to incorporate more residential and commercial spaces into the neighborhood to help bring people to the neighborhood. They designed an apartment building and shops to attract people. A transparent dome and redirected bus traffic kept the noise level down. A park with a fountain, benches, and trees surrounds them and creates a peaceful space.

Community Partners


The Museum established partnerships with four Washington, D.C. public middle schools in 2011–2012. Key to the success of these partnerships is the schools’ enthusiasm for design-based education and their commitment to investing staff resources and time in the project. During the 2011–2012 academic year, Browne Education Campus, Burroughs Education Campus, Stuart-Hobson Middle School, and Takoma Education Campus participated in the program. A school representative accompanied the students to the program each session and acted as the official liaison with the schools. Outreach staff met with both school administrators and interested students to explain the program and its commitments.

In order to support the school partnerships in an age of high-stakes testing, the Museum has also aligned its curriculum with District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) school standards and evaluation practices, as well as the recently adopted Common Core standards. CityVision is multi-disciplinary, meeting DCPS grade level standards in math, science, social studies, and language arts. Student mastery of these standards is measured in many ways, including Brief Constructed Responses (BCRs), an essay format used on annual tests, as well as quizzes and a performance rubric. CityVision is a shining example of how education programs can incorporate standards and evaluation techniques to support testing without losing their experiential and hands-on nature.


A total of 22 volunteer instructors spent 1,339 hours working with CityVision students during the 2011–2012 school year. These volunteers came from local architecture schools and universities, participating schools, professional firms, the District of Columbia Office of Planning, and the National Capital Planning Commission. They brought a variety of backgrounds and expertise to the program that contributed to each team’s overall understanding of the design process and its practical applications in several professions.

District of Columbia Office of Planning (DCOP)

For the 2011–2012 academic year, the Museum continued its partnership with DCOP to provide CityVision with the core of expertise in planning that is the strength of the program. DCOP and the Museum discussed and decided upon the project sites. Staff from DCOP provided expertise in urban planning, logistical support through neighborhood contacts and high quality maps of the sites, as well as an enthusiasm for working with and mentoring the next generation of design professionals.

CityVision is supported by Bloomberg; the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, an agency supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts; The William Randolph Hearst Foundations; and MARPAT Foundation.

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