With all the building going on throughout the boroughs, it’s a wonder that the Center for Architecture remained virtually off the radar until recently. When this professional hub for architects, engineers, landscapers, and lighting designers opened in 2003, it had a bit of an identity problem and drew barely a handful of visitors to its Family Days, the drop-in design workshops scheduled on the second Saturday of every month. Then, Erin McCluskey came aboard as the director for the center’s foundation in 2006 and started running the place less as a trade organization and more like a gallery (it’s both). In the past three months, over 100 kids and their parents have been showing up on Family Day, which begins with guided tours of the design installations, followed by a DIY session (the next one, “Schools of the Future,” is set for February 10 from 1 to 4 p.m.). Since most kids won’t read the technical blueprints in the exhibits, McCluskey, a 27-year-old with a nose ring and untamed red curls, distills the information as she gives tours. To handle the sudden crowds, McCluskey called on young architects to work with kids around tables, making all manner of bridges, airports, and amusement parks from bucketfuls of simple materials. “What we realized was that the public is more aware and excited about architecture, with all the rebuilding in lower Manhattan and the star architects coming out,” she says. “Kids definitely have a lot of opinions about buildings, but they think of what we do as really fun projects. What’s nice is they’re also learning all the cool science behind it.”
2/10, 3/10, 4/14, 5/12 from 1 to 4 p.m.; Center for Architecture, 536 La Guardia Pl., nr. W. 3rd St. (212-683-0023 or aiany.org); $10 per family suggested donation.