Young People into Architecture (YPIA)

Henley Halebrown’s Young People into Architecture (YPIA) project aims to provide an opportunity for school pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds across London to engage with people who work across architecture and the built environment through both classroom learning and a hands-on building task. Through this, children who disproportionately face barriers developing their knowledge and understanding of this sector now have access to different learning experiences, raising their aspirations and giving them a sense of autonomy in a world which can sometimes feel exclusionary. Whilst the project has a focus on architecture, ideas of teamwork, creativity and leadership are all integral.


The origins of the project lie in the architects Henley Halebrown’s community engagement and research work developed whilst designing schools in Hackney and beyond. We quickly realised that very few students in these disadvantaged schools had an understanding about what an architect does or that a career in the built environment was within their reach.  

Research indicated the need for children to take on an active role to help boost their learning. Thus, the project has developed from a simple presentation on architecture to a day-long event, with tasks such as understanding scale by measuring the classroom using laser measurers, designing a dream shed under the visiting architect’s guidance, and building a geodesic dome that the school gets to keep.

The YPIA intervention is a day-long event, led by one of the practice’s Associates, split into two sessions that illustrate and teach the several different skills needed by an architect.

The morning session explores how buildings are designed and what makes them look the way they do. The children are introduced to key concepts such as heat, light and orientation, before being encouraged to consider these in designing a building of their own. Different measuring tools are used so the pupils can understand the importance of scale when sizing up their height and size of the classroom. Drawings, models and visualisations of Henley Halebrown projects all show how a project is developed  before the students are given a template so they can begin to design their own dream house in plan, section, elevation and three-dimensions with the help of the visiting architects.


The afternoon session is a practical one that builds upon the morning, where we help the students construct a large geodesic dome. They learn how to read plans, how buildings are put together and why teamwork is so important. This is done whilst wearing Henley Halebrown’s safety PPE. At the end of the day, each school had a dome they built together and get to keep to use how they wish. The schools are encouraged to decorate the dome.


As the day progresses, one-to-one conversations between Henley Halebrown’s workshop leaders and pupils provide an understanding of each student’s knowledge and help to provide an idea of the role of an architect.

The current environment can make it difficult to offer additional activities to schools. Nonetheless, we feel it is vital to continue engaging with younger generations so they understand the impact they can make on their surroundings.

We work closely with the Thornton Education Trust, you can find more information here.

W Programme

We are a W Partner for 2024’s W Programme. Find out how you can join our community-based membership network focussed on creating better and healthier working environments for everyone in architecture here.