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Summit wins national architecture award

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Posted: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 8:00 am

The Summit School of Ahwatukee was recently named the National School Award winner by the Association of Architecture Organizations (AAO) for its art, design and architecture program.

The school received recognition for its program, called Virtuvius, which teaches architecture and design in conjunction with other areas of learning. It is implemented in all grade levels and focuses on projects for real-world applications.

"Its theme-based learning is connected to the Summit curriculum," said Kathleen Kupper, instructor and a founder of the Virtuvius program. "There are two components of the program - we are using stories or myths or narratives as a basis for what they build. The second is they are doing real projects and solving real problems and real situations at the local and global scale."

They have been presented with real-life situations such as designing homes in the ninth ward in New Orleans, thinking of ways to develop the Phoenix Green Corridor and more.

"It's interesting because we can use all types of things to design a house with different levels and areas that can withstand a hurricane," Maura Eckard, 10, said.

One project the students worked on dealt with alternative energy. Kindergartners at Summit each designed a new form of transportation while the third-grade students focused on specific types of alternative energy for their projects.

"The design projects invite students to solve real or imaginative problems and by immersing them in these projects, it will help them develop their creativity," Kupper said. "The knowledge is powerful to them because they see that they can make changes in the world."

Kupper developed Virtuvius with her husband, Eugene, at an architecture school in Los Angeles about 25 years ago. Interest in the program exploded and took her to Europe and Arizona State University before taking her to her current location 10 years ago.

To apply for the award, Kupper sent in a four-volume book that showed work of some of the most recent projects.

It was the first year it has been given out and by winning, Summit also qualified for the international competition in Tokyo in September.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or

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