Ivy Tech students receive rare opportunity for hands-on experience in Century of Progress homes

Ivy Tech students receive rare opportunity for hands-on experience in Century of Progress homes
By: Beth Ireland Last Updated: August 26, 2019

Students from Ivy Tech received an extra helping of history from their educational experience over the summer during a Design Technology course. Ivy Tech Professor, Jason Gordon, taught a unique special topics course called Historic Documentation this summer.  He sees it as the perfect opportunity to work on projects within the community. The course is a good way to get students interested in the architectural world. 

“We try to do some interesting things to get them excited about architecture and design. You know, there's a lot of pretty cool things around here, and we’re by the third largest city in the United States. We want to give them a larger world view of architecture and some of the history behind some of the things we take for granted now,” Gordon said. 

This past summer, Gordon and his students worked with the Indiana Landmarks to update the floor plans on the Century of Progress homes in Beverly Shores. First introduced to the public at the 1933 Chicago’s World Fair, the homes were eventually moved to Beverly Shores where they are now owned by the National Parks Service (NPS). Working with Indiana Historical Landmarks, the NPS offered 50 year leases on the homes to anyone willing to renovate and update the homes and bring them back to their former glory. 

Throughout the years, the lessee have made updates and changes, but many of the blueprints and renderings have not been updated with these changes. The ‘90s was the last time updates were recorded and many of the blueprints for these homes are still the original pencil drawn ones. Gordon’s Design Technology course would be extremely helpful in updating the home’s plans, bringing them into the digital age.

The students’ mission was to measure the rooms, take photos, and speak with the owners about any changes that they were aware of that had been made over the last 30 years. They took that information back to the school, where they used AutoCad to create new blueprints and renderings. The updated plans will be sent to Indiana Landmarks who will then send them to the National Parks Service. They will eventually go to the Library of Congress where they will stay, as the homes are historic sites.

With the homes being some of the only remaining structures from the 1933 World’s Fair, it is important to keep them around. Gordon wanted to ensure that their history was appreciated and preserved. His student’s received a rare first-hand experience on the history of architecture and design. 

“There’s very few buildings left from the 1930s World Fair. These homes are the best examples of what’s left from that fair,” said Gordon. “We're lucky enough that we have five of these buildings that are left from that era. The Fair influenced architecture too, as it was all about experimenting with architecture. These homes pushed the envelope on that.”

For Brad Miller, Director of the Northwest Field Office for Indiana Landmarks, having the students from Ivy Tech take on this project was a natural collaboration. The plans needed to be updated, and introducing the historical homes to a new generation was just as important.

“One challenge that we face as preservationists is because skilled craftsmen and builders who are trained in historic materials are rare. We’re at an emergency point,” said Miller. “Any way that we can partner with entities, like Ivy Tech, that are training the builders and craftsmen of the future is helpful. We want to instill in the students the importance of preservation.”

Ivy Tech knows that courses like Gordon’s and these types of projects offer an excellent amount of real-life experience for their students. It gives them a head start in the workforce. Not many students can go into the workforce with a project such as this on their resume. These courses and projects are a testament to the quality education Ivy Tech offers.

“The fact that our students at the local level are able to work on something that’s on a national level is something just shows the quality of work that our students produce,” said Kimberly LaBarge, Assistant Director of Marketing & Communication at Ivy Tech. “To be able to leave the community and say your work sits in the Library of Congress is a fantastic opportunity for our very talented students.”

There’s high demand in the Design Technology industry for students who are well trained, and Ivy Tech is helping to fill that demand with their high-quality programs and courses, like Gordon’s Design Technology course. 

“We’d love for more people to consider a career in Design Technology so that we can meet this demand,” said LaBarge.

If you’re looking for an interesting career that is in demand, contact Ivy Tech and their Design Technology program (or one of the many other programs that they offer). There is still time to enroll in courses this fall at Ivy Tech! They conveniently offer many courses in an 8-week format, so if you didn’t get started in August, you can start in October instead. Enrollment for the spring 2020 semester opens September 16. Visit ivytech.edu for more information and to enroll in a course!

For more information on Indiana Landmarks and the Century of Progress homes, visit them at their website: https://www.indianalandmarks.org/.