How did we get here ?

Cube / A Synopsis                                       

The Center for Understanding the Built Environment provides educational resources to teach children and adults about the value of engaged citizenry. The built environment [everything that is not nature] influences, affects, inspires, controls, allows us, in our every activity to be a participant or a subject.

What is our built environment?

Our built environment starts with the home. It expands in ever widening circles to neighborhood, school, church, shops, services, farm, office, factory, civic and government institutions. All of these kinds of buildings are arranged in patterns of development. They are overlaid road systems, utilities, parking, open space and waterways.

Cities function in many different ways due to decisions that have taken place for hundreds of years. This affects our everyday psyche. Neighborhoods planned with beauty, proportion, scale, appreciation for nature and efficiency are better places to live, work and play.

How did we get here?

Our typical educational system [K-12] does not prepare us to think about how the built environment is created or how we should/could function in it.

We think architects just draw a building on paper and a contractor builds it. The long history of architecture is glossed over. What is architecture? What is design? What is structure? What emotions, functions and activities do buildings provide?

How did our neighborhood, town, city get designed and built? How does it function? The role of planners, politicians, bankers and citizens makes for a rich mixture of creativity and possibility. Engaged citizens wield a large influence on our communities.

How Cube works

CUBE provides tools for learning the fundamental concepts of how our built world has been designed. Active involvement from design to politics can make a difference in the outcomes.

Some of the Cube tools:

Walk Around the Block teaches students how to see and experience their local neighborhood with new eyes. Design, patterns, color, integration with nature, history help us ‘read’ and understand the built environment. Box City engages teachers and students in the act of design and the formation of our towns by decorating box shapes and placing them in strategic locations on a room sized ‘map’ of a neighborhood. Teamwork and negotiation is required as the various buildings in a group setting are placed on the ‘map’. There are many individual activities and curricula designed and developed by CUBE that are available for teachers, planners and community activists.

Cube history

The Center was invented in 1983 by Ginny Graves, HAIA. As a teacher, she saw the need for a more holistic pedagogy. The built environment provides the platform to reading, writing, math, science, art and technology. Ginny and her architect husband, Dean Graves, FAIA, and her unbelievable cadre of volunteer teachers developed CUBE to teach other teachers to teach students these fundamental concepts. Box City, Walk Around the Block, Picture This! and other curricula have found their way into city offices, schools and community centers all over the world – reaching an estimated 1,500,000 students over the years. Cube is a 501c3 organization.

Kirk Gastinger, FAIA Director


kirk gastinger