Be an architect

New Web site lets kids design their own villas and beach houses

Kids’ corner This April, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation launched a new Web site, Architect Studio is a teen-targeted program that allows users to choose from a list of clients and design a 3-D home based on each client’s needs and personality.

I feel that overall, this program is a waste of time. It might be OK for younger kids, but there are plenty of other programs that are better.

The program takes a while to load—about six minutes on a high-speed connection, and nine to 10 on a dial-up connection. If your computer is not equipped with the latest Shockwave player, you can enter the much weaker and less entertaining (if the 3-D version is entertaining at all) Architect Studio Lite, or download Shockwave.

Once the program has loaded, you design your house through a series of steps, beginning with the client phase. You have many clients to choose from, each sporting a personality, needs and career—everything from a senator to a soccer player to a rap musician. The clients’ profiles are quite detailed, perhaps the most detailed part of the program, aside from the 3-D view of the house itself.

After choosing your clients, you must choose a location. You are given very general areas, such as desert, forest, urban or beachside. It would be nice if they could include a country or state maybe, eh?

Finally, you construct the house. But instead of designing your own original floor plan, you must select a pre-made house shape and size. Sadly, you must draw in walls with a difficult click-and-drag system. You can also use the keyboard, but you have to hold down several keys at once. With other programs, you can move the mouse more freely.

After you finish the walls, you can insert doors, windows, appliances and furniture. You can label the rooms as well. This is basically the end of the program.

You can print out your design or take a 3-D walk-through of your home (only available in the full version—not the lite). You can also post your design on an online gallery—but my Internet connection wouldn’t load that part of the program.

Overall, this is a simple game. There are many other design programs that are more sophisticated, such as MiniCAD and DesignCAD.

But don’t take my word for it. Give this one a try.

Shai Ligum, 14, Vernon Hills


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