Making Architecture and Design Accessible for All – By Guest Blogger Sarah Mills Bacha

I started my professional career many years ago in journalism, inspired by the legendary undercover/investigative reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. I became a print journalist and worked in the business for many years, always motivated by telling stories that I hoped educated readers and made our communities better places to live.

Throughout my teen years and beyond, I was always interested in architecture and design. Lucky for me my two passions – architecture and design and telling stories merged – when I joined the board of The Center for Architecture and Design (CFAD) in Columbus, created by some extremely forward-thinking architects and designers in our community at AIA Columbus, and then ultimately became CFAD managing director.

CFAD had a fledging camp program, which began in 2010 for kids in third- through eighth- grade, modeled after a school program created by local architect Marcia Conrad and sponsored by AIA Columbus. Marcia’s progressive idea was that architecture wasn’t just something for adults, but kids, too, and that an appreciation for the built environment should start with the youngest members of our community.

Eventually a high school component was added and a partnership with Knowlton was established making it possible to hold sessions – now called Camp Architecture and Design and High School Design Studio – on a college campus each summer. We partner with other design groups, such as IIDA, OCASLA, APA, IDSA, etc., and local firms and professionals to instruct our campers each summer in the various design disciplines, including architecture, landscape architecture, city planning, interior design, industrial design, etc.

What a great story to tell, right? The next step was diversity and a goal to make camp accessible to all central Ohio youth. In the early days, there was a scholarship program, which we grew exponentially. Pre-pandemic, almost one-third of our campers were scholarship-recipients. While the pandemic set us back a bit, we persevered and are proud that we were able to hold camp each summer (although with smaller numbers). And, thanks to grants from Battelle, the Ohio Arts Council and AIA Ohio, and longtime supporters of our youth programs such as TRIAD and Partner Brent Foley, we are rebuilding our scholarship program and even recently added two new youth design initiatives allowing us to extend our reach into our community.

Design Pop! presents fun and interactive architecture and design projects to children in grades fourth through eighth on select Saturdays. High School Design Workshop, offered twice a year at Knowlton, targets under-represented central Ohio high school students. We introduce them to a collegiate-level design studio experience and acclimate them to experimentation and making through creative hands-on projects.

All of this matters because our mission at CFAD is to make architecture and design accessible to more people, cultures and communities, and to eliminate barriers to the design professions for under-represented people at all levels. We are motivated by the words from Chicago Mobile Makers: “This world will not be equal until it is built by and for all.”

Another great story to tell, right? And I feel extremely lucky to be telling it! You can learn more about CFAD’s youth design programs at our website, If you want to get involved in any of our youth design programs, there is a volunteer section on our website. We would love to have you join our team of dedicated volunteers.