Building the future


Photo by Allison White/PEM

Many of our visitors are aware of the massive expansion project underway at PEM and have become accustom to noticing changes inside and outside the museum each time they visit. As a recent snowstorm swirled outside, the new Create Space at PEM was buzzing with builders, each designing their own building and working together to create a town.  Part of an ongoing series called Studio Discoveries, our focus this time around was architecture.   Leading the program was Anna Sanko, executive director of the Architecture Resource Center in New Haven, Connecticut.

We wanted to give our visitors a taste of what building design is like.  We drew aspiring architects of all ages from a 2-year-old and his family to a set of grandparents who were looking for something to do while waiting to enter a timed exhibition.  The energy and creativity that went into all the projects was boundless, designing a building is no small task.  Everyone worked vigorously on the many design issues that arose; measuring, cutting, gluing, taping, picking the color palette, and deciding where their building should be placed among all the other buildings in the town.  We learned there is a lot to take into account.


Photo by Allison White/PEM


Photo by Allison White/PEM

In the end, our town was filled with buildings of all sorts such as Lilliana’s Dress Shop, The Institute of DJ’s and Engineers, as well as quite a few more museums and ice cream shops than you would expect in most towns (which we totally support here at PEM).  Each building, so unique, seemed to represent each individual who made them and collectively produced a thriving and colorful town, admired by many of our visitors during school vacation week.


Photo by Allison White/PEM

For more information: Studio Discoveries is an ongoing program at PEM for all ages and abilities and is free with museum admission.  We work on projects with professional artists and designers of all types to get an up-close look at some of their tools and techniques and gain an insight into their ideas a process.  Each program is unique and welcoming.  To learn more about the program, visit

The Architecture Resource Center works with schools, community groups, universities and government organizations to increase general architectural literacy and design awareness through K-12 educational programs to improve arts and cultural literacy, community awareness and environmental consciousness. 


Photo by Allison White/PEM


  1. Gail says:

    The pictures show how incredibly absorbed everyone is in his or her creative project. And the atmosphere is “fun.”

  2. Gary Bush says:

    It takes a PEMuseum to raise a village.

  3. Katie Theodoros says:

    Thank you for the kind comments Gail and Gary. It certainly was a fun day. We are looking forward to our next workshop on April 19th with industrial designer and educator, Amy Liedtke for something she calls “Design Thinkshop”. I can’t wait to see what everyone creates!

  4. Thomas Dick says:

    Dear Mr. Monroe,
    Just some thoughts and a comment.
    I have been coming to the PEM since 1980 and started to bring my family and children from 1993 onward. I have seen the expansion and beautiful transformation that in no small part you are responsible for. I have enjoyed many of your special exhibits, some that particularly come to mind, the Tea Pots, Iris Apfel, Faberge, Samuel, McIntire, the tattoo one, Frank Benson, So many GREAT shows! But what I also like to like to see when I come to the museum is it’s connection to New England’s maritime past. I visited the museum this past weekend and was disappointed to see that the last gallery dedicated to this subject had entirely disappeared. I get that things change, and in fact must change but is there not a little more room for our maritime history? While I’m thinking of it why don’t you bring back the little shrunken head that used to be in the display case in the East India Hall. My kids used to really like that. Finally, there used to be a circular radiator in one of the stairways, During a renovation this was removed. From a design perspective this was a pretty cool item, not unlike many of the objects in your new California show. I do hope this might have been saved somewhere.
    Many thanks for letting me rant,
    Best regards
    Thomas Dick

  5. Dinah Cardin
    Dinah Cardin says:

    Hi Thomas,

    As we “build the future,” we’re happy to hear your thoughts and other readers’ on this platform.

    Fear not. We’ve got some great exhibitions coming up that we think are right up your alley. Stay tuned for maritime this May when Turner comes to PEM.

    And in the fall, an exhibition that uncovers the story of Salem cabinetmaker Nathaniel Gould, which opens in November.

    Keep coming to see us!

    -Dinah Cardin
    Managing Editor, Connected

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