To be perfectly honest, the first time I heard about the design project of OSLA, I did not respond with overwhelming enthusiasm. There was non of the usual symptoms of receiving a new project – the overwhelming anticipation of designing a monumental structure, the hopeful praying for an unprecedented site and program. Instead, designing a high school seemed, if anything, a little simple. However, after having survived the last twenty or so three weeks, each individual in our Open Source Learning Lab can attest to the fact that this can’t be any further from the truth. Perhaps its the quarter system, or perhaps it’s what I have always been taught about learning; each studio I try to take away something new about architecture. In our double quarter studio think tank, I believed I garnered knowledge about not only architecture, but education itself.
The plethora of challenges that were presented to us winter and spring quarter varied in nature. Fundamentally, as we have learned through careful dissection of our manifestos, designing for education (especially in the future) is a problem composed of variables instead of constants.
Perhaps the overarching roadblock all quarter has been integrating all the tiny pieces of information into one coherent project. As we learned in Chicago, a school is an inclusive environment for a myriad of different individuals: the children, the parents, the teachers, and even the local community. Finding a space that accommodates every part of this holistic group was indeed a design challenge. How do you even integrate a student who might be industrial design focused, with someone whose sole goal in life is to ball, all taught by someone who is determined to enhance the high school band program? Almost impossible. However, I think most groups were able to overcome this simply by designing inside out – program focused designed can really inspect human interaction in a small group scale, allowing us to really thing about each specific space within our projects. Through this method, we were able to consider components of education, like curriculum and counseling, in tangent with the architectural spaces themselves.
The actual submissions themselves were also overwhelming at times. When each project assignment consists of about 20 diagrams, 5 renders, 2 sections, and a cornucopia of other checkboxes, it may seem impossible to complete all of them. I believe that this really matured the studio in several ways. First and foremost, it taught us all to cherish the ‘story’ of our projects and project it into our work as thoroughly as possible. The technical details, though important, dim to insignificance compared to the experiential journey through our Open Source Learning Academies. The deadlines also helped us prioritize the important elements in our projects. It forced us to avoid being stuck in rhinospace – instead of modeling railings for hours on end, we were much more concerned with the larger scope of how the school operates. Finally, having the assignments simply gave us a strict time schedule, ensuring that we were able to finish for final review instead of having work accumulate to impossibility like it usually does.
Partnership in the second quarter, though challenging, was beneficial to each individual student. Although each and every group (except maybe Scott and Waylon, colloquially and lovingly known as Scaylon) had its ups and downs, it really challenged us to accommodate a different point of perspective by re-examining our own. It exposed us to new ways of thought, new aesthetics, and new ways of problem solving. Architecture has always been a major full of self-driven fanatics, and the challenge of resolving two completely different personalities was educational in itself.
To the students of the future:
There is no doubt much advice that you will receive, and must heed, from the 2016 students of the Open Source Learning Academy. However, most of all, I urge you to keep this in mind: though your attention will be entirely focused upon the design and detailing of your own charter high school, it is important to remember that our studio itself a tangible example of open source learning itself. A question that I still pursue today is fully understanding how we as an open source learning studio can exemplify the ‘think tank’ aspect of 21st century learning. Are we creating the eternal learners mentioned in our manifestos?
The most apparent evidence of our studio’s open source perspective is perhaps our website itself. It is a living archive, a source of inspiration, a safe haven of critique, and a vessel of shared ideas. It allows us to all gain a depth of understanding that we alone cannot achieve. From the first week, in our discussion of Dewey and Illich, the group brought up ideas and thoughts much more complex than my own understanding.
The identity of the group is an important aspect of our OSL Lab. It bonds the students (and the professor) together, allowing us to support each other through these 23 weeks. It also helped foster an atmosphere which is accepting, in which our works and knowledge is freely shared (and quite often, copied) throughout the class. Building a group identity is of utmost importance. Our two field trips were both great opportunities to do so, and in these experiences we found a platform to be ‘open source’.
So how will you continue to uphold the traditions and values of the future OSLA? And how do we, as past participants of the Open Source Learning Studio, continue to disseminate its ideas, and carry it’s legacy further into our academic and professional lives?
It has been a truly inspirational 23 weeks. I think we have all achieved more than we have expected and hope for; and for that I would like to congratulate us all. Thank you for your love and enthusiasm these last two quarters.