"latin : “let her go forth” (even though she really really doesn’t want too.)"
THE OSLA JOURNEY
I saved this final post to be written after the first day of my internship for the following two reasons:
1. I wanted to see how odd it would feel already jumping into a new studio culture, and use that to reflect the previous one.
2. It is officially summer and I believe that allows me a bit of time to procrastinate.
However, my first day on the job began the same way my first day in the OSL lab began twenty weeks ago: a group of people huddled around a table, freely exchanging ideas. I did however miss the familiar faces I was so used to seeing around me.
So. Let’s begin by going back to that first day two quarters ago. A little background on me: I grew up with an extended family full of teachers; 5 of them to be exact. Most of the teachers in my family fully hated PBL, so that is the idea that was consistently put into my head at any family dinner table conversation. I went to what you would picture a very standard public school, and never really had any teachers who changed my life. And if we are going to be frank, I really didn’t give a damn about education. I mostly joined this studio for the field trip (sorry Mark). Now, I wish I could go back and tell myself you’ll learn to give a damn, and you’ll love every second of it.
In the beginning, the idea of open source learning really perplexed me. The way it was described with the puzzles, to my understanding, was this idea of transparent boundaries. For the first couple weeks, I just pictured a school with a lot of glass walls. However, little did I know that those puzzles would benefit me so much in the long run, and really help me to understand the notion of spacial boundaries, and well as the importance of the iterative processes that are necessary in architecture.
The turning point in this studio for me really came from the field trips, first starting with San Diego. To be able to not only see schools that really heavily pushed for 21st century learning, but also speak with the designer who made it possible, was a hugely perspective changing experience for me. I am very much a visual and experiential learner. The real importance of education didn’t click for me until I was able to experience these schools firsthand, see the students passion they felt towards their education, and really understand the architects priorities when designing a school. My first quarter began to process some of the same ideals, but it had a long way to go. While I understood some aspects of 21st century education, such as flexibility, transparency, and freedom, I didn’t know exactly how to apply them. The lay out was messy and missing one huge key that I believe changed everything the second quarter: the manifestos.
While I thought San Diego was eye opening, Chicago was the true life changing experience, and the one thing that allowed me to rethink everything I thought about education in a short span of 10 weeks. Meeting with the different architects and educational leaders who held a true passion for children and schools and then writing a document combining all of their ideals is truly really inspired me. I have never seen people so passionate about changing a group of students lives then I did on this trip. It is here I began to see how architecture could change lives. Since the first year, we’ve always been told to build architecture that makes a difference. This is the studio where it really clicked. This is the studio where I really understood the importance of consistently questioning and challenging what we’ve been told. I believe I realized good architecture will always go against the grain and challenged the issue that is being presented in front of it. Our issue was to redefine something that had been ingrained in our heads for so long, and realizing that with architecture we were shaping one of the most important times in a person’s life.
Second quarter for me was the quarter where everything clicked but also everything fell apart. The manifestos were my saving grace, and helped guide me through design. I think the strong suit of Allen and I’s project was the fact we pulled heavily from each manifesto to create our concept. Without the manifestos, I’m not sure our concept would have been as easy to design around. If there’s one thing I will always take away from this studio, its the importance of concept and how you can truly base a full design off that. It seemed as if every question that arose these past ten weeks was easily answerable if it fit into our concept; and, if it didn’t, we knew that aspect had to be changed. These past twenty weeks taught me the importance of iteration, and that problems will not be solved on the first go. In the end, we ended up with a building that we thought reflected the manifesto to the best of our ability in the 10 weeks we had; it may not be perfect, but it began to incapsulate for the first time the newfound ideals and passions we held. This is the one project I wish I could work out a thousand times over, until I finally felt like I got it right. The fact that twenty weeks is gone and I still feel like I had so much more to add and so much more to learn is both frightening and exciting. I may have not had an educational experience that changed my life while growing up, but I think I finally found the one. Its better late than never, right?
The main challenge for these past two quarters for me was how to create a school that really had an impact. The only way for me to really do this was to picture myself as an experiential user. Never before have I placed myself so deeply into a project than I did with this one. The challenge here was to go against what I had grown up with and what I had been taught to create something radical and new. I really believe school is a big part of what shapes you as a person, and the challenge while designing this school was thinking about what type of student I would produce through the influence of architecture? I wanted a progressive student who was able to challenge what they were being taught, and act independently on their own to shape their education how they wished. That meant I needed to be that student. The challenge was questioning what I knew and acting independently from the norm. This studio taught me its okay to question what you know, and even better if those questions are left open-ended.
I really had two main questions leaving this studio.
- what does it mean to be flexible? flexibility is such an open term and every time I try to challenge it I think I begin to confuse myself even more. For a school to be flexible, you need to define flexibility. Sure, we can throw a 100,000 sq. ft. open box in avila beach and say here is our flexible school, but thats not very efficient, is it? My question is how do you put boundaries on flexibility and define it to the point that makes a school contained enough to work but open enough to let a student evolve on their own?
- how do we define an open source learning school through the architecture? how far do we have to go until it is not longer it our hands? I asked this question in Chicago and it still sits in my mind to this day. Where do we draw the line between architecture and community? Where do we eventually had to stop architecture and let community take over? We could design every nook and cranny of a school but if a teacher or student doesn’t truly believe in the values it holds, it’s not going to work. My question is how do we really get architecture to inform the outside world and truly make a difference. Going back to the beginning: how to encourage and not force.
I’m not sure I will gain the same passion for wine and wineries as I did for education and school. There’s nothing really life changing about wine like there is about education (but I guess that depends on who you ask.) The passion I feel not only towards education in general, but my own education as well, will now always have a huge impact on me. No longer will I look at schools the same, or blow off any ideals about education. This studio truly taught me that architecture could really do something to change the world, no matter how cheesy that sounds. But it also taught me that architecture holds its core in the community, and without truly dedicated people we might not be able to change education. Over these twenty weeks, I saw 18 acquaintances grow into one large family with a desire to really make a difference in a me, we, community setting. Even though I now huddle around a different table, and will huddle around many more tables to come, I’ll always look back to the one who really truly inspired me for the first time. Thanks OSL Lab.