Fluid Learning Networks

Design Intent

In designing a school based on the concept of open source learning, I could not help but think about “open source” as it relates to product and program development. In these contexts, “open source” is synonymous with an active and free-flowing exchange—a give and take—of ideas. Whether digital or physical, the effectiveness of an open source network depends on the architecture of the platform, specifically how well the platform facilitates that exchange. At the Open Source Learning Academy, the open source learning network will quite literally depends on the architecture of the physical environment.

While traditional schools often consist of prescribed adjacencies that essentially funnel occupants through a building, I want to give the user a chance to define their use of and relationship between spaces at OSLA—to blaze their own paths, so to speak. In thinking about an occupant of a school as a member of an open source project, I came to find that this user-centered model is heavily dependent upon ease of accessibility, not only physically, but visually, socially, and intellectually. In thinking about the school as a platform for an open source project, I came to realize that the building must also serve to guide and facilitate, not dictate, the learning experience. Ultimately, the relationship between a user and the open source learning environment is one that is analogous to a fluid in the physical environment—when a fluid comes across an obstacle, it maintains a certain degree of freedom and flexibility in the form it takes. Through the architecture of my building, I hope to facilitate such a flow and experience across a variety of spaces.

"Use the same ingredients for more performative results."

Eric Naslund, Studio E

Moving Forward

Based on the feedback I received from virtually every reviewer, I gathered that while the concept of fluidity is certainly apparent in plan, particularly along the exterior, the same concept and language appears to be lacking on the interior, especially in section between floors and between classrooms. The idea of accessibility mentioned earlier can also certainly be better articulated and defined in terms of the flow between classrooms and rigor in the dynamism of vertical relationships. While the exact nature of the fluid language has yet to be worked out, I did gather a great deal of insight to potential solutions on the trip to San Diego. (See photos to left) At LPA, and later at High Tech High Chula Vista, I came to find that classrooms can interact via operable partitions and even adjoining offices for teachers, in addition to the hangouts and niches I set aside in areas of circulation. In the student union at UC San Diego, I got a sense of the scale and dynamism that was lacking in my own building. Likewise, at Coastline Community College, I saw full well what my mezzanine could have been if it had been more than a mere fen foot gap between the floor and facade. On a more positive note, the feedback I received and things I saw reaffirmed some elements in my design, such as the extensive use of glazing in classrooms, the demarcation of space using furniture, the practicality of a round classroom, and even the concentration of fans along a mezzanine to promote ventilation. In all, the first go at this design was predominantly form driven by the very nature of our approach, with program and circulation initially taking a back seat to massing. Nonetheless, the past week has given me a lot to consider and draw from moving forward.

-Waylon