The LINK

"The Open Source Learning Academy is not just a school, but rather an extension of one’s self. "

Following the Chicago trip, we were paired up in our very own Open Source Learning Lab to tackle education once again with new found knowledge. Using the manifesto as not only our starting point, but also our cardinal rules, we began to design a school for the 21st century.

THE CONCEPT

The most important part of our Chicago trip was during the last days when we sat down with other progressive minds and summed up what education should strive for in the 21st century. These important documents, in which we titled our manifestos, drew from both our experiences throughout the full week in Chicago as well as the thoughts of influential architects and education leaders in the area. Even though we created four separate manifestos, the same ideas and values carried throughout, giving us one very long, yet very fluid, definition of learning in the 21st century. Coming back from Chicago, and after trading projects, we soon honed in on the one aspect of the previous project we wanted to keep: the living rooms. To us, the living rooms represented a space that made the student feel apart of a community. We wanted to design a space in which each student had customizable learning experiences throughout all aspects of their life. We focused on the me, we, community cultures, in which students both learning and bonding communities in different scales. Our goal was for students to experience growth at all levels, whether it be in a team setting or on the individual level. These are the spaces that we called our living rooms. Each living room revolves around basic student needs, which can then be oriented based on learning pods and design interest areas.

Tying back to the concept of me, we, community, in which we create customizable growth experiences through education, we used the manifestos to help us define each living room. In order to move throughout the space and onto each living room, we created a meandering path for a student to explore the school and each living room. We created four different levels of sociability, in descending order: family, squad, partner, me. We then took each level and corresponded it to words we found throughout the manifestos. Family, we saw as the most social act, invoking thoughts of identity, belonging, safety, and empowerment. We put this living room at the entrance, to promote that sense of belonging within the students social groups. Squad we saw as an eating act. Eating? You might ask. In this sense of the word we want you to reflect on the conversations you have around the dinner table with those you love. What do those conversations mean to you? Here we saw insightfulness, the exchange of ideas, exposure to new things, and a sense of being open and carefree about your speech. This living room was placed on the second floor, near the culinary area and open to the outside, inviting the exchange of fresh ideas. Next, we found that partnerships represented knowledge. A mentorship revolves around two people, gaining inspiration from each other no matter your standing in life. Adjectives we began to associate with partners were mindfulness, passion, experimentation, failure, and open-endedness. We placed this living room between the learning pods on the second and third floors, acting as a hub for students to spill out in and bounce ideas off one another. The last, and maybe most important living room belongs to me (or you.) Comfort is the feeling we want to embody most in our school. Comfort is about feeling accepted, feeling like you are protected, and most of all having a sense of place. It is where you can find your true identity and reflect in your own personal space. Placed in the upper floor of the building, it is where your meandering journey ends. Our hope is you get lost until you can become found.

THE PROCESS

The two of us embarked on an iterative journey to encapsulate all of these ideas that came together at ARCEWORKS in Chicago. We adopted Katie Miyoshi’s project in the beginning of the quarter and wondered how we would fit her building to the template of the manifesto, and in part making it our own. A huge step for us was in the very initial stages of the design where we printed Katie’s floor plans and tried to program our own building by splicing different pieces together. From the start we knew we wanted to make the grand staircase a big design element as well as the aforementioned living rooms. From there we began to sculpt our building around this central pathway. We soon realized that although a straight-shot type of staircase seemed like a good idea on the macro-scale, realistically it’s pretty daunting to look at especially at the foot of the 5 level staircase. Eventually these staircases morphed and became curved segmented staircases that changed a student’s direction as they journey through the school.

 

Then came the inception of the “smart beans.” Initially we wanted these learning hubs to be these amorphous shapes that spilled into the program and help inform the overall form of the building, however that wasn’t the case later in the design due to the conflicting formal conditions these beans placed on the rectilinear, filleted building. The “smart bean’s” newer, sexier, counterpart was named the “Learning Pods.” Our school houses four of these facilities, each placed with students of different standings, (our version of grades). These pods were largely inspired by the Wheeler Kearns Intrinsic model in Chicago. The project featured classrooms which were separated into three learning biomes: the coastline, the genius bar, and the group learning area. The layout adapted to each child’s learning style: the coastline was along the perimeter of the classroom and allowed students to work individually with headphones in, the genius bar promoted peer to peer learning, and finally the group learning was facilitated and taught by a teacher the whole time. These ideas tied in with our pods, and with the anchor of the classroom being the Student Mentorship Departments which further extended the ideas of peer to peer collaboration.

 

The final addition to our design are the crystals that protrude from the building’s facade. These smaller intimate pods serve as small reflection space for the wandering nomad on their journey through the school. Since the goal of our living rooms is to become increasingly introspective as one moves through the floors, the crystals act as the break points inbetween all of them, to allow students to reflect on each of the varying experiences from each and every scale of interaction. The transparency of these spaces allow an outlook toward everything around.

THE EXECUTION

Our design is based off of two lines of movement: a bar and an acute angle which morphed into a curvilinear floor plate. The second floor contains most of the program and is pulled out to give the appearance of floating. Sticking with our idea of progression throughout the building, the floor plates get pulled out as you ascend the academy. A large atrium punches through the floor plates along three of the four living rooms, (with the fourth looking towards the atrium) and provides a telescopic view from below as the size of the atrium grows with each ascending floor. The rainscreen which is based off The Broad Museum, shades the academy from southern sunlight, and allows for the introspective crystals to come out.

Our first floor plan was made from a very conventional standpoint with the industrial and media spaces, namely the black box theater, in the forefront, and complete with the social living room.

The second floor is where the Learning Pods are first introduced. This is also the floor where students can do art and eat with their friends, and even take culinary classes. The living rooms on this floor are the eating and knowledge.

The third floor is a continuation of the Learning Pods, and additionally houses the wellness center.

The fourth floor contains organizational learning, and the OSL foundation. We wanted visitors to experience the school the same way students do each and every day. The comfort living room is on this floor.

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