As a collective group, our studio attempted to design a school for 450 students using the Open Source Learning Kit, a conceptual spatial puzzle based on the Cairo tessellation. The puzzle itself is open-ended, so by its very nature, there is no one, or right, solution. We came up with a solution, but it was not necessarily a good one. It was not cohesive by any means. There was no plan going in—it was, for the most part, intuitive, uncoordinated, and spontaneous. While what we did have was not necessarily as composed as we would have liked, we did come away with a better sense of the qualities and relationships that we hoped to see within and between our spaces. With that, we set off to attempt this puzzle once more, albeit in much smaller teams.
In designing our center for thought and exploration, we sought out a more methodical approach, driven by the need and desire to further exploration in a learning environment. We needed to establish some principles to guide our design. First, we endued meaning into each of the colored blocks: purple became the creation and development spaces, yellow became exploration and sharing spaces, gray became the service and reflective spaces, and clear became the discovery spaces. Once we made the associations in our minds, the driving force of this iteration fell upon the yellow spine. This core contains the creative hub in which the budding ideas begin to take form. From here, the eager minds may choose to break off into the transitional purple spaces and work out those ideas or remain with the larger collective for further discussion. For those who seek a more solitary path for thought, there await alcoves of gray spaces among the levels and planes.
The essence of this learning environment is to always bring the efforts back together to drive progress and innovation.
Continuing the development of this iteration, we began envisioning the spaces residing in a live environment. We begin to see opportunities for paths or walkways that begin to bridge the spaces together. Certain areas present themselves as entries and outlets. Outdoor courtyards form within enclosed areas without being bound and isolated. From the grand spaces for assemblies and events, we cascade down to defined outdoor spaces for further exploration. The framework is laid out as a way to present multiple paths to take, with none favored over another.
From here, the space rises up to meet an overlooking roof area, providing a clear link to the central court. But what sometimes can be blinders to just look within, this space simultaneously provides a window to look out at the world. It beckons the eager to continue their ascent.
The exterior belt weaves through the dense fabric of creativity and draw in the curious souls. All who enter are embraced under a canopy that spans the entire length of the design. The journey begins as one makes way around the many areas of discovery and exchanges. Whether that paths leads to the higher levels of study or great halls of gathering, the relationship between the space and the inhabitant allows for unbounded education. In each case, the pieces put in place are meant to invite bold dives into the vast expanse of knowledge and creativity, rather than lay down barriers to force certain behaviors. The space exists to provide for and bring about what is necessary to be comfortable and to thrive.
Benny Lin and Waylon Ng