Category: Final Reflection

Learning about learning… to be continued

Challenges:

Geometry Set Out: I honestly had no idea what it was until my partner fidgeted with lines. This was a great guide to organizing program, however I feel like because we had this, we overlooked the value of circulation and an organizing principle with which the program followed. The placement was determined logically, but independent of each other, and because of that, circulation was difficult to maneuver.

Wall Section: This was my favorite and least favorite part of this project. It was frustrating in the beginning because I didn’t understand how detailed the drawing needed to be nor how connections between the wall or curtain wall came together. I understand why this part is so important because it’s a connection between the inside and outside of a building. This is a chance to see how the interior and façade work together. In the real world, it seems like schematic design develops rather quickly, and the wall section is another opportunity to let the concept shine through. The wall section is another great way to tell a story of a building.

What I valued the most besides doing wall sections and sections was story telling in architecture. Many times, when I present to a peer, professor, or professional, it feels like all I have to do is identity things I did and why. Story telling connects the dots between concept and building and is a more valuable way of having a discussion.

Overview/Reflection:

The journey through OSL has been an incredible one. My challenge with this project had to do with envisioning OSL spatially. Even defining the concept of OSL was difficult last quarter.  It wasn’t until the end of the quarter now that I feel that I can grasp this concept. I understand OSL as an evolutionary way of learning. It’s constantly in flux; learners (students), teachers, administration, and the OSL foundation, along with the community have dynamic relationships with each other in this place. Based on these relationships, learning occurs. The concept of learning in this place is always transforming.

How can this space be designed for the future and the present at the same time? How could it be adapted for changing pedagogies? What makes OSL a place different from a school? To what extent and what ways can architects influence these spaces?

So long, farewell, to you my friend…

…goodbye, for now, until we meet again!

I found it fitting to start with a song quote from one of my favorite childhood shows, Out of the Box. To be honest I am surprised that the ideas from that show are just now making an appearance in my thinking, when the entire idea of the show is bringing children together to learn in a exciting place that is (theoretically) made solely out of boxes. It is an example of the idea that learning can occur anytime and anywhere, all you need is a place to start. Although it is just a children’s show it does raise the question, how can spaces help encourage learning?

In Winter Quarter we had numerous discussions about Open Source Learning and what it’s all about. We did readings, we sat at our family table, we brought in outside professionals, we made diagrams, and we spent hours upon hours talking. To be honest, in previous studios I have never really been fond of all-class discussions. It usually would go one of two ways: either no one really contributed and it was just the professor giving their opinion the whole time, or a few individuals would completely dominate the conversation and most of us couldn’t get a word in. But something in this studio was different. I’m not sure if it’s the people, the topic, or the professor (or a magical combination of the 3) but this class was one of the few where literally every student had a voice. As an introverted individual, it takes a lot to feel comfortable enough to express opinions without the fear of being wrong, but the “openness” of our conversations allowed for differing viewpoints. Celebrated them even. Because honestly, if we all came out of this studio as mindless zombie architects all fawning over one architectural ideal, what would be the use?

One question that constantly came up throughout both quarters was “How is this a spatial problem?” I think we all struggled with that one a bit; we had to pick and choose our battles on what we could influence and accomplish. A great example of this was our trip to San Diego. High Tech High and E3 Civic High both had similar goals, but completely different approaches. High Tech High was completely student driven – it was the life of the students, teachers, and projects that filled the space, compared to E3 which had conceptually strong and architectural motivations but the outcome was not what they expected. One was the product of the people, the other was the product of the architecture and interior designing. So my goal was to meet somewhere in the middle. It was necessary to think both like an architect and as a student. That mode of thinking inspired questions such as, what spaces would I have wanted in my high school, where would I have felt comfortable both learning and hanging out, how the hell can an architect influence a high schooler’s motivation to come to school and learn?

Similar to Ellie’s concern, something I struggled with was figuring out how much we could influence. You could make an architecturally beautiful space for OSL, but if the teachers are attached to traditional methods than what was the point? But something that Annabelle and I discussed and came to a conclusion on was this: it’s true we can’t control the curriculum, the teachers, or the motivations of the students, BUT we can provide them spaces with flexibility that could encourage a new style of learning. We can do all the groundwork and create a school that has the facilities to support OSL and project-based learning, but we can’t control what happens afterwards. And that’s okay.

In this studio we all accomplished more than I think any of us could have expected. We did interior design for the first time (Go Project Titan!) which I actually found super fun because I could finally make use of everything I had learned from watching HGTV with my mom for years. We were able to take readings from the beginning of school (Dewey and Iliich) and continuously reference them throughout the 20 weeks. We developed our own project and took a stance on what we considered an OSL Acadamy should look like. Then we traveled to Chicago and survived living in a house together for a week and explored a city and schools and firms and opened our eyes to the world around us. We took on someone else’s project with a partner and had to learn how to design with another person for pretty much the first time ever, all while trying to figure out how to make this project that had another person’s influences all intertwined in it our own. Never has collaboration and communication been so critical in a studio than ours. Annabelle and I became determined to accomplish as much as we could in the short time we had, and although there were some bumps in the road I am so grateful to have such a great partner to motivate me, be my sounding board, and to be a voice of reason whenever I had doubts.

So now that I have rambled on, I should get to the questions. Some have been sprinkled throughout this post, but a few others would be:

How can all of us take what we learned from this studio and apply it to our future projects/studios/careers? Will the concepts of OSL influence our ideas of education forever? How do we apply the idea of questioning the status quo in other parts of our lives? And finally, how do we move on from one of the best studios most of us have probably experienced?

And so I leave you with this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0SUEMGZU04

Challenges

As many of you know, its difficult for me to tell a succinct story.  I start on one line of thought, and then that merges with another which is related to something I once observed about, then that gets me thinking about this one question I had, etc. This isn’t a problem, but it can lead to issues where I start with a quick anecdote about why I wanted to take a picture of the moon, and then it leads to a discussion of a housing development in Pismo beach.

This tendency to jump around issues and find things that are relevant is something that I quite enjoy.   I’m not usually one for a lack of opinion, and with a very low threshold for what I consider to be a funny pun, I’m easily entertained.   But there are also some serious aspects of this thought process that also leave me frustrated at times.  I remember first year, there were multiple times where the idealism, the pursuits, and capabilities of architecture were laid out.  The ability to have an influence on the built environment, which effectively is our interface with the world, was such a powerful idea to me.  I was disillusioned with the world that I grew up with and unsure of what part I wanted play in the future, but this capability of influencing thoughts, feelings, or critical perceptions of your environment was something that lit a fire.  (uh-oh, typical me storytelling, where in the world am I taking this? education?  oh, right!)

In a sense this is where my educational journey led me.  It took me 13 years of traditional education and a year of a major I had no real interest in pursuing, to really find a motivation for something that I could enjoyably pursue.  But still it was just a general educational concept for myself, “Be a part of the design, and hopefully fabrication, of things in the built environment that influence people’s lives.”  And certainly this has been refined and is an ever-evolving concept of mine, but at least it is there, somewhere.

This is what I would hope to have provided through the OSLA, and I think that our team succeeded to varying degrees, but this post is about more about my interaction with the Open Source Learning Lab.  (I think thats what its about, at this point Im not really sure)

For me, this studio was a lot more effective at evoking a strong feeling about the specific project, the future, the implications of future design of schools, but most importantly, my future as a designer.  It reaffirmed the idea that we, as designers can totally influence and alter the global interface that we interact with, that there is never ONE solution.  The strength of this studio wasn’t that the project was cooler, or that we had more freedom, it was that the critical thinking we were doing had a direct connection to my thoughts and struggles with our education system.  The strength was that this studio was simultaneously visceral and intellectual because we are living it and designing for it.  I think this is the first studio where I have felt that strong sense of purpose in designing.  Not just that I am designing for a project brief, but that I truly am designing for the ways that students are engaging the things that interest them.

This is education, where I try to find my passions, apply my energies to productive things, and become an independent thinker but a contributor to my community.  This is the challenge.

Time to Stop Talking

The main challenge that I faced this quarter was not grasping the goals of open source learning or even how it applied to our project, but rather to stop talking about it and start DOING it. I found that this challenge was present in all phases of the project, however once it was recognized, it was more of a tool than a hindrance. While talking can only get you so far, and i believe we as a studio approached those limits in winter quarter especially, applying those concepts beyond a philosophical level is where real progress was made. I believe that this challenge was a catalyst for my design process, and provided a new mindset when approaching a problem. I believe that this process itself is a result of the Open Source Learning mentality, encouraging the open flow of ideas rather than one mind sifting its way through the problem. The result was conversations that had less to do with requirements and more to do with what best communicated our ideas. I hope to take this mindset forward in all future designs, as it strengthens not only my understanding of the project, but others’ as well.

Over the last 20 weeks, to many questions to count have crossed my mind. What is open Source? Whats a Cluster? Does Mark eat food or just synthesize energy from good architecture? All these questions are important and many of them i will carry forward into future studios. However one question that goes back to the beginning of the quarter is How does an idea impact the story i am trying to tell? I found myself asking that question in one form or another during every modification or addition to our project as it allowed us to focus on what we thought was most important and develop that with our concept in mind. I will continue to ask myself that question as i design in the future and ideally more answers will follow.

Arrivederci Tutto

I cannot believe it. I don’t know how, but these two quarters felt like they flew by, yet at the same time they felt like they were 40 weeks long. It is unfortunate that I am just now getting used to working this blog. We have accomplished so much, come so far, and had so many influential conversations. I would like to start with a huge thank you to everyone who made this studio so great. Studio Cabrinha was 2/3 of my first year at Cal Poly, and it was a truly wonderful experience. I’ve made some awesome friends. I cannot wait to embark on this next year with some of you, and see what great things will come.

Now to the questions.

What were the primary challenges you faced in designing for Open Source Learning environments?

I chose this studio because I very much wanted to search for the answer to this question. One of things about being an architect which draws me to it the most is how we can affect people psychologically with our designs.

One of my initial struggles was to really absorb all of our readings and interpret them with each other through our many discussions at the family table. Education in this country is definitely something that needs work, and the problem is both the facilities as well as the foundations (pun intended). When we worked on project titan for example, we had to deal with the problem internally. I had never really only focused on interiors as a project. So, it was definitely a challenge, and required a different approach.

Moving on to our actual project, I found myself struggling a bit. Not only did I have a physical hinderance having broken my hand, but I also struggled to apply all of the concepts we talked about to a physical world. I develop a lot of design through physical means, and was not quite able to do so for winter quarter. I had to move on and do the best I could. Circulation, adjacencies, adaptability; these were all things I was trying to juggle when designing my OSL academy. How big did spaces have to be to really function? What was the cluster? What size was the cluster, and where did the fit into the campus? When the core of your project is such a complex concept, it is quite challenging to make it a realized thing.

Our field trip to Chicago however, was a turning point for me. Seeing schools which were very well designed and functioning great was refreshing. It was proof that the concept works, and it could be done. Shapiro Hall, as well as UNO academy were awesome projects to tour and experience.

Are there any “big questions” that you are leaving studio with?

As I leave this studio, I feel very fulfilled. The questions I do have is, how do I explore a projects concept and core with such tenacity as this? How can I make sure that all of the work I do is just as in depth and related? How can any project, of any program, use design to aid in its function?

Essentially, this studio was great practice for fifth-year thesis.

Guidance, Partnership, Detail, Partnership, Work Ethic

Whoops, did I mention partnership twice?  That wasn’t a mistake, because that’s how important I felt it was to this quarter, and I know it will be one of the most memorable experiences for me in the years to come. In fact, I think I will keep learning and drawing from the experiences I had with kjbishop13, my partner this quarter, as a practicing architect in the future. (I was about to say a year, because I felt like we had accumulated a year’s worth of experiences working together, but I realized it was only a quarter’s worth)

We began the quarter with partner and project selections; kjbishop13 and I were quite confident that we wanted to be partners, and I was confident because I knew kjbishop13 had intuition, tenacity, and passion, she worked differently, and had very different qualities from me. What I felt I was lacking and needed to explore, I felt kjbishop13 had. The decision to partner with kjbishop13 was somewhat daunting, because I thought I worked very differently from her, but I don’t think it mattered in the end. The beautiful thing that happened was that we developed a new working style that was more concerned with the task at hand and the betterment of the project. For me, this came about with my partner through learning by watching, following, and listening.

Guidance

I mentioned guidance as the first thing on the title, because things could have ended very differently without the guidance and intuition of our open source adviser cabrinharch and the mutual guidance that occurred in my partnership. After the discussion of a partnership with kjbishop13 prior to our Chicago field trip, we chose projects we were interested in even before the project selection process in Spring Quarter. We had general concepts we both agreed we were interested in and in fact we agreed on most projects. After the anonymous project selection process, however, we did not get anything we were interested in. Wait, what happened? I was so confused, because we ended up being partners and yet we didn’t get anything we wanted, even the stuff that was not mutually agreed upon. Maybe our confusion was evident, so our advisor came up and talked to us. He mentioned that he chose the project for us, because he felt that it was at the sweet spot between where kjbishop13 and I left off from in winter quarter. He was thinking about the project’s relation to our development both conceptually and formally. This was his intuition and he made the decision based on it, I think.

Initially, I was really irritated by my open source adviser’s decision to make a decision for us. I wondered why we would work on such a project that neither of us had an interest in and I cursed my fate secretly. I tried to make it seem like the project was better to both kjbishop and me in order to uplift our spirits. I logically understood why the project matched us too and intuitively understood why as well. In spite of that cheering us up didn’t really help me much. kjbishop13, however, didn’t seem as bothered by our adviser’s decision, so I just followed suit. This was probably the first of a few times I rode the waves of her calmness and this was one of the few ways that she has guided me.

Looking back I am really glad that our adviser intuitively made a decision for kjbishop13 and me. The project, Loop, which was adopted by us had enough formal clarity from which we could base our conceptual ideas and interests around. The project itself also had a formally clear circulation, which I lacked in my project from winter quarter. This conceptual clarity about circulation was something that I was able to explore as a result of being served this project. After further development of the circulation, I was able to understand even more about it; for example I began to understand the ability for circulation to organize and emphasize space. Space became a new idea for me in the process of developing Loop. I started seeing it as a spatial joint in which circulation met with, programmatic intent, and designed surfaces or formal concepts. This has probably been the single biggest architectural epiphany I’ve had in my whole architectural education so far. The reason is that circulation is key to working on larger projects and so in order to understand bigger projects I feel that developing an attitude for it is necessary. Of course, I only understand this reasoning after my epiphany and so I am extremely grateful that my adviser chose this project for me and kjbishop13.

Partnership

The second thing that I mentioned was partnership and I have already discussed it, but there are a few things about partnership that I want to point out. I am going to point out the challenges of it relative to architecture but also the un-school related parts of it. The hardest thing about a partnership is that it is somewhat like a relationship. You have to deal with another person’s mood, emotions, and devotion. I had to grow along with my partner and get past the point of giving her the benefit of the doubt to actually trusting her. Sometimes things got ugly when our opinions collided for how we wanted to spend the time on our studio project. Sometimes these were due to misunderstandings or certain tones or attitudes that we conveyed when we said things, even if it was for the benefit of the project. For us, we decided to talk through our issues to resolve our differences. Sometimes we tried to give ourselves a break from each other only to find out that it did not solve our problems. This was the primary reason we began to understand that we needed to do something else to get along. In some of our talks, we talked about things more personal. For example, I mentioned that I wanted to remain friends with kjbishop13 even after our project, so I wanted to know how I could be a better partner to her in the future. This was a tense period for us in our partnership, but in retrospect it was a unique period which I could reflect and ponder upon; if I had to imagine partnerships in the field of architecture I would imagine it exactly as personal as that. Issues in architecture are usually personal to people’s tastes, so it becomes easier for partnerships in architecture to fail due to attacks on partners’ personal differences. After this experience, I will be more wary of how I treat people’s differences when I work in the field of architecture.

Detail

The third thing that I mentioned was Detail. Detail is something that is incorporated into our double studio curriculum, so it is nothing to be surprised about. But upon reflecting on the experiences I had with kjbishop13 in trying to gather information on how things come together, I realize that we had a pretty successful quarter regarding details. I don’t think the details in our wall section are absolutely perfect. Nor do I think the composition of the material assemblies are great, but I think kjbishop13 and I were able to build a passion for understanding how things come together. We looked at a lot of material assemblies in great detail and tried to reconstruct them. The search for the details were always exciting for us both, because when we understood something new about how something came together, we would share it with each other. This excited both of use, because we both nerded out on our enlightenment. The process itself of learning details was also fun, because of the integrated nature of studio and practice. This allowed kjbishop13 and me to share everything we worked on with each other and it even encouraged it. Because we had such a fun experiencing constructing impromptu details and copying details, I think we both have an extremely positive attitudes towards wall sections and details.

Work Ethic

The last thing I would like to consider is work ethic and this is something that regards me, my partner, and also the whole OSL studio. My idea of work ethic has warped and distorted over the course of Spring quarter. The words I use may have a negative connotation, but I have no such intention. In fact, I mean it positively. I used to have a brute-force idea of work ethic, which means I spend a lot of time in studio, work straight through the night, miss meals accidentally, sleep little, and focus all my energy towards studio work. This could be what some might say is the ideal architecture student, at least that was the idea in my mind. What changed this? My time shared with my peers. No offense, and it shouldn’t be, because I don’t think it is one anymore, but most of the peers in my studio are not that image of an architecture student I just mentioned, not purely anyway. I was wary of this before joining the “Cabrinha studio” in the winter quarter. In winter quarter I was extremely dissatisfied many times with the work ethic of my peers. I am not going to say why, but I will say that I maintained a delusional image of an architecture student. And going into Spring quarter I just sort of gave up on seeing my studio differently, seeing it as a studio with lots of ideal architecture students. I was dissatisfied, but I gave up my expectations anyway. Regarding work ethic, the quarter just went by. I had to learn to work with a partner, I had to learn to integrate structure and then integrate it with details. I also had to learn to further develop program. So, studio just went by in terms of my eye on work ethic. But actually I did keep my eyes peeled somewhat, and I noticed the changing atmosphere in my studio. It was extremely subtle in the beginning, because kjbishop13 and I worked at different times from our studio mates early on and many of them worked at different times from each other, but people started throwing down everything they had onto paper, models, or their computers, whatever they were working on. I noticed this occurring slowly and it gained momentum throughout the quarter. Towards the end of the quarter, when my eyes were still barely peeled for work ethic while we continued to work on our own project, it just suddenly dawned on me that people were throwing their all into their projects. A lot of my studio mates seemed to be doing things that they had never done before and I loved hearing about them do it or seeing them do it. I couldn’t get away from the vigor in the atmosphere produced by everyone, by the OSL studio, and I came to really love the studio. It seemed like it happened suddenly, but it really happened over time. And being able to notice that I was able to perceive the growth of everyone in the studio and also the growth in myself. Because I loved the new ways in which people were working, I came to question the ways that I worked in the past. And I came to understand that architecture is not just about architecture itself. Theoretically, it would be great if it is, but architecture is about architecture only as much as it is about the people who come together to create it. Or else what would be the fun or life in that? And maybe what I mean by “that” is architecture.

The work ethic part was somewhat of a conclusion to Guidance, Partnership, Detail, Partnership, Work Ethic, because It’s kind of my final goodbye to a studio that I feel will continue to live on in me. But I’m going to add a few more sentiments as comments to departing from this studio.

I love that my professor guided me and kjbishop13 in our project. I love that I was able to be in a partnership with kjbishop13. I love the details that we were encouraged to explore in double studio. And I love the variable work ethic of life that everyone in the OSL studio has taught me about this quarter. Thanks.

Final Post

It has been a long, challenging 20 weeks in the open source learning lab. But I can confidently come out of it knowing I learned a lot and will always look at the world and education in a different way because of this class.

Challenges? So many. It was a very complex social problem that we were all trying our best to solve. The main challenge for me was validating my reasoning for things. Working with a partner, he would always ask why do you want to do that instead of this? And I quickly learned that I needed to learn to back up my reasoning for my choices. When I worked alone, I never ran into this problem. I will now think things through on a deeper level whenever I design. Another challenge, I think we all had, was communication. We all had to learn how to say things and re-say things in different ways to better explain them to our partner because the first go around wasn’t always successful in explaining things. One more challenge (but was also very helpful in the end) I had was working with another person. It was difficult at times because we wanted different things, and in the end I had to learn to look at things in a different light because my partner was looking at them in a different way than I was that I hadn’t considered before. In the end, I am glad we were partnered up because it was so much easier to be able to bounce ideas off of each other and talk about different possibilities about where we wanted our project to go.

Questions I still have? Kind of similar questions to what Ellie was getting at, what about the students who don’t have an interest in any of the interest groups or that just can’t find their niche? What about the outliers? Will they be lost and miss out on open source learning? Or over time will they find an interest group/create their own interest group with what they like?

The Definition of Open Source Learning

Challenges

My initial thought regarding the challenges I faced in designing for Open Source Learning environments was that I had too many challenges to list them all. However, the more I thought about them, I realized the majority of the difficulties I encountered could be boiled down to one significant challenge: communication.

In the first ten weeks of design I felt like I had so many unique ideas about Open Source Learning and its connections to countless overlapping areas of knowledge, but by the end of the first quarter I had such difficulty communicating my ideas architecturally that my design came across as more of a general concept.

Returning to the second half of our design studio, I was paired with a partner, bensonkothai, and together we quickly realized that learning each other’s communication styles was key to developing our project. At first, we encountered many misunderstandings when attempting to explain our ideas to each other. However, after taking some time to talk about the ways in which we were trying to convey our ideas, we often came to the realization that we were attempting to say similar things in very different ways. Over time, our communication with each other acted as a sort of practice for our final review when we were better able to share our project ideas with an audience.

In addition to facing the challenge of communication, bensonkothai also took on another challenge with me in the second half of the design studio. Early in the design process we talked about our personal beliefs and opinions and how they could relate to architecture. Our conversation helped me realize that perhaps part of the reason I encountered so many issues in my first quarter design project was because I was attempting to be too neutral in my approach to the project. Since my initial concept was intended to focus on the connections between the main interest areas, I had tried to place the same level of emphasis on each. However, looking back on my project, I realize this resulted in no emphasis on any part of my design. As I learned from working with bensonkothai in the second quarter of this studio, using what I believe to be the most important part of the project as a starting point really helped me decide where to focus my energy throughout the design process and resulted in the creation of a space of which I am extremely proud.

Big Questions

In the nature of Open Source Learning, how can we begin to blend our architectural knowledge with our expertise and experiences in areas outside of architecture to create spaces that are better able to meet the needs of the client?

For example, in the design project I worked on with bensonkothai this past quarter, we chose to use the black box theater in our OSL Academy design as a crucial centerpiece that brings together students of all interest areas within the school as well as the school’s supporting community. In order to understand where we would be focusing our energy throughout the rest of the quarter, my project partner and I had a discussion early in the design process about which parts of the project we believed to be the most important. Based on my knowledge and experience of having visited numerous black box theaters over the years, as both a performer and an audience member, I felt that I had a very clear understanding of the elements our black box theater would require to accomplish our design intent of creating a central space to bring students together.

Although I feel as though this has been a very special occasion in which I was able to choose a “favorite” part of the project to focus on, I hope there will be many more occasions in my future career when I am able to use my personal experiences to design a space that is very well suited for the users’ needs.

How can architecture be used to share information and create a story through the user’s experiences?

I thought this was a fantastic question that we continually returned to throughout both quarters. As an avid reader and bibliophile, thinking of the user’s architectural experience as a story was a concept that truly resonated with me. When this idea was introduced to our studio, following a visit from a local English teacher, I felt like it was such an obvious way to consider design that I should have thought of it before. I can specifically recall several times throughout the design process when I would feel stuck on a certain problem within the project and when I couldn’t seem to find my way out I would start writing about it. Sometimes I would write narratives and other times I simply wrote down my stream of consciousness just to get all of my ideas out of my head and onto the page. Often times writing through these problems either led to a solution or helped me organize my thoughts enough to discuss them with my peers. My project partner and I also found that thinking through the spaces of our project as a story, with a beginning / entrance, middle / circulation, and end / destination, allowed us to create a much more coherent project in which the occupants were able to proceed through their activities in a logical way.

As for the question regarding how architecture can be used to share information, I feel as though this one has yet to be answered. Despite the fact that we have been thinking about this question for 20 weeks I still feel as though we have only just begun to scratch the surface of the answers we have been searching for. I intend to move forward while keeping my eyes wide open with this question in the back of my mind.

How can architecture be used to challenge peoples’ conventional perceptions of the world around them?

This question extends far beyond the scope of the past 20 weeks; it is the question that made me check the box next to “Architecture” on my Cal Poly application almost four years ago. After being entirely pushed aside in frustration during first year and somewhat forgotten in second year, I finally feel like the projects I have worked on and the conversations we have had as a studio over the past two quarters have inspired me to bring this question to the surface of my mind once again. I’m still not certain that I will ever receive a definite answer to this question, but I believe all of the time I have spent pondering over the meaning of Open Source Learning, and how to spatially convey such a complex idea, has certainly been a step in the right direction on my road to understanding.

Final Thoughts and Thanks

In conclusion, I would like to say thank you to everyone who has played a role in the development of this studio; together we have been each other’s students, peers, teachers, and mentors. I feel as though I have learned something valuable from each of you, and together you have helped me learn a great deal about myself.

Thank you to bensonkothai for all of your encouragement and support this past quarter. I know I keep saying it, but I am so proud of all that we accomplished with our project and the friendship we created.

My last giant thank you goes to cabrinharch, our Open Source Leader, without whom the past 20 weeks of thoughtful and diligent work would not have been possible. You have challenged me to keep challenging myself, and that is possibly one of the greatest gifts a professor could give to a student.

Together we have become, what I consider to be, the definition of Open Source Learning.

Bittersweet Farewell

As thrilled as I am to study abroad for 4th year, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad as I packed up from our OSL Lab. The twenty weeks we had together were amazing. I had a lot of fun, faced a lot of challenges, and learned so much.

The first big challenge was wrapping my head around the concept of open source learning. Others have already mentioned the big discussions we had in winter quarter (the cluster, standards vs. standardization, and more). Looking back at it, it seems silly that I had been so flustered with it now that I experienced it in spring quarter.

The next big challenge was making circulation an experience. What is the experience? For me, it wasn’t enough to say that I wanted a sectional experience or an outdoor experience. These experiences were too vague for me to work with in winter quarter, which made my project unsuccessful in that aspect. In spring quarter, I feel yangsuzien and I were much more successful. I think part of that success was due to our choice of words. We wanted to INJECT people into these spaces, and we wanted to INJECT spaces into other spaces. Love the power of active verbs.

In spring quarter, the main challenge I dealt with was time. We had a lot of work to do, and I wanted to do everything. Each drawing has a potential narrative that adds depth to the story. Ultimately, my partner and I did as much as we can and had to choose which artifact needed the most of our time.

A particularly personal challenge was to open up and share my thoughts, especially to larger groups. In a studio about open source learning, this seemed like a problem. During a discussion around the family table, I might be so busy trying to think of something to say that I lose track of the conversation, or I might be so intent on listening that I haven’t been able to organize my thoughts to come up with anything to say that makes sense. I meant to post more on the blog in spring quarter… but that didn’t happen. However, communication with my partner wasn’t a problem at all. I’m glad to say that I had the most amazing partner yangsuzien, who almost got to the point of reading my mind by the end of spring quarter, which was helpful when I lost my voice. I loved bouncing ideas back and forth with a partner (or with another person in studio).

While this studio got a taste of what open source learning is about, I still wonder—will open source learning really be the future? Or are people still too skeptical? Or too attached to the traditional learning systems? I often hear from other students (from other majors, if that matters) about how much they hate projects, especially group projects. They might say they don’t know how to learn something difficult on their own. A lot of people still view tests as a way to measure students’ knowledge. Nevertheless, I’m optimistic about how OSL can change education. OSL supports exploration and curiosity, and that’ll eventually lead students to their passion.

As I move forward to new adventures, I want to remind myself about how I want to approach learning by asking myself this question: how will I take ownership of my education and maintain that ownership? I think once I lose that sense of ownership, when I let parents/teachers/professors/mentors make my goals rather than making my own, I lose interest. I’m trying to reach their expectations instead of just doing my best. So when I find myself losing interest even in things I am passionate about, I will look back at this question and do something about it.

time is never time at all…

What were the primary challenges you faced in designing for Open Source Learning environments?

&

Are there any “big questions” that you are leaving this studio with?

TLDR: Designing for new ideas is hard; If only we had more time; I wonder if our philosophies on open-source learning were as radical as they could’ve been?

Challenges & Struggles:

The biggest struggle I’ve experienced for these past twenty weeks has been one we have all had as part of this double studio experience, and it is a unique challenge that I think prepared us all for the beginning stages of an eventual thesis project. This is the challenge of designing for new ideas, and it was a frustratingly baffling and enriching problem.

If you are designing…say…a restaurant, you at least know where to start. You know there needs to be an entry, dining space, kitchen space, and maybe a nice outdoor patio or something like that. You know the basic programmatic requirements, you know people are going to eat here, so it’s your job to make it an inviting and comfortable space; beyond this, however, little is left that can be spatially controlled. Food quality isn’t spatially controllable, and no matter how nice the space is the ultimate determinant is the food quality.

Similarly, some would argue that if you are designing…say…a school, you have a pretty set program. Classrooms, corridors, library, gym, and all the rest that we associate with the high schools we came from. In this instance, again, your job is to design enjoyable architecture, but little else is spatially controllable. Students will still shuffle from class to class, teachers will still talk at a room full of information-sponges, and maybe everyone will be a little happier and do a little better because the rooms are nice, but overall nothing really changes; you still designed a school.

But for twenty weeks I don’t think we were supposed to design a school, we were to design what a school could be.  We were re-designing the idea of school as we and the rest of our society all know it. In that aspect alone the entire thing was a challenge, one that Illich described, in which a group who only knows the current educational pedagogy attempts to design a new one; the problem being our only frame of reference is, of course, the current one.

And so all of this combined led to this wicked problem with no definite answer or starting point. For twenty weeks we questioned everything (especially the cluster) we knew in an attempt to make these designs necessarily about open-source learning. And this was the next big challenge for me: time…

I feel as if in this twenty weeks, instead of doing a double quarter studio and making some really great architectural concepts and designs, we could’ve literally spent it all reading and writing about educational philosophy itself; and of course i’m not suggesting that’s what we should’ve done, but we easily could have, and that was a challenge for me. When I think back to making our initial concept graphics on how we envisioned open-source learning, I think we could’ve spent so much more time really developing those along with our individual ideas about the curriculum and the in-residence housing and all of the other things that slowly taper-off the importance list as you get into the design. And that’s not to say at all that our projects didn’t have rich concepts, because they did; it is more to express the frustration and challenge of trying to carry all of the rich conceptual work with you while at the same time trying to design a building all in 6 to 9 weeks. Successfully blending dreams with the pragmatic is hard enough when you have precedents and traditions to look at. With all together new ideas it is that much harder.

Questions:

From the beginning of this whole process I have questioned who actually goes to this place.

Early on we discussed this idea of age, and how as a tool for averages it works: on average most 18 year-old teens are ready to go to college; on average most 12 year-old kids are not. But for me this project was never really about the averages or the easy answers, it was always about questioning everything. So for me I struggled with the idea that maybe this isn’t like any other high school in terms of age, and that there is a wider range of people here. There are definitely 12 year old children out there who are ready for high school, and similarly there are most likely 18 year old people in the world who may still need a few more years of high school. And this of course goes back to the question: what kind of society do we want to create? Do we want a society in which your age and test scores define you? Or do we want one in which your maturity and potential do?

My second question goes back to my challenges in a way, and branches from a leading question: is this a spatial problem?

For me this question was always questionable, as limiting the architects role to a spatial problem solver seems somewhat problematic. And of course this wasn’t Mark’s intention behind the question in the first place, to say that we shouldn’t do anything but draw boxes on Rhino and say we’re done; I know the intention was to keep us on track. But still the question bothered me—the whole thing itself bothers me still, the separation of designer and inhabitant. We discussed how projects can either default to problem solving, or carry a concept through completely; but for me both of these options still fall short. The question remains for me: how can architecture be effective without consulting those who will use it? And so for a school I think that has to do a lot with the philosophy behind the school and how it will actually work day to day. I know in my own project with Alex, I never felt that we took enough time to nail down a common philosophy. We had one, but in some spots it was vague and our ideas weren’t necessarily cohesive. And all of this again goes back to the question: what kind of society do we want to create?

My final question is whether or not we could’ve been more radical with our designs; whether or not they actually talk about the societies we would want to create on their own. But this is a question I think I have with every project, and it’s a somewhat rhetorical one; and so I think I’ll end this unnecessarily long tangent with that, as it’s something we can all think about…