Wow – that was a packed four hours in studio today.  I know that 2 hours of reading discussion at the start of studio is not exactly an energy builder – but I am amazed how the discussion drew out themes that we will be discussing throughout the next 20 weeks.  Couple that with some of the discussions around the “team-build” with the Open Source Learning Lab Kit – and truthfully we have exposed most all of the major issues we will be working with.  So what happened?  This is what I heard:


Following Dewey (1916), communication is not only two-ways, but is active – taking part, exploring, experiencing, not just receiving or being told.  This active sense of communication then builds community around common interests.  Following Illich (1970), we see this sense of community as reaching outward through “skill exchanges” and “peer-matching”.  Interestingly enough, we also see a great diagram in the shift from communication as broadcasting a standard message to peer to peer networks in Thomas Lomées essay (2011), The Esperanto of Objects:
Though this flow of publication dates (1916, 1970, 2011) we see common issues as well as the evolution of ideas.  Yes, we might be frustrated with Dewey’s mention of consensus, but we might also expand our understanding of a consensus that we need diversity (well, if you ignore certain “celebrity” presidential hopefuls these days).  While Illich may be frustrated with the inaccessibility of industrial designed objects, thus institutionalizing consumerism and disconnecting us with how things are made and the people that make them, we see in Lomée’s and even more so in Paola Antonelli’s essay Thinkering, how the open-source movement as well as rapid manufacturing replace the hierarchy from producer to consumer, and instead the consumer becomes the producer, or at least actively participates in some form in the act of production.   “Us and them” becomes “we”.  Several of you mentioned how you have used on-line videos to help fix something (I would hope that is all of us), which does in fact answer some of Illich’s concerns.  Take local start-up iFixit – its not just a resource for computer nerds to fix their own stuff, it has clear political motivations as well.  From founder Kyle Wiens:


These are fantastic words that came directly from you, more so than the readings.  Can architecture cultivate desire-risk-adventure?  I definitely think so…in fact I would suggest it must.  We discussed, through Dewey, that simply proximity doesn’t make a community.  There needs to be interaction.  So too it is with spatial boundaries via degrees of transparency, open transition spaces, and using the environment as a scaffold and gallery of work undertaken.  Central to both Dewey and Illich, and by definition, The Third Teacher, we do not simply learn in an environment, but learning is at its best through interaction with our environment.  And with Illich, we have a very strong design provocation:
“What kinds of things and people might learners want to be in contact with in order to learn?”

specificity of function versus adaptability

This will be a key issue for us, and one that will take great care and design consideration.   A space may have so many intended uses, it either becomes so complicated or on the other hand, so banal: the multi-purpose room.  At the same time, if everything assumes the same function – say “classroom” – the result is the same: a blasé outlook on learning.  I ask you to consider specificity/flexibility as absolutes or as dichotomies, but consider this as gradient from absolute specificity to completely flexible.  The intent is not to move that dial – to optimize – to find the single one ideal solution, but rather, to seek diversity – a range of spatial types and qualities, as well as settings from group to individual work.  Although Dewey is not talking about spaces, to my thinking he nails it at all the same:

“One of the weightiest problems with which the philosophy of education has to cope is the method of keeping a proper balance between the informal and the formal, the incidental and the intentional, modes of education.”

Speaking of spatial qualities, this happened:
No doubt designing a school for 450 students in 2 hours with a given kit of pieces, and with 17 people no less, is a daunting challenge.  The point of this conceptual puzzle is to draw out issues, and this it did aplenty.
I’ll admit I was surprised by your collective reluctance to project meaning and activity to particular colored volumes, at the same time the open discussion was very fruitful to outline kinds or qualities of spaces:
  •      messy active noisy workshop spaces (purple)
    • (and we need to expand our sense of workshop not just to shop but to making things of all kinds, from things, to food, to movies, etc)
  •      quiet calmer reflective teaching / reading spaces (yellow)
  •      administrative support spaces (grey)
  •      gallery gathering flex transitional spaces (transparent)
  •      open large gathering spaces (atrium)
  •      outdoor spaces (courtyards)
In the end, these qualities, and the kinds of designed environments that support these qualities, are far more important than what they are named.
Working in smaller groups of 4-5 you came up with what seems as more composed solutionsIMG_8698, while coming all together with 18 of us was more of a cluster…you know what I am getting at.  With that many people, this is not a big surprise, but what this did suggest was very interesting.  How to balance and simultaneously consider:
  •      outside areas for access to light and gathering
  •      relationship/adjacencies between different program
  •      need for a stacking strategy
  •      spatial sequence (entry and flow through the assemblage)
  •      continuity of transitional spaces (similar to spatial sequence, can you eliminate corridors?)
  •      large assembly gathering spaces
  •      features in the environment, such as the ramping stair
  •      what program or spaces you want to highlight, versus simply provide space for
     …all the while doing this in some composed manner.  However, I am convinced that when you take both bulleted lists in careful consideration, the composition will naturally form.
So yeh, not a bad day – we basically covered everything.  Literally.