Designing a learning center with a prefabricated system requires an understanding of all of the pieces within. Begin by determining programmatic identities for each of the four colored modules.

Grey- administration/staff

Clear- gallery/social/flex/open space

Purple- hands-on/active learning

Yellow- quiet study/research/library/resources

Programmatic Rationale

Once the programmatic elements have been decided we can now begin to design a school. We began with a single module, in the Y direction, deciding that all Y modules would contain one block of each program (reflecting Sir Ken Robinson’s belief in the abandonment of hierarchy, in “equal weight given to the arts, the sciences, the humanities, technology, and physical education”). 1The location of each program block within this module was determined by certain spatial ideals: towards the south entrance is the open gallery/social space; meant to showcase work not only within the school but to allow transparency to the whole community. The administration sector overlooks the entrance and establishes the datum line to create the school’s courtyard/atrium. The remaining two pieces (quiet learning and active learning) continue to develop the rest of the school to frame the main gathering atrium space.

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With modules in the Y direction dictated by programmatic variety, we decided to make modules in the X direction dictated by programmatic unity. Branching off the initial Y module, this made sense – to attach each side of the Y module to like programs, creating program clusters in the X direction and program mashups in the Y. So ultimately, in the plan view, we developed a rational construction method, and using these rules, we could easily and quickly build a school with the simple matter of determining what adjacencies and what public/private qualities made sense for each given program and its location within the school complex. However, despite the clarity of this methodology, there is a lack of interesting spatial moments.

3Spatial Variety

With programmatic rationality attributed to the XY plane, we decided that the Z direction would correlate to spatial variety, to a certain degree. Using the rule that every new Z program block would be the same as the one below it (the programmatic elements copy themselves or translate upwards), we used the idea of solid and void (deciding to build up in places and not in other places) as an opportunity to create different spatial moments with more connection and exposure to the different parts of the school. Basically, by subtracting one program from a completed module, we created courtyards connecting different spaces. This created a more dynamic relationship between the different programs, one no longer based on just adjacency but also by the negative space in between. In addition, these courtyards and channels act as buffers or transitional spaces in between the different programs and modules, and, ultimately, create more open spaces to foster a greater sense of community and communication that you might not find in a traditional school built out of density.

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Considering the result of our organizational systems, we have a set of aggregated programmatic spaces and a series of dynamic spaces that exist in between. We can continue to insert more systems to determine the arrangement of these varying modules. As we build courtyards on higher levels we can even begin to consider the orientation of the sun and the cardinal directions. Considering the active nature of the purple pieces the courtyards would benefit from south-facing direct light for active usage. Meanwhile, the yellow quiet study spaces would benefit from softer northern night to foster quiet individual focused learning.
This exploration of the Open Source Learning lab kit allowed for communication from both partners. The interesting thing about this kit/game is one person has to make the first move. Then the ideas that branch out from the first move begin to create a discussion about how to continue, what strategies/methods to employ. The level of abstraction to consider vs the literal. The relationships between all the different pieces of the whole system. It is important to understand and interpret the system and then continuously analyze the results from each decision made. Through the variety of decisions, an endless set of results can be made.

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