…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