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.