Throughout the design process I keep attempting to go back to my initial concept diagram in order to understand what it is I am actually striving for. As R.M. Schindler put it,
the preliminary sketch and design is “the very crux of the architect’s contribution, his main creative effort”.
In a way the concept diagrams we made at the beginning were the unpolluted and ideal relationships we thought best embodied OSL; the hard part is to not lose that along the way. In my opinion, great architecture comes from an inseparable pairing between the initial dream and the following design development.
For most of my design process thus far I have been organizing. I’ve been laying out the program in such a way as to reinforce a central idea of my concept: making the space your own. But what does that mean? Well it means a lot of things.
One, it means having a space where you can keep your things (projects, backpacks, laptops, tablets, etc…), much like our studios. Two, it means having a space that you can define; a place that you can make your own through decoration, transformation, and even possibly hacking (one of my initial concepts involved the idea of student built homerooms). Three, it means having the opportunity to take responsibility for your work and share it with others.
One of my beliefs is that effort is reinforced and heightened through passive critique. If you’re sitting at home on a Sunday morning watching Always Sunny in Philadelphia with a mug of hot cocoa, you could care less what you look like and will probably wear whatever you slept in. If, however, you are planning to walk around downtown and go get some coffee at Linnaea’s, it’s an entirely different story; the passive critique of things we take pride in (which for many of us includes how we look) completely alters the amount of effort we put into a given activity. As I sit here writing this, however, I continue to struggle with the question of whether or not this is a socially created or built-in behavior. As 80short remarked at the beginning of the quarter, there is indeed a “third party that has a stake in our education” which is Corporate America. So are we taught by commercials and advertisements to increase effort for the commons? or is this a social tool instilled within us since birth?
Depending on the answer I find to that question I think my design could radically shift. My focus for the cluster was this idea of reinforcing work through exposure to the commons. This diagram I created represents how that system works temporally, with “nest” spaces closing for focused study, and opening to encourage information sharing and exposure (the informal learning).
Through the process of making this diagram I also came to another realization: disciplines share their work differently. For example, where an art student may need public pin-up space to talk with the passerby about his or her work, someone studying culinary arts may need a table or food bar where they can serve their creations to hungry friends and faculty. This idea is also reconstructing how I think of the cluster itself; initially I had linked the clusters to the interest groups, but now I understand that what I had really wanted to do was organize the clusters by how they share their work.
This shift in thinking may also affect the layout and development of my overall plan. Whereas before I saw the interest groups as typologically different cohorts, I now see them as topologically connected.
One of the main critiques of my overall layout was its lack of connection to nature, and the next step of my process is really delving into this connection.
I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out I found, was really going in.
I think that every learner, whether they are studying engineering or performing arts, can draw inspiration from nature; so for an open source learning hub this connection is essential, and yet has been overlooked in my current layout. My current plan to start incorporating this essential piece of the dream is to breakdown my design (which is mostly an organizational layout) and critique it bit by bit, starting with the commons. Another thing mentioned during my LPA discussion was the idea of sequencing the common space; if you barrage an occupant with this grandiose common space right as they walk in the door, filled with information and people and noise and projects, it’s going to be overwhelming. By creating a sequence of events, I can start to create focal points and a sort of narration through the space. The challenge will be balancing the purpose of the common space–sharing information–with this sequence of experiences. One strategy I am currently investigating involves “layers of transparencies” such as those eyarosh referred to in our discussion of High Tech High.
The other area of development I need to focus on is site-scale relationships. How can the area between the residences/foundation and the academy become a cultural/community main street that revolves around OSL and sharing? How can the connections within the Residences and Foundation themselves become more like those in the academy? Is the parking lot just a big asphalt blob on an otherwise beautiful site? These questions and others keep popping up in the back of my mind, but are constantly lost when I scale down to look at the Open Source Learning Academy itself. So as I continue to scale down to even smaller boundaries and systems, I must also address these large scale connections.
As I flipped back through my notebook to my concept-diagram-think-page, I came across the central question that started this all:
How can the physical learning environment become a network itself?
I think I have partially answered this question, but there is still a long way to go before a spatial answer is completed for this complex spatial problem.