This quarter, our project tackles the challenge of getting today’s youth involved in the maker movement. Kids have so much potential and creativity inside of them, but unfortunately lack a sufficient outlet to explore what they are capable of; that is why we have decided to create an enhanced educational facility for kids between the ages of 5 and 14. Our new school will have everything that is expected in today’s curriculum (e.g. math, science, history, english), but what makes it unique is its reintroduction to the industrial arts. We want to revive and highlight the programs that seem to be lost due to the standardization of today’s education. For example, our building will encourage the incorporation of wood shop, metal shop, digital fabrication, and basic hands on construction in everyday work. We want to provide an unforgettable school experience for today’s children. In order to get the public interacting with the building, a public gallery program has been placed on the street level on the east side of the building. This gallery will be a space where the students can put their projects on display for the public to see. The public will be able to interact and view students work, giving them a sense of what happens inside of the building. Finally our housing program; this section of our building is much more private and separated from the rest in order to disguise the fact that our tenants are living at the school. We are requiring that those who live in our building have some sort of affiliation with the school (for security reasons); this could include a student and their parents, a single teacher, an employee and their spouse, etc. Ultimately we wanted to create multiple unit options to accommodate different sizes of families.
We started our design process off by focusing programmatically. We made a list of what we thought should go into our building, which rooms should have a connection between them, public v. private spaces, etc. Once we had a fairly good idea, we created small program models to see where things would fit best.
Once we moved past the program into architectural language, we hit the ground running with the idea of the oblique. We both agreed that this idea of shifting the walls to an angle would allow for a new form of circulation and a great opportunity for creative visual connections between spaces. This is where our amphitheater language came from. Our building houses many of these types of amphitheaters to act as both a circulation point but also a gathering space for the students to interact in.
The idea of the oblique can be shown in this cluster chunk model. The angles create new spaces above and below.
The next step in our process was floor plan development and attempting to integrate structure and form. We spent a lot of time iterating and reiterating floor plan layouts until we found the right spot for programs; we made sure to incorporate double height spaces as visual connection points and our amphitheaters as vertical circulation moments. Our structure originally was very rigid and rectilinear, however when we decided to emphasize the oblique, we wanted to move to more of a diagonal structure grid.
Similar to these precedents, we tried to mimic a diagonal column formation. As seen in the Prada building, we tried to focus the structure closer to the exterior to free up the floor plans and make them more open. As for form, we like the language displayed in the Ryerson Student Center by Snohetta. It was a massive for that was elevated off of the ground by structure, and had some key moments where the form is sliced. Our form is still in the process, but we image our facade will mimic this concept by having a larger massive shape with cut outs made from it to reveal program.
For our SD review, these are the models we have produced which show an improved structural system and a more developed circulation and floor layout. As you can see in the image above, we are starting to play with the language of cutting away from the form to reveal significant spaces in the project. Hopefully this evolves in the upcoming week. Our structural system has developed to include massive shear walls surrounding the egress towers which assist greatly with gravity loads; as for lateral loads, diagonal reinforcing starts to appear on the exterior.
For our review, we were critiqued by Margarida Yin, Kent Macdonald, and Tom di Santo. They all had some very helpful comments to say about our project, which had some over lapping areas. Margarita gave us some good conceptual design ideas; she offered that we could expand our project and have it connect to the community more. This could be achievable by having the students work on projects for the community have have them tackle problems present in today’s society. She also recommended we make the school program more fluid. As of now, we have it very segregated by age group, but she brought up it might be smarter to have set rooms for activities and the ages rotate around the building; this would lead to more interaction between the students and more meaningful. Kent agreed with this idea, and he proposed we tackle this fluidity through our school atrium/amphitheater. He kept reiterating that our whole building should refer back to some center, some big atrium space that everyone could interact within. His ideas to loosen up the insides of the building was helpful because that would help break us out of this rectilinear box we are in. Finally Tom also encouraged us to blur the boundaries within the school, possibly by combining programs into one space to free up the floor plan. Taking away the barriers could lead to a new interaction between age groups we haven’t even thought of.
Hearing all of this feed back, I think we definitely want to look into expanding our center atrium more and having that become a massive statement for the project. Make that be a space not just for circulation but also for social interaction and mingling of age groups. I think we also need to take a few more cracks at our structure and outside form to see if we can mess it up a little bit to make it more of a freer form. Hopefully the new center atrium will create some interesting program interaction, and possibly make some new spatial qualities as well.