Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Update on Art Courtyard Project

Brooke and I have been hard at work refining the project.  We decided to use synthetic grass for the courtyard area because it will stand up to heavy foot traffic.  It is fade resistant and very durable as well as environmentally friendly.  We made the music wall totally of xylophones of metal, oak and bamboo and various sizes and types.  There are several kinds of seating.  Garden benches, round cement benches with built in planters, a bench/wall, “ribbon” tables for eating where each end of the table can be leaned against while sitting on the ground. The datum lines define spaces in the courtyard for collaboration, active learning,  classroom and display space as well as relaxation space.  There is plenty of open space left at the front of the courtyard for group activities, such as painting theatre scenery, student signs and other large projects.  A “banner walk” leads the students toward the rear of the Encore building to an amphitheatre and green space. 

Friday, April 17, 2009

Creative Journey: Art Courtyard at NGMS

These are a few images of many from our process to design an art courtyard for Northern Guilford Middle School.  Included here are a few images that show some ideas we’ve toyed with and where we are at now in our process.


I believe the arts should be integral to learning experiences in the classroom--not merely a separate part of the curriculum.  Music, art, creative writing and performance arts all have connections to science, math, history and other topics.  In the design for the courtyard, Brooke and I are planning to create an environment that invites all students – not exclusively art students, to explore their own creative journey.  The way we plan to do this is to:

1.   provide prominent places for art students to display their work

2.  provide tools for teachers and students to have class outdoors

3.  integrate outdoor musical instruments with the architecture

4.  provide a green amphitheatre for outdoor classroom, multimedia facilities, theatre, band concerts and practice

5.  places to relax, read, reflect

6.  places to collaborate and congregate.


Integrated with all of these opportunities are areas that engage all the five senses along a student’s creative journey.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

April 8: Response To My Last Few Desk Critiques

While I have been in IAR, I have told several students that, "of all the professors that have taught me in this program, I have learned the most from Patrick because he inspires you to push yourself really hard.  He treats your ideas with respect and gives thoughtful advice."  Before I started in the program, I prepared myself mentally to keep a healthy attitude about critiques.  I knew I would experience critiques on a regular basis and made a pact with myself to learn from them rather than take a defensive posture.  However, during the two minute critique yesterday (that we waited 45 minutes for) and the critique last week, I felt that Brooke's and my work was treated with condescension and a little contempt.  It is fine with me if someone does not like a project I present.  I just don't like being treated with disrespect, especially in front of my peers.  When I detect condescension from someone that is speaking to me, I stop listening.  Therefore, I have nothing to report.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton

This book documents the role of architecture as a profession over centuries in shaping our environment and the rationale behind the decisions they have made.  I do not think any architect purposefully sets out to create an ugly structure.  Sometimes the best intentions do not pan out.  Botton discusses what is the meaning of beauty in architecture.  Who is to say what is beautiful and what is not?  People respond to architecture in different ways based on prior experience.  A person might not like a gothic building because it makes them feel small.  I believe a building to be desirable or offensive on the basis of what it talks to us about.” Architecture, page 73. It seems reasonable to support that people will possess some of the qualities of the buildings they are drawn to. Architecture, page 18.  For centuries, classical architecture went unchallenged because it made sense to the user.   There was symmetry, order and beauty.  Symmetry makes sense to human beings because we, in fact, are symmetrical in form.  Architecture styles have come into being because we, as humans, allow exterior forces, such as religion, to shape our environments.  We are sometimes drawn to architecture that makes us feel better about ourselves or want to be better people.  After WWI, Modernism emerged because we wanted to make sense of a world gone mad.  We surrounded ourselves with function and order.  Ornament became a thing of the past because it was extraneous.  Architecture and design were for the masses not only the privileged and affluent. 

The properties of a room can directly affect the emotions of the people within.  An ugly room can coagulate any loose suspicions as to the incompleteness of life, while a sun-lit one set with honey-colored limestone tiles can lend support to whatever is most hopeful within us. Architecture, ppgs. 12-13.   Botton connects sadness with the ability to truly appreciate beauty.  He believes that someone who has experienced profound sadness will react more strongly to architecture.  It is with a dialogue with pain that many beautiful things acquire their value. Architecture, page 25.  According to the author, we allow culture to define who we are and what our surroundings should look like.  How our neighborhoods and cities should look goes unquestioned because we allow culture to dictate to us.  The greatest changes in architecture came from revolutionaries that were both artistic and practical.  This book can be applied to the rapid growth in green design taking place today.  Architecture needs to respond to the practical and emergent problems that need to be addressed in order for our planet to survive.



Brooke and I have been reading through Jax Harmon's thesis.  She designed an inner city playground converted from an abandoned lot.  She discussed how, for today's children, play and playgrounds actually inhibit imagination and creativity.  Adults frequently forget what it was like to be a child.  Children learn and grow through play so it is important to allow them plenty of time for unstructured play.  Middle school children still need opportunities to experiment and explore.  Since they are tomorrow's innovators, it is important that they maintain the natural curiosity of children. 

How this relates to the North Guilford Middle School Art Courtyard and Guilford County:  Guilford County has a history in the railroad, textile mills, an edgy music scene and the arts.  The art courtyard should invite exploration of textures, sounds and experimentation with materials and media. 

The photos included here is the play circuit at Children's Hall, Environmental Design Institute, Miyagi Prefecture in Japan (1980).  It is the inspiration for the main gesture we want to include in the courtyard.  In the courtyard, the gesture will begin in the courtyard, become seating, sound buffers, musical instruments, a walkway.  It will continue out of the courtyard and culminate in an amphitheatre on the other side of the encore hall.

Ideas for Courtyard

Inspiration Page