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

Creative Journey

Brooke and I came up with the concept of creative journey through discussion about how art engages the five senses.  We talked about how we can provide opportunities for the students to engage the five senses by creating a series of vignettes around the art courtyard.  We also want the courtyard to provide opportunities for the students to interact with their teachers, other students and the community.   

Monday, March 9, 2009

NGMS Art Classroom and Courtyard

Notes from Interview with Ms. Anna Rumsey, Art Teacher

Northern Guilford Middle School


Ms. Rumsey says there are about 1,031 students at NGMS.  She teaches 12 art classes with all level of students.  There are some autistic students in her classes.


What she likes about the school:

·      High expectations for students achievement

·      Availability of supplies

·      Good relationship/communication with principle


Overall, Ms. Rumsey is satisfied with her classroom.  The lighting and temperature are adequate.  Sometimes it is cold when you sit near the air vents


Changes: If she could change some aspects of the room, they are:


·      Storage: could use wider shelves to hold large reams of paper.

·      Nowhere to store student work for her 12 classes.  Suggests shallow drawers that can be pulled out and used as bins

·      Need a sink specifically for handcapped students

·      Remove sink that is in island

·      Would like cabinets or counter surrounding white board where she can readily access examples

·      Needs a way to darken room when necessary

·      More windows

·      TV should be relocated; there is a glare and it is too far away

·      Need soap dispensers


Class transition:  There is a “bottleneck” effect when the 6th graders go to Encore classes.  The 6th grade has 300 students that pass through Encore hall and access lockers.  It is too crowded and there are only 5 minutes between classes.


She liked the idea of a graffiti wall and/or a personal art wall.  The students that take band cannot take art as well.  She knows of several students that wanted to take art and band.


She liked the idea of the courtyard becoming an extension of the classroom.  She would have class outside if there was somewhere for the students to sit.  She said, “the students will not sit on the ground because they do not want to get their clothes dirty.”  Some of the other teachers sometimes have class in the courtyards, such as the science classes and band practice.  The band occasionally has a concert in one of the courtyards.


She said that she needs something to tack up artwork for art shows.  When the band has concerts, she displays student work.  She said that people would not come to an art show at the school unless another activity, such as a band concert, is taking place.


She like the idea of having a place to show student work outdoors and have it protected from the elements and vandalism.  She said that other students destroy student work that is displayed in the halls.


She did not think having stools instead of chairs was a good idea because the students do not always pay attention to what they are doing.  Although she did like the idea of storage carts for art supplies with wheels that can act as seating outdoors.