University School

from: Matt Taylor
date: Thu Apr 1, 2004 10:12:06 AM US/Central
to: Durnan Vincent
cc: Diane Seloff
subject: Some Ideas

Imaging a room!

A place for students, teachers and parent, together and individually, in different venues.
A place like no other in the school.

It can be almost totally open. Good light, warm, rich materials, natural woods - simple geometry. The basic “box” of the existing room (the original school architecture) reads strong and clear. This is the “resting” position. Everything put away - an invitation.

But, there are secretes here - and a little mystery!

It seems this room is like a transformer and objects can come out from wall cabinets, the floor and ceiling.

They pull-out, pop-up, fold down and transform the place for many uses. It is an intimate theater in the round for art and dialog. It is a large family room with students on the floor reading and in quite conversation. It is a collaborative workspace with big walls to write on and to display ideas. It is a study hall with tables, books - a place to do personal work. It is an gallery for the display of art and crafts. It is a reception hall for a small but important gathering. It is a media center for someone’s latest creation to show.

This place is friendly, open, accessible, and it has rules. It has been made beautiful, even a little exotic. It is special. It is special because it can be set up - in sections and in whole - to cater intimately to the uses to which it is put. It is special because the users can do this - and, in doing so can learn how to steward and employ an environment - a commons.

The rules, therefore, are simple - they are the rules of stewardship. They are the rules of economy/ecology. This place pays back equal to how it is treated.

How this is done - this creating of an armature/transformer - is not important here. It is done with imagination, lights, screens, some technology; it is a theater, a workspace, a resting place and it uses the methods of all these. It is in the integration that the mystery lurks. This place has great utility. And, it it an experiment - a place to learn about place-making.

The ideal kind of place for a school. This is not a utility place - the world is full of these. It has utility but is has more because it is, above all, a place of art. It done carefully and managed carefully so that this art can be both learned and employed. An expression of the best that is human. A little place in a busy world; rare in that it is devoted to this kind of expression.

Above all it is fun.

I visited the University School and Vincent Durnan, the Director, in February 2004 and he presented an interesting challenge. The school is just completing a new Library wing. What to do with the old Library spaces that creates a flexible, creative environment for student, teacher and parent that offers a set of venues not found elsewhere in the school? I thought about it for a few weeks and wrote the e-mail replicated above - then, thought some more weeks and made the notes below.
Click on Notebook Page for full screen view
In May, Vincent and I had a meeting and he agreed that we should pursue the concepts presented in these two documents. This took some time. First, we had a couple of projects in progress that we wanted to complete before progressing because, in matters of utility and design, they explore aspects that approaches idea related to the Transformer Room. These works only approach what is described above because, as far as I know, there is nothing like the Transformer Room anywhere. Secondly, a great deal of the the furniture pieces necessary to this concept have to be designed from scratch. We have thought of the ideas for decades. This is the first time that we have seriously recommended them in a design. The function of the room requires this approach and the furniture necessary to carry it off will require significant R&D. Recent projects have brought the AI shop to the point where this is a doable project.
Return To Index
Matt Taylor

May 14, 2004


SolutionBox voice of this document:


posted May 14, 2004

revised August 22, 2004
• • •

(note: this document is about 15% finished)

Copyright© 2004 Matt Taylor



Search For:
Match:  Any word All words Exact phrase
Sound-alike matching
From: ,
To: ,
Show:   results   summaries
Sort by: