My design research revolves around how we should design for the new subject of the digital era; and the design project will focus on designing a new, contemporary urban upper school. I find the school appropriate because:
1. this is the place where people go to learn, to process information and acquire knowledge, a process that has dramatically changed in the digital era. The school is a place made to house and teach the subject.
2. this is a crucial place in the formation of identity
3. it is a public building but because of fear and security issues, is also very private
4. it can have a very public, empowering voice.
Historically, the school has focused around the classroom, a place for focus and learning. In contemporary times, it has increasingly turned its focus inward, protecting itself against the exterior world. I want to challenge this notion, especially in light of the fact that information is everywhere and can be accessed from anywhere. The digital world suggests that the learning process is constant, and the school must take on a much greater role in teaching its students to be critical of information and their environment. It must teach them to be critically engaged and foster an understanding that all citizens have a voice in society. It must challenge them to move away from homogenous views by immersing students in the diverse world.
To do this I propose that the school should be focused outward, and understand learning as a continuous open process. I suggest that it should take an active public role and also find a way to leverage the inevitable private influence.
Speculation 1. The school library should be opened to the public – it should be a public library that can engage society in general.
Speculation 2. The school must embrace media technologies and give the students a forum to utilize these technologies in public, challenging them to see the advantages and disadvantages of such technologies so they can be critical of them.
Speculation 3. The school should exhibit some type of transparency and interaction with its surroundings, rather than shutting itself off from its environment. It should not fear society, it should embrace society.
In its broadest sense, this research investigates how one should design the physical environment for the contemporary subject of the Digital Era. The ease and immediacy with which one can access the preponderance of information available through digital and electronic media has complicated the development and understanding of self-identity in popular culture, and by correlation how one engages with society. The significance of the public institution as a center for information exchange and civic engagement has diminished in favor of new media , which has become a staple at home and is trending increasingly mobile.
While architectural investigations of the past two decades contemplate the formal possibilities of digital technology and the affects of new media on physical objects, few architectural proposals consider how the proliferation of these media and technologies directly affect the subject in society. This project rethinks the design of the contemporary upper school as a model for considering the affects of new media on individual and community interaction, the dissemination of information and the evolution (dissolution?) of public institutions.
This thesis challenges contemporary formulations of identity and societal engagement in an age increasingly dominated by the proliferation of digital and electronic information and interaction through the proposition of an architecture which fosters critical awareness of the (re)presentations of actuality in new media and directs critical engagement between the new subject of the digital era and the public sphere.
My complete thesis preparation document can be viewed here: Rethinking the Contemporary School