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Architecture 1701 - Social Design Issue

I have a problem with my high school. With a mere six years under its belt, one would think it had everything a student, staff member, principal, or teacher would want. Wrong.

Hastings High School is laid out in a very practical way but more importantly, it is quite beautiful. Each day was the same old boring day, though, and that is where the architect flawed: he/she should have worked with students to design the building. The core classes are all by the lockers on three floors stacked on top of each other, and each floor is broken up into three pods: A, B, and C. Each pod on each floor looks exactly the same, aside from a sign on top of the cluster of rooms that says a letter. The gym is completely on the other side of our building, and the music department has their own section away from the pods. All these things have created practicality, normality, and actually a very monotonous day. Each bathroom looks exactly like the next, and so on and so forth.

Now, I realize that our school probably didn't have the budget to go nuts with decorations and mixing things up, but architecture in my mind deserves to stay away from mass production. It deserves the respect to go beyond normal, even for a high school. It really comes down to a question of how the building was laid out. First of all, (for the interests of practicality) classes should be designed according to their typical size and purpose. To some extent that exists, there is a kitchen for instance in the food science room, but why on earth are the health classes the same size as the honors English writing classes, or the drawing 3 classes?! That is ridiculous. We barely ever fit in those tight health rooms with forty kids! And whosever idea it was to make the parking lot a thousand miles away from the high school front doors should be in design jail. They obviously have never been outside in a Minnesota February before!!

The design of this building should have been thought out more clearly. It's not as if we should have had amazing interior architectural design to create beauty and diversity, because what we are very blessed with in Hastings High School is our fine arts program. The designer (having known that if he had talked with students and teachers) should have laid out the building with this in mind, and instead of having math and science classrooms by each other, they should sprinkle in a few like drawing 1, German, photography, choir, English as a second language, ceramics, band, or something to that extent. Walking by these classes would make the day so interesting that even if the kids aren't taking those classes, at least the mathletes can socialize with the art kids and get a taste of the other side of the planet for once.

Like I said, we had enough beauty at Hastings High School to "decorate" with. We didn't need a million dollar bridge connecting the gym area with the classroom area. That was an expensive “wow this really looks cool� thing. Maybe if the bridge went from one classroom, over the drawing room, into the lunch room it would have had purpose, substance, and creativity all at the same time.

The lesson architects can learn from instances like these is that there is psychology involved in architecture. If architects keep studying practicality and "making things look cool" they will get nowhere. The two have to be intertwined. When designing a school, an architect should be diverse and knowledgeable in each specific school study (social, English, art, mechanics, choir, math, etc) to know that needs are met. If he is not, he must find a team of architects and/or students that would give him first hand experience in the matter.

This simple example of a "less boring and dull" day really seems like an unnecessary change and is probably commonly overlooked, but if the students/teachers/staff had a layout as I mentioned above, their worlds would be powerfully impacted. Career ideas would change, more people with different backgrounds would interact, and there would be more appreciation for the other subjects in school, because to get through the day you would get a taste for them all. The possibilities would have been endless, because architecture is always powerful. Architecture doesn’t have to be expensive; if it meets practicality’s needs, uses what is already given in a new way, and is pleasing to be around, it is successful.