Friday Afternoon

Here are some more pictures of the students at work on Friday afternoon. We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day.

Thank you, Everyone!

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Build Build Build!

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Today Design Lab is all about building. All week long we've worked on plans and diagrams, built models and explored our ideas. Now, we're taking what we've learned and building our structures.

Here are some pictures of us at work.

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design tool: photography

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Designers use photography to capture landscapes, details, points of interest, people, weather phenomena (like sun, wind, flora and fauna) on a site. Students in our design lab learned about photography on the first day of class.

We talked about how to frame a picture and different points of view. We talked about how a picture is selective and well thought out, not just a random snapshot. Then we sent the students outside to capture what they found interesting.

Here are some of their photos.

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Day Three: Large Scale Materials


The image above shows a team of students testing one of their design ideas for their gathering space. Day three of Design Lab is all about testing, doing, retesting and redoing.

The students are now using the tools of sketching, drawing, diagramming, photography, model-making and large scale prototyping interchangeably as they try to discover ways that they can create the designs they have developed so far.

The four different teams are taking different paths to the solution of their different gathering spaces.

Some teams are out in the landscape surrounding the school testing how they can use the straw bales, burlap and willow branches provided for them, while others are inside brainstorming as a group and diagramming their ideas one last time.

One thing is certain, before this sunny afternoon is over all of the kids will be outside testing their ideas and discovering the limits and opportunities inherent in the design problem set before them.

Here's some pictures from this morning.


students moving straw bales to hill site


"Is this the view we want?"


"How can we use this burlap? How does it react in the wind?"


The hill group's working model.


These are the willow branches that each group has been given to build their gathering space. How can you use a willow branch?

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Students at the bus stop test their straw bales. They want to stand them on end? Will they be able to?
Reviewing yesterday's models.


another idea

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Student at work on model for playground site.


Can this structure built out of pasta be built out of willow branches?


drawing of pasta structure


Diagram of site and model plan.

Day Two: Materials and Diagrams


Students with straw bales on site. How will they use them?


Testing out large scale materials on site. What can we do with these willow branches?

Day Two of our design lab found us revisiting both our sites and our ideas from yesterday. First we met as a large group and talked about what we did the day before, then some of the instructors gave us a presentation about diagramming.

A diagram is a picture, but it tells you more than an ordinary picture. A diagram can give instructions, show relationships and relay information. A diagram often uses simple symbols to represent something more complex.

Designers use diagrams to communicate their ideas to other designers and their clients. Most people are familiar with diagrams, though they may not even know it.

Think about the directions on the back of cake mixes or cereal boxes, the weather map on TV, or the picture directions that come with most IKEA merchandise. Those are all examples of diagrams.

Today we used diagramming to design our gathering places. We now know that we'll be building our final structures out of straw bales, willow branches and burlap. We simplified these materials and drew them as shapes and symbols in our 2D drawings.

Next, we took our diagrams and built more models from them. This time our instructors gave us special materials to represent the large scale materials we will be using on Friday.

These smaller scale materials were angel hair pasta (the willow branches,) styrofoam blocks (the straw bales,) and small pieces of burlap. We were also given a scale figure to place in our models so that were were always mindful of how our own bodies will relate to our design.


Student diagramming study models.


sharing ideas with group


One group's site is on the slope of a hill.


The garden group meets to share their ideas.

Student building study model with scale figure and appropriate materials.


Another student study model.


Students use styrofoam blocks to determine how to place straw bales.

study models + mindmaps


student studying model on site

By late afternoon on day one of our design lab some students were ready to build fast study models out of paper and tape. They based these models on the drawings and sketches they did earlier in the day.

Some students drew on their models, others wrote on them to describe their ideas to their classmates.

We took the models outside to our sites and studied how they reacted to the light and wind. Many new discoveries were made and we got lots of new ideas.

Another tool that we are working with in this design lab is mindmapping. Mindmapping is a brainstorming activity that designers use to organize their thoughts about an idea. Today we used mindmapping to think about our sites.

We tried to think about all the things that effect our site, like wind, sun, water, animals and people. We wrote all of these ideas down on a white board and then when we were finished we tried to connect and link those ideas according to how closely they were related.

Phew, this was a tough activity, but we learned more about our sites from it.

Now we're going to take what we've learned from our preliminary study models and our mindmapping activities and move forward with our designs for a gathering space.


an early study model


another study model


mindmapping with the pictures we took yesterday to study the site


a mindmap


another mindmap

Design Lab: Day One

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student sharing her ideas about a garden gathering space

Yesterday was the first day of the Design Lab at the Jane Addams School for Democracy. Yesterday afternoon we got to know our fellow students (or should I say "designers") instructors and teaching assistants.

Our goal for this week is to design four separate "gathering spaces" around the school.

We will be studying how different phenomena like light, wind and sound effect our sites. We'll use photography, sketching, note-taking and mindmapping to try to discover new things about our site and our designs.

We're going to encourage ourselves to ask questions. Like, how does the wind move through this space and why does the sun shine so bright here? What could the design for our gathering space look like and why? The answers to these questions will apply to our future gathering spaces.

Yesterday afternoon started with some instructions on photography and sketching. After that we moved outside to study our sites. This blog will follow the development of our designs and show our design process.

This should be a great week!

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opening circle: getting to know everyone

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students meeting with their site groups, each group has an instructor and several teaching assistants

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students on site sketching and exploring

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students used photography as a way to explore the site and capture ideas

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these students are working on a gathering space at the edge of the playing field