1183

Designing for Design Schools: What type of collaboration space works?

by Becca Cavell

We’re excited to be working right now with UC Davis on the renovation of the north wing of Cruess Hall – a rather industrial 1950s building that will house screening rooms, labs, and maker spaces for the Cinema & Digital Media and Industrial Design programs. Some of these spaces will be quite industrial themselves, and seem a fitting use for the currently vacant building.  As we begin to look for case studies to inform our work, our client shared this video from Stanford’s D-School, showing 10 days in the life of the D’s central collaboration space. It’s time-lapse, and takes just four minutes to view – and it demonstrates how a very utilitarian space can be the beating heart of an institution if you plan it right, furnish it right, and relax a bit.

Read more

870

Technology in Classrooms: In or Out?

by Becca Cavell

I just read this fascinating article thanks to a link that SCUP sent out to its members a few days ago. The piece, by NYU educator Clay Shirky, explains why a social media expert has banned the use of technology in his own classroom. As architects, much of our work in recent years has been trying to find effective ways to integrate technology into the classroom environment, so it is refreshing to pause for a moment and consider the relationship between effective learning and our human nature with technology. Shirky shows us that device designers and social media providers take advantage of our biological make-up to deliver “can’t ignore” messages – the sounds and visuals that emanate from our iPhones are a constant distraction from concentrated study. This probably isn’t a revelation to any of us, but when Shirky talks about the science that shows how students’ test scores diminish when they are simply within view of another person’s web browsing, we have to pay attention.

Read more

709

The Portland Building Debate Circuit Continues

by Becca Cavell

It’s time to follow up on my earlier piece about the Portland Building. Peter Meijer and I publically debated the fate of the building for the first time over a year ago, at the Docomomo Symposium in Florida. Since then we’ve reprised our face-off three times in front of live audiences – in Portland and Hood River – and we had the pleasure of sparring gently on the radio courtesy of KBOO’s ArtFocus show as part of a longer program that addressed a couple of other local landmarks too (listen here). We’ve made a point to engage the audience in the discussion whenever we can, and along this journey I’ve learned a lot of things about the building and people’s attitudes towards it.

Read more

527

Tear that Landmark down!! …or maybe…don’t?

by Becca Cavell

Peter Meijer and I recently reprised a debate on the future of Portland’s iconic Portland Building (designed by Michael Graves in 1982) as part of the Portland Design Festival. Peter and I are on the board of DoCoMoMo-Oregon and were invited to present the same topic at DoCoMoMo-US’s National Symposium in Sarasota earlier this year. The Modernism conservation group is beginning to grapple with the issue of Postmodernism and we tried to highlight some of the major issues while maintaining a fairly lighthearted approach. In Florida we only had 20 minutes to present our cases, and this time we had over an hour, and we had a lively and engaged audience who brought their own perspectives to the discussion.

Read more

375

Talking in Code

by Becca Cavell

Sometimes professionals seem to go out of their way to talk in code – and architects are no exception. During presentations to lay-people we’ll often sprinkle our discussions with words like “fenestration” and “masonry cladding” when simpler terms such as “window” and “brick wall” will do just fine. It’s not intellectual superiority that causes this speech defect….it’s simply that sometimes we know an awful lot about certain subjects and forget that not everyone is privy to the same jargon. Sometimes we just need to get the right perspective on the context of a conversation – taking time to do this can profoundly influence the outcome of any given meeting and it’s well worth the effort. I’m going to use a few examples to illustrate ways we can simplify our language and better engage our clients:

Read more

250

What’s Your Story?

by Becca Cavell

I recently attended a quietly inspirational SMPS event – a talk by Jelly Helm.  Here’s part of the SMPS pitch:

“You’ve seen his work with the Portland Timbers, Nike and Starbucks. He’s been featured in The New York Times, Fast Company and Men’s Health. Now, Jelly Helm comes to SMPS to share his passions on storytelling. Join us to learn the importance of storytelling in our A/E/C industry.”

I’m a fan of a good story and  after checking out Studio Jelly’s website I was intrigued to hear what he had to say.  He was actually very low key yet powerful. He disarmed us with some cute pictures of himself as a young child as he told us what we all know – how stories are an important part of learning and understanding our world. And how storytelling is becoming increasingly important in our professional world as we see the rising use of social media.

Read more

33

Is There a Limit to the Size of a Good Classroom?

by Becca Cavell

Changes in funding for higher education have left many institutions scrambling to find more cost effective ways to graduate increasing numbers of enrolled students. Many innovative concepts are at play, ranging from reducing the “average” student tenure from four to three years to providing more class materials on line and thus reducing contact hours of teaching. One of the most controversial trends is the rising interest in “mega classrooms” – auditoriums that hold sometimes more than 1,000 students.

Can such huge classrooms succeed?

Read more

65

A Tale of Two Classrooms

by Becca Cavell

I recently taught a seminar on Learning Spaces at the University of Oregon’s Portland Program. One of the student assignments required teams to visit local colleges and universities to observe classrooms “in action,” in terms of both functional performance and teaching approach. A great stroke of luck led two teams of students to observe the same class delivered in two very different environments.

Read more

75

Mobile Learning Units

by Becca Cavell

Remember tablet arm chairs? The old stalwarts of “pack ‘em in” classroom design? The chairs have been unpopular with designers for years for a variety of reasons. They don’t stack, are hard to move around, and the tablets themselves are often too small for the needs of today’s students.  But perhaps the most insidious problem with the chairs is a fundamental challenge to any classroom design: the backpack issue. Bags usually end up either on the floor or hanging on the back of the chairs, often rendering them unstable.

Read more