In a county dominated by industrial poultry farming, we asked the students, “What’s another way to look at it?” Instead of 250,000 chickens on your property farmed for a large corporation, what might it look like to have six to eight egg-laying hens in your backyard as a sustainable source of food? This question began our students’ first adventures in the architectural design of a structure to be inhabited by living beings.
When Kerron and Erick had first begun tinkering with the geodesic-inspired forms, they worked in cardboard. They scored a rectangular piece in parallel lines and triangular mosaics and folded the single piece into a faceted shape. The two boys made dozens of these “sketch models,” learning from each one and trying again. Against the constraint of the design brief, which included the number of square feet, a need to protect the chickens against predators and weather, and a $500 budget, their forms butted up against function until a final design emerged.
This was iteration, and it was a totally foreign concept to most students. Unlike their other classes, which were far more formulaic (read this, do this worksheet, turn it in, take a test, get a grade), our curriculum asked students to begin, over and over again, without knowing where they would end up. We banned the use of two phrases: “I’m bored” and “I’m done.” This approach is at the heart of design education and is a mode of thinking that students are not often taught in public schools. “Yes, but… ” is always followed by “And so….”