Advisor: Mack Scogin, 2016
I’ve been dismayed to watch funding for the arts in public education plummet in recent years. For my MArch thesis at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, I proposed a model school to stand in radical opposition to the devaluing of the soft studies. I took as a starting point the Montessori school, which values firsthand physical interaction with the world above abstract intellectual education. To give students back their valuable soft studies, a school could broaden its reach in the world by locating itself on a moving train and structuring its curriculum to relate to its changing site.
The act of train travel, repeatedly interacting with a site through daily and seasonal cycles, dissolves the classroom into its environment. This isometric drawing imagines that experiential dissolve.
This photo-collage suggests scenes that the students might experience from the train as they travel the route. The school would repeat its cyclical route once each season so the students could be immersed in the changing landscape and appreciate geography and the passage of time in a physical rather than just an intellectual way. Thus the mirrored scenes below, though the same geographical location, depict that place at two different points in time. Sandwiched between the framed scenes is a plan of the traincars.
Plan depicting bathhouse and sleeping cars.
In the dissolved classroom, students learn lessons specific to their geographic context. Here they paint the passing landscape from their lofted studio.
Students socialize or work on individual projects in the lofted lounge car.
The combination of specific locations and facilities provided on the school-train allow for learning opportunities that students couldn’t otherwise have. Here the students use their mobile workshop to build a treehouse in the Romanian forest.
The lounge car bridges to the workshop and play yard when the school is stopped.
Students learn about both ecology and commerce firsthand as they grow flowers in their mobile greenhouse and take them to market in Holland.
A greenhouse and patio bridges to the communal bathhouse and dining car when the train is stationary.
Interior scenes in a few train cars (roofs removed), each specialized to perform a particular function for the students. Here students are enjoying the communal bathhouse.
Students cluster at tables in the dining car or ascend to the lofted tea room.
Different arrangements of traincars allow for a multitude of spaces: Two play-yards could be combined to make a basketball court. A play yard and a lofted workshop could combine to make a stage and stadium. The fireplace and lounge area could be merged into a semi-enclosed campsite.
When taking the same route on a train years later again, you notice subtle changes. That strange billboard is gone, of course, and the forest is thinned. Though this was a swamp last time, now it's a field. Perhaps the snow brings out the form of the landscape whereas the summer brings out its texture.