Can You Please Everyone? // Brandon Eversgerd
This past semester has been very unique for what was once the “ReStart Team.” We came back from Christmas Break looking forward to moving forward with our ReStart design, to begin shop drawings, build more mockups, and work with the people of ReStart to get our project successfully finished. Unfortunately, due to an insurance policy issue, the project was canceled and deemed “ReStart ReStart Stop.” Thankfully, we were able to find a new project with its own unique set of challenges, to work on for the rest of the semester.
This new project was dubbed “Project Partial Partition,” or “PPP”, and called for our team of myself, Alex, Josh, Devin, and Meredith, to design partitions for the new Seaton Hall. Within the new design, there are several massive studio spaces that will house six studios apiece. From the beginning, these spaces were designed to be completely open, but were met with resistance right away. Students and teachers alike seemed to all have their own opinion on whether one big space was the right or wrong option for studio. This was one of the first core issues we faced as a team. How in the world would we be able to come up with a solution that would please everyone, from the Dean himself all the way down to first year students?
When we started this design process, we all had come up with schemes of our own. These schemes ranged from a hanging track system, a glass partition wall, a modular system, and even an acoustic barrier. From there, the schemes were narrowed down to a hanging track system and a modular partition system-“Tracks and Stacks” and “Roll and Rearrange”. Both schemes had their obvious pro’s and con’s but both were very plausible schemes. “Tracks and Stacks” was inherently permanent and provided very solid masses to be utilized within the studio spaces, but constructing these tracks through two drop ceilings could prove to be tricky. “Roll and Rearrange” was extremely flexible and lightweight, but could possibly become too flexible and too lightweight. Despite the good and bad each idea offered, there still seemed to be the core issue of not being able to please everyone.
In previous meetings with the Dean, students, and faculty, everyone seemed to have a very precise idea of what they wanted. Students seemed to want a little bit of everything-open room, pin up space, lounge spaces, and partitions. Faculty seemed to want their own studio space, completely walled off from others. Finally, the Dean wanted the big open studio space, but if he had to compromise, he could settle for a hanging track system. It seemed our task was evolving into not only designing a new partition system, but merging everyone’s thought into the most basic, yet sophisticated design. A design that would become an active and effective addition to these studio spaces and aim to prove 100% essential to the overall success of the space. In this way, instead of trying to plan for every possible issue with our design, we could merge school wide thoughts from both students and faculty alike, knowing we came up with what we think is the best design solution possible.
As the semester has moved on, we have found ourselves taking two steps forward and one step back. This is true in most design processes, but seems to hold particularly true with “PPP.” Every time it seemed like we were poised to land on one final design, we would find ourselves back at square one analyzing the core issue at hand and trying to merge everyone’s ideas in a better way. When we finally landed on our (current) approach, a “+ +” scheme, that implemented “+” shaped partition walls into the space, it seemed we finally hit on something that we as a group could acknowledge had merit, and one that the Dean could get on board with as well. It was an “internal fist bump” moment indeed. This current design could very clearly make a positive impact within the space, but not call too much attention to it as much as some of our previous designs had done. Thus we coined the slogan, “Minimal Mass + Maximum Impact.”
In the end, what “Team PPP” has experienced thus far is a design problem that none of us have had to face so clearly before. We have our main client, the Dean, but in the background is the average user for these new studios. However, it just so happens that these users go beyond your average citizen/user for your typical apartment complex, stadium, or office building project. These “users” have an architectural background as either students or faculty and are strong-minded, opinionated, and convicted in their arguments and suggestions for this project. So we not only have to deal with our own internal design conflicts, but we have to distill the Dean’s own design intentions and desires. On top of all that, there is faculty and students who have picked sides to this project and remain steadfast in their own ideas and opinions for what they think is best for the project. It is a fascinating mix of opinions.
Over the coming weeks, we will continue to develop our “+ +” design and continue to garner feedback from the Dean, faculty, and students alike. In the end, with guidance (and funding) from the Dean, we will be able to push our design forward knowing we are on to something good. We will continue to iterate through this unique design process using feedback from our “clients” and attempt to create genuinely good design work. With good design work, we can craft diagrams, charts, lists, plans, renderings, etc. that will not only speak for themselves, but bring to light the specific benefits of our final design. There will come a time of course, where this “final” design will become as final as possible, and when that happens, we will have to hope our efforts have been enough to make an impact. While the conversation will certainly never end, our “+ +” design can plan on being a positive addition for the time being and hope to evolve over the years into a sort of trademark for these new studio spaces in Seaton Hall.
Written by Brandon Eversgerd