I’ve been thinking a lot about what kind of space and structure might be best for facilitating the intensive and creative interaction between students and faculty — the bread and butter of our human ecological education. This thinking has not really been strategic, as such a structure was never really considered as part of our five year strategy. That said, Strategic Imperative 1, Goal 1, Objective b does read: Assess our commitment to one of COA’s most critically important offerings — its field and time intensive course work that links faculty and students … and Objective c of Goal 2 reads: Create time and tools for greater collaboration, team teaching and communication among faculty and between students and Strategic Imperative 4, Goal 2 Objectives c and d both talk of the need for faculty office and lab space that advance our approach human ecology.
Killing several birds with one stone, in my eyes at least, came the shabono, the traditional Yanomami house:
The image at left is from the wiki commons collection and is a Yanomami “home” that feels like a good model to serve us for those above needs. The Yanomami are a cultural and linguistic group from the Venezuelan and Brazilian Amazon. They were popularized in the anthropological literature by a guy named Napoleon Chagnon — Chagnon’s “The Fierce People” is read in almost every Cultural Anthropology 101 class and is a great, however controversial, read. To read about the controversy, check out Patrick Tierney’s “Darkness in El Dorado” or the following link. The link will actually show a long chain of controversies from the eugenicist Jame Neel to Chagnon to Tierney to others …
But, I digress. The shabono is actually inhabited by large extended families of Yanomami where each more-or-less nuclear family living in one segment of the donut. The key feature is that all of those nuclear families are looking across an open ceremonial center at one another and that’s the design element that I think could be most handy.
Granted, the Yanomami have different needs than a college of human ecologists and there would indeed be some needed changes to their fantastic design. For one, we would need more covered space and less open space. Two, we don’t need as much space. And three, I imagine the individual segments within the donut to be fewer and slightly more separate from each other and from the interior common space. With those three considerations, this is what I was thinking:
I’m imagining six or so lab spaces for the arts, sciences and humanities, all surrounding a centralized and open courtyard; lots of windows between labs and from the lab space to the outside and the inside. And, importantly, doors and access to the interior and from lab-to lab- to lab.
Well, just food for thought. I’m sure this food and these thoughts will keep Millard up at night.