This past semester I've been working on a group project, with the four gals shown above, for our Institutional Design Class. Our semester-long project was a charter school in Albuquerque, New Mexico for Native American students. We selected this area and target group because we were interested in their culture and felt we could make a difference in their lives.
Before we began the project we worked out a written concept to base our design decisions around. This is done in the beginning of any project, as it guides the entire process. The stronger the design concept, the stronger the final product. Our concept read,
Inspired by Native American culture and the traditions of New Mexico, this school is designed to motivate students to become life-long learners and to help preserve the beauties of their culture. Students will be empowered to make wise choices and discover their own voice through studying the core values of their heritage and applying them to their everyday lives. The learning environment will encourage students to reach new heights as they explore who they are through learning in an interactive environment, collaborating with others, and establishing specific skill sets. Doubling as a cultural center and classroom for people in the community, this school will help break down cultural stereotypes as people begin to appreciate and understand the depth of Native American culture. The rich colors used in their apparel, jewelry, and textiles serve as the inspiration for the interior finishes. Symbolic motifs and patterns throughout the space are derived from Native American baskets and blankets. All who enter this school are inspired to discover their own self-worth through learning from the past, living in the present, and looking toward the future with confidence.
Every design decision we made throughout our project related back to this concept. If it didn't tie in, it was thrown out.
One of the most influencing and memorable moments of our project was an interview we held with a Native American couple on campus. We used this as part of our research and came out of the interview with greater insights into Native American culture, their heritage, and the beautiful moral values and traditions that make up who they are. After talking with the couple I felt that I had harbored some negative stereotypes against Native American people that were unfair, untrue, and ignorant. This was a humbling experience as it made me realize I may not be as informed or understanding as I perceive myself to be.
Heritage High School was a huge project as we were required to include construction documents, finishes, specifications, sample boards, sample binders, care & warranty binders, a physical model, and more. Upon completion my group and I were able to enter the Research & Creative Works Conference on campus. We competed against our department and won first place! It was a great way to end the semester.
As with every project I've completed through school, Heritage High reiterated the importance of design to my mind. Design is creative problem solving, and there are so many problems needing solved in this world! Design matters and design helps people.