by Dustin Atlas
During one of our February Studio@theCenter programs, our three-day school vacation design camps, we investigated the structures animals create for themselves as well as the structures we create for them. Through this lens, we discovered our own approach to animal architecture! We began our studio with the quick charrette of designing a birdhouse. This was a great starting point because the birdhouse is based on a familiar structure that has been appropriated for a specific animal. Each camper had the opportunity to sand, paint, and design his or her own birdhouse.
The next step of our design process was to analyze photos of animal homes that exist in nature. As a group, we observed the intricate weaving of nests, the vertical nature of termite colonies, the modular structure of bee hives, the dynamic patterns of shell structures, and the sectional properties of a beaver dam. With this knowledge, we challenged ourselves by imagining the spaces we can design for other animals. Each 3rd and 4th grade participant picked an animal of their choice (turtle, dragonfly, lion, gecko, hamster, cat, and monkey, to name a few) and brainstormed a list of programmatic elements for their creature. Then, each camper sketched a design concept using isometric graph paper. One participant insisted that he was more curious about the shape of animals in architecture and suggested he would build a model of the Trojan horse instead!
Using their drawings as a starting point, participants began to gather materials for the construction of their animal homes. We discussed how, depending on the size of their animal, some homes could be built at full-scale while others had to be built at a smaller scale. The rest of our time together was devoted to building models and discussing ideas. By the end of the three-day studio each camper had crafted a thoughtful home for his or her animal. We will offer this program once more in March, along with a Digital Design Studio@theCenter program. To learn more about our upcoming after-school, summer, family and studio programs please visit our website here.