Flies when you're having fun, flies even if you're not; but here we are, the idea still holds with conviction on my part that questions are needed. Inspired by The Brunner Family Foundation, to which I was introduced by the Center for Architecture in NYC, I want to carry out a study of workshop participants who were, at the time of their experience of Arcosanti, enrolled in professional schools of architecture. The project goal is to obtain a more structured understanding and through more information about what interconnections between 'the professional and the personal' look like, in the field of architectural education.
The instrumental means of learning more about what those connections might be, is to hunker down on an investigation of those Arcosanti Builders' experience of Arcosanti itself. Examine their experience of that 'built-environment education' 'place-in-progress' called Arcosanti so we can learn more about the impact, professionally and personally, of the idea of arcology.
Backtracking for a moment, though, to the label "urban laboratory" that was bestowed by NYTimes architecture critic Ada Louse Huxtable ("The most important experiment of our time," said she); I can't help but be reminded, as ASU Architecture Professor Jeff Cook once drily pointed out, that even by 1997, nearly 30 years after ground was first broken at Arcosanti, it had not been made precisely clear just what tests were being conducted. Pretty serious oversight. Since then, what had been a dilemma has remained a dilemma.
It not being a fixed rule at what point a dilemma becomes an incredible obstacle, if we remain too busy to figure out what the tipping point is. we might never get to see the end of "what might have been;" therefore what I'm wondering is: How do we refocus, what's the best course of action? What's the Plan, Man?
Arconauts (and others) have talked about, around, over and under, witnessed and squabbled over what needs to be done. The word "community" is uttered again and again. The mental exercise required for that, in and of itself, Paolo thought endangered Arcosanti; so he wasn't supportive. For decades. But so what if he wasn't? Why let imperfection of understanding get in the way of working deliberately towards improving communication?
I took a mental step back, far enough to get hit with a brainwave hard enough to make me reel. I'm of the school that says nice recovery is the only desirable option when you get hit by anything, no matter how hard, so I opted for that. I'm applying to grad school, re-exploring the cooperative movement, looking to carry out a research project that can focus on the structural foundation of Ar/Cosanti in the most literal way I can think of, which is its educational intention.
As the project of an educational non-profit, Arcosanti by definition must be a place to learn. Limiting myself, for the moment, to just that, I'd like to find out things like how that label of "urban laboratory" has been interpreted by its builders. What have they figured is being tested? What has it meant to them to have involved themselves in that 'laboratory'? How has it and/or hasn't their participation affected them?
I've wondered about this for some time; I admit; Now it's time to forge ahead because I've got an idea about contextualizing those questions and related ones. Logic dictates starting with the architecture-savvy, People who were enrolled as students in professional schools of architecture when they came. Identify groups of those individuals stratified by decade starting with Siltpile (1963). Analyse the data-base so we can get a grip on how our numbers are distributed, Data analysis has to start with that, to identify those who were architecture students when they came into the workshop program. From there, refine for record-keeping convenience that can be very carefully managed for evidence-collection suitable for gathering sensitive information. Because everyone's story deserves respect, we need to establish a base-line for story-keeping that will be in compliance with mandated clinical document-management standards at the highest level of privacy protection. The research I'm envisioning is bound to unearth a lot of personal information, everyone participating has to have a guarantee that personal information stays personal. (I'm sensitive here because I've not became an architect, despite my interest in the built environment, I've become a Social Worker, a profession that is all about respecting people and as the remarkable philosopher Ian Hacking once said, back in the days I was lucky enough to have been his student at UBC, "One cannot be too much a respecter of persons." )
Categories of people to interview, because an exhaustive study of a construction crew scattered over time, geographically and culturally diverse in every way, is a large project, and for simplicity's sake, has to be minimalized:
(1) Individuals who received academic credit from a school of architecture for their workshop experience;
(2) Individuals who were architecture students before workshop experience but didn't look for or receive academic credit;
(3) Individuals whose studies were outside architecture at the time of their workshop.
Questions I want the study to include are:
I. Personal History (Who am I type-stuff)
A) What's been the effect of it, educationally, in your life?
B) How do you interpret your experience there?
C) Through what sort of lenses have you viewed it and your experience of it?
II. Ar/Cosanti Experience
A) Did you have expectations?
B) What did you do while you were there?
C) How did you get there?
III. What came after that?
A) Did the experience make any difference in your life?
B) If so, what?
C) Open-ended: What more about it and yourself do you want to say, to share?
I have some ideas about how this study can be illustrated (as Lewis Carroll put it, in Alice in Wonderland: "Of what use is a book" ... "without pictures or conversations?") but before I jump that gun (or over any other hurdle, for that matter) I would love to know if my idea has resonance with other arconauts.