Shop Programming Meeting: Delight and Aesthetics, October 13, 2015

The fifth meeting in the Phase 1a Shop Building Programming Meeting series, held on October 13, 2015, focused on delight and aesthetics. Facilitated by Rob Bast and Mac Rood of Bast & Rood Architects, this meeting was attended by staff, faculty, interns and friends of Yestermorrow. The notes and discussion below were captured by Rob Bast.

Of the six topics addressed at the programming meetings, this is the most abstract. In an effort to bring some objectivity to the discussion, the introduction focused on the ancient concept of a “whole” building, resting on the Vitruvian triangle of Firmness (how solid a building is), Commodity (how useful a building is), and Delight (how a building enriches our senses with form, organization, beauty and….). All of these make Architecture to this day, but the last -delight- was the hub of the discussion.

  • What does delight mean in This Building?
  • How do we achieve it?
  • What does delight mean to You?
  • What design principles would you bring to the shop?

This building could serve many purposes related to this topic: Yestermorrow teaches design; therefore, this shop could be considered a “walk the talk” example for the campus; the shop might well be considered a model for future campus construction; and that the shop could be thought of as a key visual marketing tool for Yestermorrow.

Bast and Rood asked of the group: what ways can design/delight contribute to the overall success of the shop: internally, externally, structurally? Should we be striving to do something that “stretches” the limits of the materials used? Can we seek delight in details of joints and junctions by starting with commodity (e.g. needed connections) and introducing delight in the details of the building design (e.g. in overhangs or a waterproof base)?

The notes that follow capture comments from the discussion portion of the meeting:

  • The design should express what Yestermorrow is capable of
  • The building design could veer in various directions -- pursue iconic? vernacular interpretation?
  • This building could serve as a marketing opportunity for the school - bring on the WOW! - and draw people to the school.

Following the set of guidelines set by the Core team and the Waitsfield Design Review Board, the shop should harmonize with other buildings on campus. The word “harmonize” is somewhat subjective, leading to a discussion of how this harmonization could be envisioned.  The extent to which it harmonizes with the historic Alpen Inn is variable, for example, could harmony mean finding a similar rhythm of fenestration possibly through beltline windows, or harmonizing in circulation, or a palette of similar materials? Harmonization could also be considered in a contrasting design -- it was noted that a contrasting building such as the museum in Bilbao which contrasts significantly with its surroundings, has brought inspiration to many, including students with curiosity and those who relate to its defiant exuberance either in agreement or not.

A result of this conversation of harmony focused on not using the Alpen Inn as the main departure from which the design inspiration will occur, but rather giving a “nod” to the Inn as a historical element on site.

Additional comments included:

  • Ultimately, the view of the building will be important from all sides, including the backside which will be viewed by all students being housed in campus dorms.
  • Students are looking for a better way to live, better systems for living, and ways to celebrate craft. The building should inspire curiosity about how it was made.
  • Students and visitors should be able to (figuratively) peel back the layers of the shop, to reveal its creativity, its heart and soul, as a means to generate ideas and creativity.
  • A concept could be an underlying armature holding together a number of little pieces.
  • Shop could intrigue the wide variety of students who come to Yestermorrow
  • A mix of old and new materials could be used in the building which special consideration given to the scale and location of the materials and techniques

The group was asked to share a word or two that represent their thoughts of the design of the building. Below are these words:

  • Welcoming
  • Elegant
  • Technologically advanced
  • Clever
  • Standout-but-not-too-much
  • Surprising
  • Light play
  • Great aspects of seeing in and seeing out

The meeting closed with a discussion of finding examples of other shops that can serve as inspiration for this building and can spur a more more objective discussion related to delight and aesthetics. One could provide an image of a shop that they have visited or seen to create a conversation around why a design feature does or does not work in a shop, why the shop is successful, and in what way(s). However, it must be noted that the functionality of the Yestemorrow shop would be different than most shops as classes are held in the Yestermorrow shop. Some examples of shop design include: Taplin, Bensonwood, Stark Mountain.