The Unschool

Workshop, 30 July 2012 to 3 August 2012

What could a school be? For a week over summer 2012, students of The Unschool explored the spaces in and around schools and pushed the limits of the camera as a social instrument with guest curator Monica Nouwens. Participants compared how people live in schools and cities, and how design can encourage and limit behaviours, relationships, and activities.

“Could architecture be the most appropriate medium to break new ground in learning initiatives? By looking at the physical spaces of schools and re-defining their institutional position and attitude, we can reconsider the space students traverse most.

The first phase of The Unschool used photography to forge relationships between teens and the built environment that surrounds them. By documenting the spaces designed and constructed for their learning, the youth investigated the role design has in the information they process daily. Along with learning photography skills and exploring architecture first-hand, participants looked at photos and objects from the CCA archives that relate to school architecture and design.

The second phase of The Unschool looked at the city-as-school, a space of constant learning. Most of our day-to-day experience is filled with information that we filter and process for personal and collective use. The world around us is composed of kitchen tables, city parks, beds, train cars, laundromats, restaurants, warehouses, all of which make for dynamic educational environments. What is the difference between a space of hidden learning and a classroom? Participants considered the change in space, sensation and vitality.

Finally, what kind of symbolic, poetic, alternative or drastic action for school architecture could students of The Unschool produce? How could we expand or change the existing role of the school, come up with new ideas, take a new direction and reform the existing institution? The week concluded with the production of a photobook that acts as a guide for the 21st century urban student/teacher/explorer.”

—Monica Nouwens in collaboration with the Educational Programs team

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