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COMMUNITY AS CLASSROOM LAMBERT-CLOSSE SCHOOLYARD REVITALISATION PROJECT

ACT I

ACT II

ACT III

UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE IDBE 15

CASE STUDY RICHARD KLOPP JUNE 2009


COMMUNITY AS CLASSROOM: LAMBERT-CLOSSE SCHOOLYARD REVITALISATION PROJECT

Foreword This work was written in partial fulfillment of the Interdisciplinary Design for the Built Environment (IDBE) program requirements at the University of Cambridge.

The

principal aims of the IDBE program as stated in the course handbook are: … to give its graduates a broad strategic understanding of the social, economic and environmental context of design, and the current challenges and opportunities facing the production of the built environment… and … to help students from different disciplines to work effectively together, harnessing their knowledge and expertise in the design of a product that reflects their joint capabilities. The purpose of the case study is to reflect on the decisions and actions of the design team for a recent project in which the author was a key participant. It is an opportunity to critically analyse the process and its outcomes, but most importantly, to develop the reflexive skills that will become a valuable feedback mechanism for self-improvement and teamwork in the future.

About the author: Richard Klopp is an architect and educator living in Montréal, Canada. His professional experience of 15 years spans a wide range of project types and cultural contexts. He is part-time faculty member at McGill University and Vanier College, where he teaches courses in building construction and passive, low-energy design. He actively volunteers on a number of non-profit, project-based initiatives to improve the urban environment and promote eco-responsible building practices. With the support of the Canada Green Building Council, he curated the exhibition entitled +RZWR%XLOGSRVW.\RWR - an official parallel event to the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2005.

klopp.richard@gmail.com

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Introduction Primary schools are one of the most important social constructs and formative physical environments in our lives, which we revisit with each new generation. This case study tells the story of a dilapidated urban schoolyard in Montreal and how it was transformed through a series of community-initiated interventions, engaging ever-broader stakeholder participation in the process. It is a community-building project in both the social and physical sense of the term. It is also an educational experiment in interdisciplinary collaboration that attempts to dissolve the silos that typically isolate academia, industry, culture, and community life. Because it involves one the fundamental building blocks of society and is readily transferable as a project, this case study should find relevance with a wide range of readers, particularly those interested in the following questions:

What motivates and empowers citizens to make positive changes to their built environment, and what barriers do they confront in the process?

What conditions and possible convergence of interests are required to sustain a multi-stakeholder collaboration, in which community-building is the prime motivator, not profit?

What role can community service play in design education, and alternatively, what role can design education play in community service?

How can projects be conceived as open-ended processes that continue to transform, engage, and add value over time?

What are the socio-cultural, economic, and ecological benefits of improving the quality of public space?

Two parallel streams of thought are presented in the main body of this case study. The first stream of thought is a narrative or factual account of events that offers the relevant context required to properly understand the second stream of thought, which is a reflective analysis of the processes, outcomes, and roles of the author in the project. The format, graphic design and typography of the document play an important role in separating these two thought processes.

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COMMUNITY AS CLASSROOM: LAMBERT-CLOSSE SCHOOLYARD REVITALISATION PROJECT

The narrative is structured using the written form of a play, composed of three acts and an epilogue. The reflective analysis will take the form of notes in the right hand margin. To give a graphic identity to each of the streams of thought, a different font type was chosen for each: courier for the narrative and a cursive font for the reflective analysis. A third font type is used for the introduction, conclusion and captions. The theatrical play is a good analogy for a project - it has a setting, actors, an audience, a plot - and we can learn a great deal from the interrelationships of these elements. In a building project, we call these elements site, stakeholders, community of users, and schedule. Here the primary setting is a public elementary school and its surrounding community in MontrÊal, but there are also a number of secondary sites including: a school of architecture design studio, a precast concrete plant, and a mosaic school. The storyline involves a series of nested subplots (or secondary projects) that are each related but also each an entity unto itself, like the pieces of a Russian doll [FIGURE 1]. ACT I describes a schoolyard landscape project; ACT II, a piece of urban furniture integrated in the schoolyard; and ACT III, a mosaic work embedded in the urban furniture. The EPILOGUE briefly introduces a sequel project currently underway at another schoolyard, which demonstrates the transferability of the project and process. This case study documents project events and offers reflections on the outcomes and decisions made. While I was personally involved throughout the process, my role and motivations at each stage changed significantly: from client advisor to project manager to design team leader and at times even a tradesman. These multiple project roles were overlapping and often converging with my day-to-day practice and responsibilities as an architect, university lecturer, and parent. While the narrative is central to understanding the case study, it is the author’s notes provided in margins that are of greatest value to a reader interested in reflective and interdisciplinary practice. The conclusions are drawn almost exclusively from this analytical stream of thought.

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FIGURE 1 RUSSIAN DOLLS METAPHOR FOR NESTED PROJECTS

FIGURE 2 LOCATION OF ELC SCHOOL MONTRÉAL, CANADA

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ACT I: THE SCHOOLYARD PROJECT ACT I: SETTING École Lambert-Closse (referred to as ELC School in this document) is a francophone primary school in the vibrant and multiethnic Mile End district of Montréal. It is bounded by St-Urbain, Bernard, and Waverly streets [FIGURE 2]. Like many aging schools in Montréal, the ongoing maintenance of the ELC schoolyard had not been prioritized by the local school board (CSDM) and as a consequence the exterior environment was in a chronic state of disrepair. Despite the regular complaints of pupils, parents, and staff, the situation was tolerated for many years.1 And there was little hope of change in the near future. The ELC School had lost its former special funding status for economically depressed neighbourhoods and as a result was struggling to maintain the quality and range of it existing programs and services, let alone invest in any non-life-threatening capital projects.

Notes:

1

My reaction after visiting the school for the first time (at an open house event for parents) was shock and outrage. How could a society with such abundant wealth and resources, rated at the top of the UN Human Development Index, choose not to invest in the environments where its children will be spending their formative years? What message does this lack of care send to the children that attend the school and to the community they live in? Upon sharing my feelings with other parents and members of the school staff, I realized that I was not alone. Yet there was a sense of powerlessness to affect the necessary change at the local, institutional, or political levels. In part, the situation was tolerated because it was not an isolated case: many urban schools were suffering equally deplorable conditions.

While gentrification of the surrounding community was the cause of funding cuts to the school, it would also bring many of the leaders and pool of talent and professional skill required to take on the project of revitalizing the ELC schoolyard. ACT I recounts how this group of dedicated parents carried out the project and establishes the context for ACT II and ACT III.

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FIGURE 3 ELC SCHOOLYARD SITE PRIOR TO CONSTRUCTION

FIGURE 4 ELC SCHOOL INTERIOR ARTWORK EMBELLISHES WALLS

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Author Notes: notes:

ACT I: PRINCIPAL ROLES AND ACTORS NARRATOR: Richard Klopp, parent and member of the ELC Schoolyard Committee project management team as professional advisor and volunteer. 2

ELC SCHOOLYARD COMMITTEE: promoter and project management team comprised of parents, school staff and community representatives. CLIENT GROUP: CSDM (CITY OF MONTREAL SCHOOL BOARD): owner ELC SCHOOL STUDENTS AND STAFF: primary user MILE END COMMUNITY: secondary user LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: NIP Paysage GENERAL CONTRACTOR: EBI inc PROJECT SPONSORS/SUPPORTERS

ACT I: PLOT As early as 2001, a group of parents and teachers at ELC School had formed a committee to address growing concerns relating to the dilapidated condition of the schoolyard and inaction on the part of the CSDM to improve the situation. The schoolyard was essentially a large empty lot of cracked and poorly drained pavement bounded by a chain link fence. The only visible signs defining it as a schoolyard were the field markings (which were barely visible), a few metal structures for attaching sports equipment, and the presence of the children [FIGURE 3]. This contrasts greatly with the vibrant interior of the school that is embellished with student art [FIGURE 4].

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2

Reflecting on the motivations of the volunteer parents promoting the project: first and foremost was their interest in seeing the schoolyard project completed as soon as possible so that their own children would benefit for at least part of their seven years at the K-6 school (as one might expect, the most engaged volunteers had children in early grades.) Other motivators included the desire to invest in the local community; the opportunity to collaborate and build relationships; the sense of empowerment associated with taking on a difficult challenge; and the anticipated satisfaction of achieving a unique project of significant benefit to the community.

My own decision to enroll my son at the school rather than look elsewhere was influenced by all of these motivations, but at the beginning I struggled with the basic question: why did parents have to do what seemed to be the work of the school board and Ministry of Education. Reflection: reasons why?of a Was it notexamine a clear sign of failure duepublic to resistance of the institutiononifthe the part citizens it is School Board to hand what it intended to serve needover to organize considered responsibility, themselvesitsand volunteer theirperhaps time, a certain lack of confidence in its the energy, and resources to ensure proposed plan and ability of the basic services.

parents to realise it, and lack of funding. What the right and mix of Once beyond the is victimizing talent to succeed? blaming – when we began taking

charge of the project – some other motivating benefits became apparent: namely, the abundant opportunities to personalized the project to the needs of the local school and community, rather than accept a generic or institutionally generated plan.

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FIGURE 5 TIMELINE ACT I SCHOOLYARD PROJECT

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Notes:

ACT I: PLOT (cont) The main preoccupations of the ELC Schoolyard

3

At the time, it appeared as though the CSDM did not want the Schoolyard committee meddling in their affairs. In retrospect, their resistance may have been due to a lack of confidence in the committee’s ability to generate the necessary funding and carry out the work in a professional manner.

4

The mix of professions included: a graphic designer, the president of a lobby group for cyclists, a lawyer with political aspirations, a community activist, a local artist, an employee of Radio-Canada and myself, an architect and part-time university lecturer.

5

The summary document proved to be an invaluable tool for team building, sponsorship, coordination, and project approvals. One cannot overstate the importance of involving a good writer and graphic designer in its production as the content and presentation quality of the document reflect the professionalism and ambition of the project team.

Committee were the unsafe playing surfaces; lack of green space, shade, and lighting; and traffic pollution from St-Urbain Street. After several years of community consultations, project definition, and consensus building, the project faltered and stalled, in large part due to the lack of support by the school board3. *

*

*

A new schoolyard committee was formed in 2005: it included parents from the former committee, new parents to the school and some key personnel within the school administration. These new parents reenergized the volunteer group with a broad set of professional and leadership skills4 and a fresh perspective. Their first goal was to make publicly accessible the work of the previous committee by publishing a summary document that clearly described the context, scope, and vision for the project5. Refer to the project timeline of key events [FIGURE 5]. This document was distributed to all project and community stakeholders and a number of potential partners for letters of support. Letters of support were appended to the document to build credibility and momentum for the cause. The next step was to develop a concept and set a fundraising target, so that project stakeholders

Other organisations have used our document as a template for similar initiatives and have commented on some of its defining characteristics, which include: a clear definition of purpose, scope, context and actors; comprehensive, concise, and transparent writing; visually engaging graphical layout; and regularly updated information.

and potential sponsors would have the necessary information about the project.

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FIGURE 6 SITE PLAN, CONCEPT STAGE SOURCE: NIP PAYSAGE

FIGURE 7 PERSPECTIVE, CONCEPT STAGE SOURCE: NIP PAYSAGE

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ACT I: PLOT (cont) To enter into a contractual agreement concerning

Notes:

6

Involving professionals that were known to the various planning and regulatory bodies was key to gaining credibility. The earlier plan presented to the CSDM was prepared pro bono by a landscape contractor, who was not familiar with their protocol and approval processes.

7

Choosing a suitable professional partner with the right balance of experience, talent, chemistry and fees usually entails a certain degree of compromise. In this case, there was nearly a perfect match. NIP Paysage is a local firm of young landscape architects that specialize in smallscale community and cultural projects. Although primarily renown for their imaginative installations at art and garden festivals, they also have a considerable portfolio of schoolyard and playground projects. Being accustomed to working on two-stage, funding-dependent projects, they were very accommodating of the needs of a non-profit community organisation. Their offer of services was of exemplary quality, clearly laying out with graphic flair their relevant experience, grasp of the project, a tentative schedule, list of deliverables and professional fees.

8

Parent activities at the school typically take the form of individual or group meetings for information exchange with teachers or the administration - usually centred on the children’s needs and development. What defined the success of this event was that it provided a muchneeded space for social interaction between parents. The event would nourish and inspire all future fundraising activities.

school property required professional design services and approval of the CSDM. Contrary to the experience of the first schoolyard committee, the CSDM was now more open toward community partnerships in general and those involving schoolyard projects in particular6. There was even new funding available from the Ministry of Education and the City of Montreal for upgrading sports facilities, which included school grounds. With the support-in-principle of the CSDM, three landscape architects were invited to submit offers of services. NIP Paysage was the firm commissioned7 to prepare concept drawings [FIGURES 6 & 7] and an estimate. Once added to the project summary, it formed a comprehensive document for grant agencies and private sponsors. In parallel with concept development, a series of fundraising events was initiated that quickly garnered the attention and support of the school, community, local politicians and the media. The aim of the first event, an informal spaghetti dinner [FIGURE 8], was to introduce the project to the entire school community and begin building a network of support. Tickets were sold out for the event and the gymnasium was filled to capacity with the borough mayor and other community representatives in attendance. There was a very good ambiance. In fact, dinner conversation was so lively that it was difficult to hear any of the presentations. Although very little information was transmitted to the audience, the positive community spirit and sense of social cohesion experienced that evening would make it a defining moment in the project8.

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FIGURE 8 FUNDRAISING EVENT SPAGHETTI DINNER

FIGURE 9 FUNDRAISING AND MEDIA EVENT ROADSWORTH INSTALLATION

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ACT I: PLOT (cont) The fundraising activities would continue for over a year and although there were times that the progress seemed too slow or the target unattainable, there was rarely a sense of drudgery for those involved because the process itself was highly prioritized to create opportunities for personal growth, participation, group learning, cultural expression, and community engagement.9 One good example is the schoolyard Bazaar held in the spring of 2006, where volunteers sold unwanted household items donated by parents and school members. To publicize the event, the graffiti artist Roadsworth10 was invited to embellish the schoolyard with one of his famous stencil works live - and legally, for a change. In fact, his work contributed to a mandatory community service sentence he received. While the proceeds of the sales and refreshments were modest, the art event attracted the local press, temporarily transformed the schoolyard and became a source of pride for the school [FIGURE 9].

Notes:

9

There was a shared sentiment that we were building more than a schoolyard and that even if we never achieved our fundraising target, our time was not wasted.

10Roadsworth

is the pseudonym of a controversial artist, who for 3 years transformed common road marking in Montreal into what many would consider legitimate works of public art. When he was finally uncovered and apprehended, it created a public debate, and in the end, rather than receive a criminal sentence, he was order to pay a nominal fine and to serve 40 hours of community service. His work was strangely symbolic of and resonant with our efforts in that it sought to humanise or give a poetic dimension to institutional space.

Other fundraising activities that offered a broad range of opportunities for engagement, learning and creativity, included: -

-

A school-wide student competition to collect the largest number of recyclable containers for refund; The sale of reusable cloth shopping bags, proudly displaying the project logo, at the school and in local shops [FIGURE 10];

-

A St-Valentine’s Day masquerade ball; and

-

A semi-formal cocktail and silent auction of donated student artwork [FIGURE 10].

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FIGURE 10 FUNDRAISING INITIATIVES GRAPHIC SUPPORT

FIGURE 11 CONSTRUCTION PHOTOS SOURCE: NIP PAYSAGE

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ACT I: PLOT (cont) Note that while these activities were not major revenue generators in themselves (accounting for less than 15% of the total funds raised), they were essential in order to build support and credibility with funding agencies, many of which required evidence of in-kind commitments11. There were about a dozen active members of the Schoolyard committee and while work was shared and delegated to volunteers, two key roles emerged that required a significantly higher level of engagement: 1) a graphic designer and 2) a project spokesperson12. The graphic designer gave the project an identity and provided the graphic support for all internal and external communication [FIGURE 10]. The spokesperson was the main point of contact for the committee, project stakeholders, sponsors, and the media.

Notes:

11The

sources of project funding can be broken down as follows:

12% 20% 40% 15% 13%

Federal programs Provincial programs CSDM and Municipal funding Private foundations/corporate ELC Schoolyard committee

12Creating

an identity for a project requires printed artefacts and a recognisable figurehead. Although they work in different modes, both can be mutually reinforcing and serve to communicate project information in a clear and consistent manner. Because they represent not only the project, but also the collective thoughts, aspirations, and even reputations of the project team, they hold or embody the power that will in large part determine the success or failure of the project.

By early 2007, committee members were showing signs of impatience and a decision was made to schedule construction for the summer, prior to the school’s fall reopening. The project budget was revised to match the anticipated funding level of approximately $150,000. Design changes and contingency plans were reviewed with the landscape architects, which involved breaking out certain items from the main scope of work, namely lighting and outdoor furniture [ACT II]. By the beginning of summer, all the funding was in place and the contract documents were issued to the CSDM, who handled the tendering process and construction contract. Construction began in July 2007 and was completed over a 4-week period ending in late August [FIGURE 11].

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FIGURE 12 ELC SCHOOLYARD IN USE RIBBON CUTTING CEREMONY

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ACT I: PLOT (cont) The transformation of the schoolyard was dramatic. The landscape architects demonstrated their skill at making very effective use of a modest budget, most of which went to repaving the hard surfaces. They were able to create a visual charged and playful landscape out of a relatively empty space by adding some topography and a few goal posts, extending the existing zones of planting into the schoolyard, carefully coordinating materials and making abundant use of painted surfaces. The rubber-surfaced hill in particular is an endless source of amusement for the children at all times of the year. The inauguration of the schoolyard provided an opportunity for all those that had contributed to the project to experience the new space in use. At the same event, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was conducted by the principal users of the space the schoolchildren - in a symbolic gesture of project transfer and reception [FIGURE 12].

Notes:

13With

the very heavy use of the schoolyard, both during school hours and after when it is open to the community, repairs and ongoing maintenance became pressing issues almost immediately. No funds were initially budgeted for maintenance work, but fortunately the project ended with a surplus. This significant oversight in budgeting was balanced by another oversight involving the momentum of community involvement. No one had anticipated the void that would be felt by the project team volunteers as project activities suddenly ceased. Many were pleased to join a new committee set up to manage the ongoing projects and maintenance work as well as to continue some of the popular fundraising events.

At the end of the project, the remaining project funds and an unexpected grant were allocated to several related initiatives, including the projects described in ACT II and ACT III, a 13 lighting proposal, and a maintenance program .

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FIGURE 13 TIMELINE ACT II BENCH PROJECT

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ACT II – THE BENCH PROJECT ACT II: SETTING This project involves a student design-build competition for new precast concrete furniture. The project unfolds at McGill University School of Architecture (McGill SOA), before moving to Groupe Tremca precast concrete plant, where the winning design was fabricated, and then on to the ELC schoolyard, where the work was installed as a permanent feature of the built landscape. The project was born out of a value engineering discussion for the ELC schoolyard in early 2007 refer to the ACT II timeline [FIGURE 13]. At the time, not all the funding was committed, and contingency plans were being evaluated so that the landscape architect could proceed with the construction documents phase. The concept design proposed a series of benches in a new zone of planting at the western edge of the schoolyard site. The benches were a generic economy model and thus a prime target for cost-savings as they could easily be added at a later date14. The idea of setting up a design-build competition for the benches suddenly appeared to me as a point of convergence15 and mutually beneficial solution to two distinct problems, namely: 1) to find an alternative to a generic design solution dictated by budgetary and time constraints; and 2) to offer a real-life design opportunity of appropriate scale and relevance to a class of architecture students16. In this case, each collaborating party had what the other needed. The only missing party was an

RICHARD KLOPP

Notes: 14Interestingly,

it was not the costsavings potential, but rather the generic quality of the benches that opened a discussion of alternatives that would eventually lead to the design-build initiative. Standard park benches were viewed as detracting from the creative landscape being proposed. Most of the ELC Schoolyard committee members would even have preferred stone boulders as an alternative.

15This

convergence would not have “appeared” without a willingness to go beyond the normal trajectories and typical silos defining professional work, academia, community involvement, and family life.

16As

a course lecturer at McGill School of Architecture, I had for some time been preoccupied with thoughts of changing the teaching methods of a technical course called Advanced Construction from a theory and lecture-based approach to a practice and project-based initiative. I had seen the heightened engagement and positive learning results from construction site visits and invited specialists. For two years, I had even integrated the course content in what was know as the Comprehensive Design Studio. The problem of using design studio projects as means to explore detailing and construction issues is that they were missing the interdisciplinary constraints, input and coordination that are critical to an understanding of construction. Without being conscious of it, I was in fact waiting for this opportunity to collaborate with consultants and building specialists on a small, valueadded, design-build project.

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FIGURE 14 GROUPE TREMCA PLANT SITE VISIT WITH STUDENTS

FIGURE 15 DIAGRAM OF VALUE EXCHANGES BETWEEN PARTICIPANT GROUPS AND/,9(PROJECT



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COMMUNITY AS CLASSROOM: LAMBERT-CLOSSE SCHOOLYARD REVITALISATION PROJECT

ACT II: SETTING (cont) industry partner that could provide technical support and assure the delivery of a high quality final product. The first company contacted was Groupe Tremca, who was immediately receptive to the initiative. The terms of agreement involved an initial commitment to participate in the competition phase and, depending on the quality of the winning proposal(s), to extend their commitment to the fabrication phase. A similar 17 non-binding agreement was made with ELC School . The overall structure of relations is descibed in the diagram on the facing page [FIGURE 13]. Needless to say, the benches were removed from the construction contract. It remained to be seen what proposals the students might come up with and whether any would be realized.

ACT II: PRINCIPAL ROLES AND ACTORS NARRATOR: Richard Klopp, design-build project coordinator and course lecturer at McGill SOA. MCGILL SOA: 37 architecture students in the

Notes:

17This

two-stage, performance-based agreement permitted each of the stakeholders to enter into the new relationship with little risk or commitment. It also provided the time necessary to build trust and to demonstrate the potential value each could offer the collaboration. There was no money involved, but each stakeholder had something of value to exchange. The key to making the relationship work was to maintain a T careful balance of stakeholder interests. The motivations of the main stakeholders created an interesting relationship triangle. On the supply side: ELC School provided the site; McGill SOA students provided design services; and Groupe Tremca provided the product. On the receiving side: ELC School received a new schoolyard feature; McGill SOA students received a valuable learning experience and a portfolio work; and Groupe Tremca was able to establish a relationship with a class of future clients. The work of the students would also feature in their promotional materials. In fact, the following year, the street furniture for a major public space commission would be inspired by the winning student design.

Advanced Construction course (M Arch program). ELC SCHOOLYARD COMMITTEE: project beneficiary offering the program, site, and some funding. GROUPE TREMCA: industry sponsor offering technical support for and fabrication of a student bench design in precast concrete. NIP PAYSAGE: professional advisor ensuring that the student designs conform to safety regulations and the overall landscape concept. RICHARD KLOPP

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FIGURE 16 BENCH DESIGN PROPOSAL TEAM: TROULOULOU

FIGURE 17 BENCH DESIGN PROPOSAL TEAM: KOOB

FIGURE 18 BENCH DESIGN PROPOSAL TEAM: RU-BANC

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ACT II: PLOT On the first day of class, students in Advanced Construction were immediately immersed in the 18 project . The course outline introduced the pedagogical objectives and set the stage for the design-build competition as follows: ADVANCED CONSTRUCTION is an exploration of the constructive or tectonic dimension of the architectural work. The principal focus of the course relates to the selection process and spatial organisation of materials, assemblies, and building systems and how these design decisions influence the architectonic expression, ambient qualities and environmental performance of a built space.

Notes:

18Student

reacted very positively to the idea of participating in a real project. For most it would be the first time they would have the opportunity to work directly with a client group, contractor, and consultants, or to realize a built work. There were a number of well-known precedents for this type of design-build project – including Rural Studio, Freelab, Ghost, and Solar Decathlon – which had a certain cache in the eyes of the students.

This year, a design-build project has been set up to achieve the learning objectives of the course… …This initiative is a unique convergence of interests that brings together architecture students, industry partners, volunteer professionals, and a dedicated community group to collaborate on a construction project that will assist a local Montreal primary school to realize its aspirations for a revitalized schoolyard. The competition offers McGill architecture students a hands-on opportunity to engage in the design and construction of several urban furniture pieces, while at the same time fulfilling course objectives and the following learning activities: -

-

Meeting with client/consultants to define project design parameters; Learning about precast concrete, its potential and limitations; Exploring the potential formal and surface qualities of the material; Preparing a design proposal including shop drawings and scale model in plaster; Participating in technical reviews on issues relating to siting, structure, ergonomics, fabrication, finishes, cost, transport, and installation; Building the formwork and preparing technical specifications for the winning design(s).

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FIGURE 19 STUDENT TEAMS AND MIGRATION AFTER RESHUFFLING 9 PROPOSALS, 2 SELECTED FOR DEVELOPMENT

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ACT II: PLOT (cont) The terms of agreement and motivations of the project stakeholders were carefully explained and students were reminded that no party was obligated to continue beyond the design phase of 19 the project . Students were aware that the success or failure of the project depended on how well they were able to understand and respond to the often divergent interests and expectations of 20 the each of the stakeholder groups . During the design phase, students were organized into teams of four [FIGURE 19]. The class was split into concurrent briefing sessions: one half going to visit the new ELC schoolyard, where they met the landscape architect, school principal, committee members and pupils; the other half receiving a factory tour and technical briefing by precast concrete company representatives [FIGURE 14]. Students were encouraged to ask questions and to challenge the scope and limits 21 of the competition brief . Team members reunited and shared their experiences. Minutes were taken and, once validated by all project stakeholders, they formed an addendum to the competition brief. Students worked on their design submissions over a period of six weeks. The competition brief

Notes:

19I

was very frank with the students regarding the experimental nature of the project and the risk of it being terminated if student performance was not satisfactory.

20Negotiation

and mediation skills are critical to a designer and both require effective listening. The student challenge in this case was to strike a balance in meeting the expectations of all the project stakeholders, while satisfying their own creative impulses.

21The

problem with competition briefs is that they may exclude potential solutions by the way in which they frame or limit the problem.

22Our

perception of danger and the standard by which we measure child safety has a great deal to do with how we define or label the risk elements. A ‘bench’ will not require the same standard of safety as a ‘play structure’ despite the fact that child will play on it. To avoid overly constraining the project with safety regulations, we were careful not to refer to the bench as a ‘play structure’ and to define its primary use as a bench.

required each team to propose a single formwork design for 1-3 precast concrete elements and to precisely locate these elements on a site plan. While students were encouraged to explore the potential uses of a bench beyond its standard definition of “an object for sitting on” and to show these alternate uses in their perspectives, they were also reminded that child-safety was of 22 paramount importance to the jury members .

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FIGURE 20 BENCH DESIGN PROPOSAL TEAM: HAMMOCK

FIGURE 21 BENCH DESIGN PROPOSAL TEAM: TWIST & TURN

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ACT II: PLOT (cont) Students were asked to demonstrate that their proposals were buildable using a 1:10 scale model of their formwork and to test the formwork by producing a plaster cast with it. They were told to design durable, self-supporting and stable structures, requiring no foundations and to clearly articulate the intended form and surface qualities, considering fabrication limitations and constraints. Finally, the designs were to challenge the stereotype of concrete as a cold 23 and unwelcoming material . Each team was given 10 minutes to present their proposal to a jury of project stakeholder group 24 representatives . The former director of McGill SOA, two pupils of ELC School, and a documentary film crew also attended the event. Projects were evaluated based on the requirements previously mentioned and the following criteria: -

Appropriateness of the proposal within the context of an existing landscape concept;

-

Ability to engage children in play;

-

Clarity and completeness of documentation;

-

Material efficiency and easy of production.

Three projects were short-listed for selection: Trouloulou [FIGURE 16], Hammock [FIGURE 20] and Twist&Turn [FIGURE 21]. Despite the high quality of all proposals [see also FIGURES 17-18], the selection process was surprisingly easy, in part due to the wide range of criteria and stakeholder interests involved. Short-listed projects were those that managed to avoid elimination by any

Notes:

23When

I first proposed the designbuild project to the ELC schoolyard committee, they were not very excited about the use of concrete. Turning the constraint into a design challenge however, was a very successful way to negotiate around a potential conflict and incompatibility between the stakeholders.

24Participation

in the design jury and the culture of a school of architecture was an eye-opening experience for most of the stakeholders. They expressed amazement at the richness and diversity of project work and the high quality and thoroughness of the graphic presentations – by far exceeding their expectations. The two pupils from ELC School were awestruck by the creative surroundings. Surprisingly, when asked to comment, they seemed to want to focus on adult issues like safety, which in one case prompted the witty response, “It is dangerous, but fun!”

&Turn received first-prize: it was not the most creative design, although it did have an elegant simplicity to it; it was not even the best presented work; but from the point of view of the jury, it was clearly the most appropriate response to the project constraints and most suitable for the construction phase. Once the jury arrived at the three short-listed projects, which were all considered acceptable to the ELC School, the fabrication issues tended to dominate the final selection.

25Twist

stakeholder group, and to inspire at least one 25 jury member to vigorously defend it .

RICHARD KLOPP

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IDBE CASE STUDY

FIGURE 22 PRODUCTION OF FORMWORK AND PRECAST CONCRETE ELEMENTS

FIGURE 23 SITE PREPARATION AND INSTALLATION

28

RICHARD KLOPP


COMMUNITY AS CLASSROOM: LAMBERT-CLOSSE SCHOOLYARD REVITALISATION PROJECT

ACT II: PLOT (cont) Initially, there was a desire to select up to three projects, produce the formwork and cast one or two benches from each. The intent was to give the maximum number of students the opportunity to realize their proposals. The problem was that the first-prize project Twist&Turn alone required four modules and Groupe Tremca was not willing to commit to more than this. After some discussion with ELC School, Trouloulou was also selected to advance to the design development stage in order to evaluate the cost and complexity of having it 26 built by a team of volunteers . At this point, new teams and task groups were set up [FIGURE 19] to complete the design development 27 of the two selected proposals ; to prepare technical drawings and specifications; and in the case of Twist&Turn, to construct the formwork [FIGURE 22]. Students of the winning proposals became team leaders responsible for ensuring design intent, coordination, and approvals for each of the three following task groups: -

Formwork and structure;

-

Surface treatment and materiality; and

-

Installation and site considerations.

Notes:

26 Trouloulou

was the favoured design of the ELC schoolchildren. It was inspired by the most common precast elements – slabs and pipe sections – observed during the concrete plant visit. Unfortunately, Groupe Tremca did not appreciate the design to the same degree as others: in part because it was nothing out of the ordinary for them, but as we later discovered, it also involved some tricky quality control and fabrication issues. These issues were not clearly expressed, so initially Groupe Tremca’s intentions were misinterpreted.

27 By

reshuffling the teams, students could reinvest in the process, add value to and share ownership for the final work. For most students, this was their first experience in project management and a unique opportunity to develop leadership, coordination, and research skills – an experience that is difficult to teach or simulate in the classroom.

28The

value of these reports was most apparent several months after the course ended, when information was required to coordinated the mosaic or the bench foundations.

An independent task group was responsible for documenting and making publicly available the student design proposals on a website. In consultation with project stakeholders, each student task group prepared a report for their 28 final course grade . At the end of term, Groupe Tremca organized the delivery of the formwork to their production facilities.

RICHARD KLOPP

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IDBE CASE STUDY

FIGURE 24 INSTALLATION TEAM ON THE TWIST & TURN BENCH

FIGURE 25 FIRST CHILDREN ARRIVE AND DISCOVER THE BENCH

30

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COMMUNITY AS CLASSROOM: LAMBERT-CLOSSE SCHOOLYARD REVITALISATION PROJECT

ACT II: PLOT (cont) Despite the best intentions, student interest and availability waned dramatically after the course 29 ended . It quickly became evident that there was not sufficient commitment to organize the 30 construction of the Trouloulou project . The final coordination of the Twist&Turn project and the preparation of its foundations would in itself prove to be a formidable volunteer effort. Fortunately, there was no real time pressure: the course was completed at the beginning of winter, which allowed several months to organize a team. Groupe Tremca had also maintained from the start that they would complete the formwork and pour the white concrete mix only when they had avail31 ability in their production schedule . Stripped of the formwork, the elements were sandblasted to give a uniform surface finish and stored on site until the installation date [FIGURE 22].

Notes:

29Students

had worked very hard during the semester and I assumed that this personal investment would evolve into volunteer commitments after the course ended, especially if it included the possibility of constructing their own design. I had overestimated their enthusiasm, much of which was exhausted in the push to complete their final reports. For most, the end of semester offered a clean break to shift their attention to other courses and commitments. I was also surprised to discover in the student evaluations a common complaint that the course did not have enough lecture content. This may have been prompted by the standardized questions of the course evaluation, but it also reflected that students did not realize or highly value the project-based learning.

30In

One Saturday morning in mid-May 2008, a volunteer work group of ELC parents, dug out and prepared a level bed of compacted gravel to receive the CMU bases for the bench [FIGURE 23], designed to make it appear to float over the spongy ground cover. The following Saturday morning, the school principal came to unlock the schoolyard gate so that the delivery vehicle and installation team could hoist the four concrete elements into place and precisely align them into a continuous ribbon using neoprene shims to make the appropriate adjustments. The first children to discover the bench immediately began to test its potential as a playing surface [FIGURE 25]. It has since become a centre of activity in the schoolyard.

RICHARD KLOPP

the design development process, the Troloulou task groups discovered what Groupe Tremca already knew at the design proposal stage: that simple solutions are not always best. While the design employed basic elements that are either stocked or easy to produce at the plant, it required subconsultants to cut and core the large tubular sections as well as the use of steel brackets to assemble the elements on site. This added cost and complexity.

31Volunteer

services do not imply less professional or lower quality results. On the contrary, it often motivates very high quality work. It does however demand greater flexibility in the schedule to accommodate the availability of stakeholders.

31


IDBE CASE STUDY

FIGURE 26 TIMELINE ACT III MOSAIC PROJECT

32

RICHARD KLOPP


COMMUNITY AS CLASSROOM: LAMBERT-CLOSSE SCHOOLYARD REVITALISATION PROJECT

ACT III – THE MOSAIC PROJECT ACT III – SETTING The mosaic project began as a suggestion to all bench competition teams to consider involving the ELC schoolchildren in the design-build process. The Twist&Turn team originally proposed inviting children to the concrete plant in order to incorporate various imprints during casting, but this idea was rejected due to the complexity of scheduling and quality control. The Surface Treatment task group also explored other avenues, including my suggestion to contact a mosaic school that teaches contemporary methods for this ancient art32. The students were enchanted by the ambiance of Mosaikashop’s studio and the willingness of its owner to collaborate. In their final report, they evaluated several scenarios for integrating a mosaic band in the 10-meter long bench and offered a number of potential mosaic themes33. At this point, the story moves from the McGill SOA studio to new creative workspaces involving a fresh cast of characters.

Notes:

32 My

interest in mosaics was inspired by the Roman and Punic sites seen in Reflection: Opena ended project. Tunisia during travel study trip Value of setting the framework for organised for McGill SOA students. future projects. Designers to be On the same trip I had alsotend visited overly controlling of outcomes and Gaudi’s work in Barcelona.

try to freeze the work in space and time. But the context is constantly changing evolving. 33 Studentand proposals did not do justice

to the richness of possibilities offered

Reflection Onetoof the by mosaic.(Conclusion): As for any media, aims of the projects was get understand its potential to requires students at ELC School to actively cultivation and experience. The participate in however the transformation students did define a clearof their schoolyard. At each stage, there scope and opportunity, which would was consultation: form the basis for in theimagining initiative. the schoolyard, involvement in various fundraising activities, participation at the jury to review bench proposals, and finally in the production of the mosaic. Involving students in the design processes and exposing them to the diverse range of actors has both pedagogical and vocational benefits. Students invest in the space and take pride in maintaining it.

ACT III – PRINCIPAL ROLES AND ACTORS NARRATOR: Richard Klopp, mosaic project coordinator and principle designer. MOSAIKASHOP: Mosaic school hosting the initiative and organizing the volunteers involved in the production and installation of the work. ELC SCHOOL ART STUDENTS: Over 50 elementary school students from 3 separate art classes participated in the production of mosaic pieces.

RICHARD KLOPP

33


IDBE CASE STUDY

FIGURE 27 PROPOSED FORMWORK CHANGES TO INTEGRATE MOSAIC BAND

FIGURE 28 FORMWORK INSERT A COMPROMISE SOLUTION

34

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COMMUNITY AS CLASSROOM: LAMBERT-CLOSSE SCHOOLYARD REVITALISATION PROJECT

ACT III – PLOT When the bench formwork was delivered in early 2008, Groupe Tremca was informed that a decision had not yet been reached regarding the nature or scope of the mosaic and that if it proceeded, there would likely be some minor modifications to the formwork. Refer to the timeline [FIGURE 26]. After an intense semester of work, there was a welcome month-long lull in communication until Groupe Tremca announced that they were ready to begin production. A decision had to be made quickly regarding the mosaic or else the benches 34 would be cast as delivered . I called a meeting with the students and it was at this point that I discovered that they were either unavailable or unmotivated to continue to 35 the next stage . Feeling personally responsible for having initiated the mosaic collaboration, I went to speak with the Mosaikashop owner to better understand her view of the project and the work involved. She confirmed her commitment and reassured me that with the right leadership and team spirit, a project of this scale could be successfully realized with ELC schoolchildren and volunteer mosaic students from her school. Her enthusiasm to take on the challenge was

Notes:

34 Every

new project needs a champion: someone who can recognize an opportunity and act on it. In this case, I had hoped that a student would champion the initiative under my guidance, but when this did not happen, I found myself taking on the role. I was reluctant at first as I was very conscious of my tendency to over commit to volunteer projects at the expense of other professional opportunities and obligations.

35 As

mentioned previously, part of the problem was that students did not feel they had adequate knowledge or skills in mosaic work to be able to contribute further.

36My

initial reluctance to initiate the project dissolved, when I saw the complimentary working relationship that could be possible with Mosaikashop. All the project unknowns that were causing my hesitation – relating to the involvement of school children, the production of the mosaic and the mobilisation of volunteers – were all part of her professional competencies. I only had to focus on what I do best: design, coordination, and quality control.

contagious, but it was the voice of experience and her calm professionalism that enticed me to 36 engage in the project and see it through . With the formwork deadline looming, I was able to secure an agreement-in-principle from ELC School regarding student involvement and funding before sending off the proposed formwork modifications to Groupe Tremca [FIGURE 28].

RICHARD KLOPP

35


IDBE CASE STUDY

FIGURE 29 MOSAIC TRAINING WORKSHOP 20x20CM TEST TILE FROM IMAGE

FIGURE 30 ELC SCHOOL ART CLASS COMPLETION OF MOSAIC FIGURES

FIGURE 31 MOSAIC PROCESS: FROM DRAWING TO COMPOSITION

36

RICHARD KLOPP


COMMUNITY AS CLASSROOM: LAMBERT-CLOSSE SCHOOLYARD REVITALISATION PROJECT

ACT III – PLOT (cont) Groupe Tremca reacted unfavourably to the changes. While sympathizing with the desired design intention of creating a continuous ribbon of mosaic, they were not prepared to modify the formwork three times in order to provide the 37 requested A, B and C modules . A compromise was reached to use the B module throughout, in which the mosaic would face up or out depending on the module orientation [FIGURE 28]. At this point, the scale of the mosaic work was clearly defined and my attention turned to issues of process and content. I organized a meeting at Mosaikashop with the art teacher from ELC School to discuss how we would go about involving the 38 children . It became obvious that some mosaic training would be required to properly gauge expectations and to understand the potential and constraints of the medium. I enrolled in an intensive weekend course, which proved to be a creatively liberating, yet humbling experience. It took more than three days to produce a 20x20cm tile [FIGURE 28] – the bench mosaic would be 75 times this size! This experience made it clear that we would need to work in a loose and forgiving style that would be quick to execute and accommodating of the diverse work and skill 39 levels involved . The Mosaikashop instructor led two sessions in three separate art classes. In the first session, she gave a brief introduction to mosaic art and then asked students to make drawings on the bench theme of bees and flowers. In the second session, they used precut ceramic tiles to reinterpret their drawings in mosaic form [FIGURES 30 & 31].

RICHARD KLOPP

Notes:

37

The inserts were required to create a recess in the surface that would ensure that the edges of the mosaic were protected. The representative at Groupe Tremca was often in the unfortunate position of having to remind me of the limits of their commitment in this non-profit initiative. When they explained the cost and time required to modify the formwork, I realized that the design did not thoroughly address the production issues and I took it as a challenge to improve the design.

38From

the moment we met with the art teacher, it was clear that there would be a personality clash – in the same way that I had experienced an immediate sense of complimentary values with the owner of Mosaikashop. Although there was ample evidence on the school walls attesting to the art teacher’s ability to motivate the children to produce high quality work, he seemed very anxious of the children’s performance and the outcomes. His teaching style was very structured and directive and he had no confidence in the improvised and exploratory approach of Mosaikashop. When she came to give her first workshop, he asked her to rush through the historical introduction to get on with the mosaic work. After this unpleasant experience, he finally agreed to let the Mosaic teacher take the lead.

39Learning

by doing provides great insight into the management of the work of others, expectations of quality and the creative potential embedded in the process.

37


IDBE CASE STUDY

FIGURE 32 DRY ASSEMBLY AND INSTALLATION

FIGURE 33 FINAL MOSAIC INSTALLATION IN BENCH AT ELC SCHOOLYARD

38

RICHARD KLOPP


COMMUNITY AS CLASSROOM: LAMBERT-CLOSSE SCHOOLYARD REVITALISATION PROJECT

ACT III – PLOT (cont) The classroom activities were very productive and achieved the desired results in a fluid manner. This was only possible due to the careful preparation of the materials and forethought 40 regarding the process and required content . Over 50 works were created: an even distribution of bees and flowers from top and side views. These were arranged into compositions with graphic instructions on how to complete the background. I was responsible for project coordination and the overall artistic direction of the work. This was quite an interesting design and leadership challenge: demanding on one hand a clear design 41 intention with precise instructions and on the other hand, a high degree of adaptability to make do with shifting constraints and project 42 results . For example, when Groupe Tremca vetoed the continuous mosaic ribbon, I decided to change the design approach from a singular gesture to a fragmented series of bright blotches, in order to achieve the same design intent of deemphasizing the individual bench modules. The frame around the mosaic field was also deemphasized by using background tiles that precisely matched the concrete in colour variation and matt finish. The bright blotches were created using the children’s

Notes:

40From

the design standpoint, the number and sizes of drawings had to be anticipated as well as the colour palette and drawing themes. Mosaikashop then prepared mosaic tiles and the transparent adhesive that would allow children to easily compose their mosaic directly over their drawing.

41While

the children felt they had almost complete artistic freedom, their work was actually preplanned to achieve a certain result, with only a certain amount of stylistic variation and personalisation.

42 Over

a period of several months, a team of volunteers worked on the mosaic to fill in the background areas around the works of the children. Given this commitment, they were very sensitive to criticism and I learned not to become overly obsessive about the consistency of work and to accept and appreciate the differences in the quality and skill level.

43Working

with the best possible partners gives confidence to the team and greatly expands the creative and learning possibilities for all.

colourful mosaic works in a sky-coloured, glossy tile background. The custom tile glazes were provided by Mosaika, the parent company of the 43 mosaic school and renown production facility . At the time of writing, the mosaic, in its dry assembled form, was complete [FIGURE 32]. A confirmed schedule was expected shortly from the Mosaika installation team.

RICHARD KLOPP

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IDBE CASE STUDY

FIGURE 34 SEJ SCHOOLYARD PROJECT SITE PLAN AND PHOTOS

FIGURE 35 STUDENTS FROM SEJ SCHOOL ENGAGE WITH DESIGN PROPOSALS

40

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COMMUNITY AS CLASSROOM: LAMBERT-CLOSSE SCHOOLYARD REVITALISATION PROJECT

EPILOGUE – THE SEQUEL AT SEJ SCHOOL Given the positive experience of the ELC School design-build project, I decided to repeat the exercise with the 2008 Advanced Construction students. The pedagogical structure was already in place and there was interest from both the precast concrete company and the landscape architect to get involved for a second time44. After reviewing several potential projects45 with NIP Paysage, we selected Saint-Enfant-Jésus (SEJ) School as the most suitable partner, project and site [FIGURE 34]. The context was similar to ELC School, comprising a newly renovated schoolyard, a project team eager to get involved, and a wish list of items that did not make it into the final design. With the experience and reputation gained at ELC School, it was just a matter of a phone call and a brief meeting on site to get a commitment from the SEJ School administration46. While the representatives of the SEJ School were quite open to evaluating diverse program proposals from the students, they did specifically express interest in having new picnic tables on the raised portion of the site, from which schoolyard activities could be monitored. The design would have to be robust, since the SEJ schoolyard is open to the public and vandalism has been a problem in the past. One of the particularities of the SEJ School is that it offers special services for children with auditory and visual handicaps. To specifically address their needs, McGill SOA students were asked to propose and integrate surface textures in their final design that would create a unique tactile landscape47.

RICHARD KLOPP

Notes:

44Getting

commitment from project stakeholders for repeat work is much easier due to the shared experience of the process, team chemistry and project expectations. Decisionmaking is faster and there is less correspondence. The advantage of having a model process or project is that you can make improvements and avoid repeating mistakes; the disadvantage is the self-reinforcing nature of a model, which will tend to favour optimisation over innovation.

45As

project promoters or visionaries, designers have greater potential to shape the nature and quality of their commissions, the design process and project outcomes than if they are service providers. In the case of the design-build project, we were in the enviable position of being able to choose from a number of interested project partners.

46 Prior

to the meeting, both the landscape architect and the ELC School principal spoke with the SEJ School vice-principal in support of the project.

47One

of the aims of the Advanced Construction course is to develop the students’ knowledge of and curiosity for the tectonic dimension of buildings – the joints, assemblies, and material qualities – in order to provide a counterpoint to the spatial explorations that dominate design studio work. Unfortunately, surface relief was underexploited by students in the course or treated as something completely separate from the design of the formwork.

41


IDBE CASE STUDY

FIGURE 36 JURY PRESENTATIONS WINNING TEAM: CONNEXION

FIGURE 37 RENDERING AND LOCATION PLAN FOR PICNIC TABLE DESIGN

FIGURE 38 ‘CONNEXION’ FORMWORK PRIOR TO DELIVERY TO GROUP TREMCA

42

RICHARD KLOPP


COMMUNITY AS CLASSROOM: LAMBERT-CLOSSE SCHOOLYARD REVITALISATION PROJECT

EPILOGUE (cont) The course unfolded in a similar fashion to the year previous, with nine student teams preparing design proposals during the first half of term. Following their mid-term presentations to the jury [FIGURES 35 & 36], a winning design was selected [FIGURE 37] and team members were redistributed into task groups to prepare construction drawings and specifications. 48 The winning proposal , entitled Connexion, was quite complex to build [FIGURE 38] and the formwork could not be completed by the end of term. The team leader, with assistance of a few volunteers, finished it the following term and received credit under a directed studies course. The work is now at the precast concrete plant.

Despite the many similarities in process and outcomes, there were some significant differences between the two design-build projects. The first year was much more difficult to organize and full of uncertainty regarding stakeholder commitments, the process, and results; while the second year benefited from established relationships, experiences and reputation of a successful project. Given my involvement on the ELC Schoolyard committee, the personal stakes were higher and I was more motivated by and in control of the outcomes in the first year. With the SEJ School, my main motivation was process-oriented: to create a valuable learning experience for the Advanced Construction students. While the built results may be of equal quality, there was not the same level of engagement with the SEJ School. For the moment however, the bigger question is 49 whether there will be a third project.

RICHARD KLOPP

Notes:

48Given

the experience of the year before, in which only one of the two projects was realised, I decided to limit the design development phase to just one project and to better define the tasks so work could be delegated more easily. In retrospect, this was a mistake. The task group sizes of 8-10 students (versus 4-6 students the year before) were simply too large and the tasks too dispersed. As a result, students became less engaged and less accountable, and coordination issues bogged down the work. Even the team leaders were less motivated or they lacked the necessary management skills. A second project, even if unrealised, would have provided the appropriate challenge and sense of ownership that was clearly lacking.

49Setting

up a successful initiative requires leadership, but if this leadership is not translated into an institutional structure, the leader will become the weak link that threatens the viability for any longer term prospects. I was frequently made aware of the precarious nature of the design-build projects that were often hanging on the commitment or motivations of a single person. While institutional commitments would be required to ensure the future of these interdisciplinary and communitybased learning opportunities, there are no advantages for the present stakeholders to formalize their relationship beyond the current project-by-project arrangement. In my own case, as a sessional course lecturer, there is little motivation to institutionalize a program, for which I have no certainty of bring to fruition.

43


IDBE CASE STUDY

FIGURE 39 INSTALLATION BY GROUP TREMCA

FIGURE 40 COMPLETED WORK AT SEJ SCHOOL

44

RICHARD KLOPP


COMMUNITY AS CLASSROOM: LAMBERT-CLOSSE SCHOOLYARD REVITALISATION PROJECT

Conclusion This case study describes a series of four interrelated community projects, each creating the context for the next project to unfold. While the built works completed to date can be considered small successes, they represent just the visible manifestation – the tip of the iceberg – of a much larger community-building project that has more to do with the quality of process than outcomes. I was particularly interested in how a project can work as a catalyst to activate cross-disciplinary and cross-sectoral collaboration and to create unique opportunities for learning. My reflections on the project are summarised below. Motivation in the non-profit sector Financing is usually the driver of development; profit or fees are the dominant motivator in the design, management and construction of building projects. The projects of this case study demonstrate that a team can be organised around other possible motivators: not only the direct benefits of a completed work, but also a wide scope of indirect benefits and intangibles accrued during the process, including: social and professional network building, education and research opportunities, skills development, public recognition, etc. If these motivations are balanced and transparent, win-win situations may emerge, in which the interests of stakeholders converge rather than conflict. This makes a case for the use of parallel economies in community-based projects, where knowledge and services are the primary form of exchange, rather than capital. Inverted measures of success In building projects, we tend to place the greatest importance on built outcomes. Process is regarded as a necessary evil to achieving them – thus something to be streamlined. Projects are successful when they are on time, on budget, and have no callbacks. This case study proposes that the quality of the process can be a driver of equal importance to schedule, budget and final results, but we need to invert our definition of project success. As a society and building culture, is our aim truly to minimize the cost and time invested per square metre? The efficiency of engaging the fewest people to complete the work in the most expedient and inexpensive manner is not always desirable. In fact, this model significantly reduces opportunities for a wide range of social benefits. Alternatively, what if project viability and success was defined as maximizing quality of

RICHARD KLOPP

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IDBE CASE STUDY

life for each moment or sum invested in a project? This suddenly opens the door to integrating a wide range of initiatives that add to and extract value from the collaboration and design process. Inefficient, yet effective The ELC Schoolyard projects were extremely inefficient from an end product perspective of capital or unit of time invested for work realised: four years and thousands of volunteer hours were invested in a project with a total budget of less than $200,000 that took only a few weeks to construct. One could argue that had volunteers simply paid out a portion of the value of their time in money, the children would have benefited from the results much earlier. Yet from the process perspective, these projects were extremely effective at maximizing social benefit. An entire community came together and contributed to the fundraising and project development. This interaction created the teams that would lead to a number of other initiatives, including the bench and mosaic projects. Nearly 100 architecture students, 50 schoolchildren, a dozen mosaic students, and a mix of professionals, academics, industry representatives, trade peoples, and volunteer parents were directly involved in the design and construction processes, most participating in a learning-rich context. Benefits of process valuation This case study shows how a broad level of stakeholder participation can result in built works that are well suited to the specific needs of the community they serve and generate a high level of commitment to the project, both before and after construction. By analysing the motivations of the stakeholders in an unremunerated context, one can begin to discover the rich potential that the process holds for individual and collective benefit in both profit and non-profit scenarios. The indirect benefits and intangibles mentioned earlier are difficult to quantify, but given their role in sustained engagement of project stakeholders, these aspects cannot be underestimated. How do we measure the community benefits of an improved physical environment, social networks, or civic pride? Project participants can all attest to these benefits, which positively affect their lives in small ways every day. They may even be responsible for the sudden reverse trend in student enrolment at ELC School, which began the year after the courtyard project was completed.

46

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COMMUNITY AS CLASSROOM: LAMBERT-CLOSSE SCHOOLYARD REVITALISATION PROJECT

Empowerment through education in the built environment There is an urgent need to empower our increasingly urban populations by demystifying the building and urban design processes. People outside the design and construction sector often have the impression that the built environment is something quite fixed and immutable. It reflects a reality that transforming public space is usually complex and costly. This case study shows the value of engaging citizens, including children, in the process of positively transforming their environment, if only to realize that change is possible and that one need not settle for unsafe and uninspiring spaces. Keys to success While there were many commonalities between the four projects described in this case study, each held a key for defining the success of the overall initiative: •

ACT I exposed the value of process as an end in itself, especially in speculative ventures where outcomes are uncertain. To repeat a comment often heard during the early stages of fundraising: “even if we never succeeded at reaching our goal, the process was worth the effort.”

ACT II offered valuable insights into setting up successful multidisciplinary partnerships centred on learning opportunities, where stakeholder interests are balanced and levels of engagement respected.

ACT III revealed the importance of project leadership, effective teams and hands-on learning as generators of unique opportunities.

The EPILOGUE demonstrated the value of a good reputation and established teams in getting buy-in and approvals for repeat work.

Finally, to ensure the posterity of a volunteer initiative and minimize the risk of it faltering with changes in the commitment levels of key individuals, proper documentation of the process and other administrative structures are needed. Acknowledgement Successful projects require teams with committed and talented members. It is to all those unnamed individuals that contributed their valuable time to the success of the project and the richness of the process that I dedicate this work.

RICHARD KLOPP

47

Profile for Richard Klopp

Community as Classroom: Case Study of a Schoolyard Transformation in Montreal  

Primary schools are one of the most important social constructs and formative physical environments in our lives, which we revisit with each...

Community as Classroom: Case Study of a Schoolyard Transformation in Montreal  

Primary schools are one of the most important social constructs and formative physical environments in our lives, which we revisit with each...

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