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The Experimentory Blog

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The blog becomes active each summer starting just before we're in session. Its a great place to see what our students are doing on a daily basis.

Teacher Voices: Architecture and Place (Mr. Payne)

February 20, 2017

Mr. David Payne is the Architecture teacher in the Experimentory's "Structures for Society: Architecture + Culture" course cluster. I recently stopped in during his Deerfield dorm office hours and asked him what he'd love to have middle school students learn in their class with him over the summer. Here's his response.


Mr. Payne: I often hear people talk about architectural design as if it is a rare gift given to only aMr. Payne at the Architecture drawing board in his classroom tiny fraction of the population. I don’t think that is true. So in the very least, I want my students to see architecture as a subject that’s accessible to everyone.

In terms of design concepts, I’d like my students to understand architecture as a reflection of a specific place. We often miss that these days. If I show you a picture of a modern skyscraper without any surrounding landmarks, you might have a hard time knowing if it is in Chicago or Dubai. It is great that we have the ability today to import materials and ideas from anywhere else in the world, but something is lost if every city looks like every other city. A building in New England should be different from a building in Johannesburg or Moscow or Bangkok. A building’s design should reflect the local materials, traditions, geography, and needs.

Mr Payne leading a tour of Historic DeerfieldThe historic buildings here in Deerfield are actually fantastic examples of what I mean.  A family of European settlers building their home in, say, 1709, put their fireplace and chimney in the center of the house because they needed to get as much heat from them as possible during the cold New England winters. They built steep-pitched roofs so that heavy snow would slide off. They relied on local wood and stone because importing materials was expensive if not impossible.

It’s ironic: the climate, the weather, and the remote location were limitations. Their design decisions were survival necessities. And yet the result was a special and beautiful architectural style. Today architects have far more options open to them, and as a result many of our buildings are unremarkable and alike.


Are you ready to explore these principles of design and more? Experimentory 2017 is accepting applications!Apply today!