Posts tagged with "North Carolina":
A famous experimental college flourished in Black Mountain, North Carolina, from 1933 until it closed in 1957. Josef Albers taught there for 17 years, while Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer designed one of their first U.S. commissions and Buckminster Fuller attempted his first dome structure at the college. Last October, at its Lake Eden campus, Adam Void and Chelsea Ragan—artists who had settled in western North Carolina—invited a group of 18 colleagues to join them in planning a school inspired by Black Mountain College. Less than a year later, with guidance from the group, Void and Ragan launched a call for faculty, organized a curriculum, gathered tuition from students, and rented a building for a month-long experiment in community and education.
Black Mountain School—not officially affiliated with the original college—is founded on the proposition that higher education is caught in a perpetual spiral of increasing tuition and institutions unable to adapt to students’ needs. “In the face of extreme tuition cost, corporatized profit-driven learning, and a one-size-fits-all curriculum that defines the limitations of public and private higher education, we are presenting an alternative,” reads the school’s online prospectus. “A non-hierarchical approach to organization, self-directed study in a wide range of subjects, as well as communal activities and events combine to provide students and teachers with the ability to learn from one another openly in an inclusive environment.”
This summer, a group of around 100 artists, designers, and teachers came together in the rented lodge at the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly—Black Mountain College’s campus prior to Lake Eden—to launch the experiment, share cooking, cleaning, and administrative duties, and participate in courses that ranged from guided hikes, identifying wild plants, and “relinquishing self,” to more structured lectures on the histories of hip-hop and contemporary art. Then, as now, the school’s location in Black Mountain, 15 miles east of Asheville—on a campus where the alternative community coexisted with Christian summer camps—placed it in the nexus of cultural change dominating local and national politics.
“We think we’re kind of in that time right now where we’re in between worlds,” Void said. “Something is coming, but we’re not quite sure what. But we’re definitely a part of that transition.”
Educators and students traveled from all parts of the country and as far as London and Quito, Ecuador, to participate in courses like the Gilles Deleuze–influenced “A New Image of Thought” by New York–based Alexander Chaparro, “No Math Architecture” by New York artist Serra Victoria Bothwell Fels, and “Analog Data Management” by Clocktower program director Joe Ahearn.
“I came here not knowing what the plan was, but knowing there was a lot to be learned by what happens when people start things fresh,” said Ahearn, who participated in last year’s planning session and also helps organize Brooklyn’s Silent Barn alternative space. “At the same time there’s a degree of accountability that’s placed on the whole thing by its connection to the history of the space and to Black Mountain College.”
This author taught a course that proposed to use building-scale video projection as an urban interventionist medium to interact with the surrounding community in western North Carolina. It turned out that in March, after the class was submitted, the state legislature passed a regressive law prohibiting transgender people from using gender-appropriate bathrooms.
“I applied just at the point when I wasn’t aware what was going on,” said Luan Joy Sherman, a student from Savannah College of Art & Design. “I don’t think it had been signed into law yet. When I crossed the border it felt really heavy and it felt really violent. As a trans person I’m not welcome here, I’m not recognized here, I’m not valid here.”
The class opened up discussion within the school about the bathroom law and gender identity and framed a collaborative action in public space that would address the question directly. The students connected with local advocacy groups Tranzmission and Southerners on New Ground, and Sherman and filmmaker Adam Rush, another faculty member, quickly designed text-based projection installations intended to create a safe public space in downtown Asheville for sharing information and expressing solidarity with the trans community. On a Saturday evening in late May, students and faculty gathered on a slope of grass to view the projections while passersby stopped to chat and drivers honked in support.
“I feel really healed now,” Sherman said. “In a short period of time I’ve gotten over the hump of something that’s really big and is the biggest experience with personal injustice that I’ve ever felt.”
Void and Ragan hope to continue the experiment in the coming year. It was not without its controversies—more than one artist showed work that many considered racially insensitive—and the school will eventually need a stronger pedagogical theory to become more than an education-themed artistic residency. But like the original Black Mountain College and independent architecture schools like the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies, Terreform’s ONE Lab, and many of the “radical pedagogies” throughout history, it clearly responds to a perceived need for an alternative to the current model.
Wood siding and high performance glazing invite nature into the workplace.For their new headquarters in Wilmington, North Carolina, Live Oak Bank's leadership sought a design that reflected the institution's unique culture, particularly its focus on cultivating meaningful relationships with both customers and employees. "Their employees work hard," reflected LS3P's Laura Miller, whose firm was selected to design the building after a small local competition. "The folks who run Live Oak Bank want to recognize that." At the same time, she said, "they wanted it to be somewhat unassuming as well. They want to just quietly go about their business, and be the best at what they do." The architects' solution, a two-story U-shaped structure clad in local cypress and high performance glass, gives equal measure to both concerns. Plentiful glazing maximizes daylighting and views for occupants, while the long wood facades are designed to reflect attention back to the natural environment, further integrating the building into the site as the material weathers. The headquarters building's previously undeveloped site was a perfect fit for the project brief. Located in the heart of the city, the parcel is nonetheless adjacent to a nature preserve. "It's a little island of tranquility in the middle of Wilmington," said Miller. "It's convenient, but once you enter it, you feel like you're in a secluded, calm environment." Unlike the traditional office block, LS3P arranged the interior program in a U shape around a central courtyard. "It's not the most efficient in terms of square footage, but the bank wanted every single employee to have beautiful views either to the lake or to the grove of live oak trees," explained Miller. Courtyard terraces, decks, and a full-length second-floor balcony can be used as workspaces on nice days, and further encourage a dialogue between indoors and out. In light of Live Oak Bank's desire for a building that blends into the natural environment, the architects gravitated toward wood siding. "We looked at quite a few images with different types of wood," said Miller. "Cedar is often used for building exteriors, but it's not something you find naturally here in eastern North Carolina." Instead, LS3P chose cypress, a local product that ages gracefully. Because they had a contractor on board right away, the architects were able to construct a series of mockup walls on the site even before it was cleared, demonstrating the appearance of the siding at installation, after one year, and after ten years. Per the client's wishes, LS3P designed the bank headquarters to provide every employee with daylighting and views. But the large amount of glazing that resulted presented a potential problem with thermal gain, especially on the south-facing facade. The architects selected a high performance glass, further protecting against glare and solar gain with fixed sunshades. Tested through a series of sun studies in Revit, the airfoil-shaped shades are integrated directly into the curtain wall system. Interior motorized blinds provide an additional layer of environmental control. On the stair towers and at the main entry, the architects offset the wood siding with grey metal panels. "The company is growing so quickly that we were constantly adjusting the design to accommodate more people," said Miller, noted that the project's square footage more than doubled between concept and construction. "The two legs of the U got pretty long. We wanted to break up the long horizontal facade, but we didn't want it to be jarring." Instead, the metal panels match the curtain wall framing and stucco base, maintaining the project's neutral palette. Live Oak Bank's new home does not look like the headquarters of a national bank. Rather, it looks like a comfortable place to work and visit, a place where ego takes a backseat to service. Fortunately, that is exactly what the project's clients—and its architects—wanted. "It's not a typical bank where people just drive through and get their cash," said Miller. "Their bank is really more about customer service and employee satisfaction."