‘There’s a certain slant of light’

July 4, 2014

materials instinct

The Gould Academy Hanscom Renovation Phase II is a thorough gutting of the ground level. Duct work uncoils like painted and dented snakes of old and belt drivers and massive louvered air vents tell the story of HVAC of the 1950s. Ripped up carpet reveals seat patterns of didactic teaching methods and solid wood framed windows watch, secure in their craftmanship of local wood and durable varnish.

Getting to this gutting  phase has been much like the ductwork unfurling and floor patterns announcing traditions. If you have been following along, the process rooted itself in design thinking and working as a school building committee to empathize with the needs of a range of constituents.

design thinking process


                                                                                image source: Stanford University d.school

At this point, we’ve tested out many ideas and have made decisions. There is no going back–only slight adjustments to plans, submittals, and reacting to the surprises of tearing into old ceiling and walls.  If you have not visited the Facebook page for the project,  go visit it–just click on the blue hyperlink.   It’s stunning to see the layers of the building peeled back, and a overwhelming to think of re-populate the building with all the supplies, light switches, furniture, outlets and cables needed for a truly 21 century learning environment.

Looking up toward the school store



The architectural renderings offer a small window to what that space will look like, but as many of you have noted in Facebook comments, the place looks abject of all the stuff that is reminiscent of the sounds, smells, touches, and experiences of the lower level. As an alum, I think about this a  great deal. Sometimes the weight of all those moments of growth an connections hit me like Dickenson’s “certain slant of light” (which unfortunately has this great line for how I am thinking about the space, but an overall heavy and not so uplifting message).

Design Thinking Studio



What I learned in Hanscom Phase I, the library renovation, is that color and materials can preserve and kindle the emotions of what the space once was and will become.  These two images are anchors for confidence in the downstairs.











So, with a renovation success under the belt, what are the colors and materials shaping downstairs? Below is the color scheme from working with vendors and the second image is from a walk in the woods today. Very suddenly, perhaps because everything was so wet and glistening–that slant of light–the colors for downstairs came out in nature. The shapes and textures  (with a bit of a stretch of the blue hued chicken egg versus the more richly colored marmoleum) revealed themselves and the sterility of the rendering dissolved and the promise of the project opened up.


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