Mason White- University of Toronto
Dr. Beverly Geltner (educational coach)
Master Class is a charrette-style studio taught by a leading professional. . Discussions focus on communication about sense-making and sense-realizing of student work in progress and may also communicate understandings applicable to other architectural work and professional practice in general. There is a large degree of autonomy and the teams needed to take a particular position to develop and defend. Research and creativity was required. The course stressed critical thinking and team work skills while dabbling in graphic, communication, and speaking skills. The built environment and advanced design skills and methodology were stressed and encouraged. The class investigated ideas of site, construct, assembly, system, and materiality in a rigorous environment of investigation.
The Summer 2011 Master Class was designed and lead by Mason White, a faculty member at the University of Toronto and Architect at Lateral Office. The project focus was called “Third Coasting”. This involved research and analysis of the Great Lakes Watershed Basin as well as the cities affected by it, which is sometimes called the “third coast” of our continent. The system is comprised of Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Lake Ontario, and Lake Superior, as well as the St. Lawrence Seaway. The watershed facilitates access for more than 25 cities, 8 states, and 2 countries. These cities have each created a direct relationship with their respective lakes, forming a very specific urban form, economy, and culture that capitalizes on lakeside living and access. The Third Coasting project will pursue an architecture that can respond to and participate in the ecology of this region and its attendant urban systems.
Students were divided into groups of seven based on their personality/leadership qualities from psychometric testing. Prior to the start of the semester, all students in the course completed an online psychometric test geared toward measuring the abilities, attitudes and personality traits of each individual student. Each student was labeled as one of these six personality types: Thinker, Persuader, Doer, Organizer, Creator, and Helper. The intent was to optimize the chance for success by having a variety of students in the group, each with different problem solving strategies and strengths. Both working in a design group this large, and combining personality types was a totally new experience to me. Something I learned from this approach was that combing personally types can not only increase the potential for better design, but it this approach comes with more conflicts within the group. As the course developed, it was clear that we all arrived at different ways of thinking and problem solving, so the key was to discuss conflicts and arrive at compromises.
The course emphasized research in the design process as a way to arrive at potential design opportunities, rather than trying to solve problems. Although it was certainly a step out of my comfort zone, I enjoyed the hands-on aspect of the research via the class road trip. The groups formed a caravan and traveled from LTU to Niagara Falls (the New York side) and back in a matter of three days. Spending a long weekend in a cramped mini-van with six gentlemen, most of which I had never met prior to this class, was a unique experience to say the least. Aside from that, it was more enriching to actually stop at the various towns and cities we were researching than it would have been to research solely via the internet at home.
The actual product of the research was also a large part of the learning process for me. This course really helped develop my mapping and diagramming skills, and taught me how to use them as a tool to drive design decisions. I utilized creating and/or analyzing diagrams and maps as part of my design research in the studios that followed Master Class.