With a new academic year, SCI-Arc has continued to develop its global network of Satellite Initiatives. Serving as sites of experimentation and bringing together minds from around the world for unique symposia, diverse exhibitions, and workshops, these initiatives present new opportunities for engaging and testing the Institute’s cutting-edge ideas against the backdrop of cities outside of its native Los Angeles context.
Since its launch in 2016, SCI-Arc Bogotá collaborations have paired Colombian architects, artists, and thinkers with SCI-Arc faculty, students, and alumni for participations in local events such as the annual new media art exhibition, VOLTAJE. Additionally, SCI-Arc invites aspiring Colombian architects to its Los Angeles campus through a series of exchange-style studios taught concurrently with the Universidad de los Andes.
For the fall 2018 semester, the Bogotá studio, titled “XCHANGE- A New Prototype for an Education Hub,” was tasked with reinvigorating the traditional typology of educational facilities by proposing design solutions for a 21st-century academic cluster in Bogotá. The Los Angeles-based group was taught by SCI-Arc faculty and Director of International Programs Ming Fung.
The studio built upon the premise that education is fundamentally an intellectual exchange of ideas curated as collective knowledge. Educational models having remained unchallenged for centuries have perpetuated a straightforward approach regarding the building of educational facilities even as recent as just a few years ago. The underlying idea of such building typology has been the creation of an environment in which pockets of specialized knowledge and technology can coexist within a singular place, or “school.” Physical containers, or classrooms, protect a group of individuals with said specialized knowledge from extraneous information creeping in, allowing the flourishing of ideas and the focusing of pupils’ attention.
But with the advent of the World Wide Web and its sophisticated structures of data interchange, notions of exchange have been redefined. For educational models, the Internet challenges its established formulation: focus is increasingly more and more diffuse, and knowledge is scattered throughout the intellectual spectrum. The filters that traditionally facilitated the curation of knowledge are now clogged with the overflow and debris accumulated by centuries of research and study. Information and knowledge are now disseminated unchallenged and presented under seductive guises, often with animations, imagery, and narratives. Even dissent is now available in pristine, unopposed form. Physical containment alone is no longer able to prevent information from infiltrating learning spaces.
Because this technology-induced shift has been reorganizing educational protocols without being met with any meaningful challenge to the character of educational buildings, the XCHANGE studio searched for paths by which architecture becomes an instigator of producing educational facilities that leverage the idea of education as a type of 21st- century exchange of collective knowledge.
The work produced in the studio posited the idea that academic buildings are nothing but “exchange clusters” or places where knowledge is exchanged and retained in a continuous process of decay, challenge, and renewal. These exchanges might happen anywhere-- in a classroom, at a conference, or simply between two students over coffee. The site in Bogotá, Colombia allows for a spirit of renewal and re-appraisement as priorities and traditional objectives of educational facilities there have not yet calcified, permitting architects to consider unprecedented responses.
Despite its digital underpinnings, the studio was structured around physical exchanges between the Los Angeles and the Bogotá group. For the midterm review, SCI-Arc students flew to Colombia to experience the site first-hand and present their ideas to Colombian faculty and invited critics. Reciprocally, as the semester drew to a close, students from the Universidad de los Andes presented their proposals to SCI-Arc faculty at the Los Angeles campus.
While the SCI-Arc Bogotá initiative expands awareness of the school abroad, it is also intended to more directly impact design culture in Colombia. For the third consecutive year, SCI-Arc invites Colombian students to spend an academic year at the Los Angeles campus through a double-degree with the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá. Funding for graduate studies at SCI-Arc provided by the nonprofit Foundation for the Future of Colombia (COLFUTURO) is matched with a scholarship from the school. Interested Colombian architects can learn more about the opportunity by visiting the COLFUTURO Scholarship page on the SCI-Arc website.