Architecture Schematic Design Review, February 19, 2017

by Joe Cole

[With apologies from Hope — this was completed a month ago but did not get posted.  Oy!]

On Sunday, February 19, 2017, participants in the architectural design workshops held a Retreat to review and assess the products and process from the Schematic Architectural Design phase.  The community received drawings and models from the Architects at the beginning of February, and we gathered a few weeks later to evaluate not only the drawings and plans, but also our work together around the dimensions of process, power, leadership, and collaboration.

In the morning, we shared our reactions on the Site plan, the Common House, the Houses, and the Drawings.  We evaluated the designs based on criteria that included Aesthetics, Functionality, Affordability, Energy efficiency, and Sustainable features.  We also addressed the Marketability of the designs as we seek to expand our membership and find more people committed to living at Hart’s Mill.  Although our group expressed a wide range of feelings, concerns, and reactions towards the designs, overall people were largely positive about the products that the Architects had delivered, and felt inspired by the vision of our Ecovillage that is coming into clearer focus.

In the afternoon, we shifted our attention to issues of process.  Our facilitator, Maria, began with a teaching about Power and Leadership and shared a handout on “101 Ways to have Power in a Group.”  As we each reflected individually on ways that we exercise power in a group setting, people were able to identify both healthy and unhealthy ways we exercise power.

We then spent time examining the dynamics, challenges, and successes in our six-month process within and among three groups: our 3-person shepherding committee, the community members and workshop group, and the architects.   This was a very informative discussion as we learned more about the different roles and experiences across these different groups.  We closed this segment by discussing possible next steps in the Architecture Design Process before shifting to the last topic of the day on collaboration.

For our final hour, we evaluated how well our group and we as individuals exercised cooperative skills during the Schematic Design process.  To begin, Maria provided some reflections on the necessity of a deep Culture Shift for cooperative groups to succeed.  Then we each evaluated our personal strengths and weaknesses based on our Hart’s Mill meeting Ground Rules—including criteria like staying on topic, welcoming diversity, sharing thoughts and feelings, and making decisions based on our mission, vision, and values.

It was a long day—both challenging and invigorating.  It’s important not to understate the difficulties of a collaborative design process.  Yet I am personally impressed with the group’s ability to navigate this process and end up with beautiful and inspiring architectural drawings and plans.  Furthermore, I find it inspiring that the group was willing to devote time to evaluate not only the products of the work, but also the process—including difficult conversations about power, leadership, and cooperation.  This work is not only a step towards our goal of living in an Ecovillage; it is also the very process of creating community together along the way.


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