At a recent school meeting, the Deerfield community was astonished by what students in David Payne’s Advanced Architecture designed last spring — the model for a dorm to replace Johnson-Doubleday. This glimpse into what goes on in the Deerfield architecture classroom was informative. While dance and acting performances and studio artwork are often on display, the community knows relatively little about the architecture projects on campus.
The architecture program at Deerfield has been around for about 50 years. Before Mr. Payne, Robert Moorhead taught architecture from 1976-2014 , and prior to him, Yuji Kishimoto taught it for five years. In fact, Kishimoto went on to teach at Clemson University, a school with one of the top architecture programs in the country, where Mr. Payne obtained his PhD.
This past term, the Architectural Design students designed a New York City apartment where one half was their own dream apartment and the other half was for a family of four. The students created backgroud stories for those families and designed the apartments to best fit their needs, giving students “experience working with a hypothetical client,” Mr. Payne said.
According to Mr. Payne, most students come into architecture classes with no previous experience. So, Mr. Payne believes that the most challenging aspect of his classes is that most students are so unfamiliar with it. “We all interact with buildings on a daily basis but most of the time, you don’t really pay attention,” he said. “Architecture is a glaring hole in most people’s common knowledge. We all know a little bit about Shakespeare, a little bit about biology, and a little bit about the civil war, but you ask somebody about architecture, and they just kind of blank.”
Ellie Koschik ’17 has experienced the challenge first hand in Mr. Payne’s Architectual Design class and noted that “the hardest part is coming up with ideas.” She added that the class forces students to ask themselves, “‘What is the best way I can do this?’” rather than “‘What is a way I can do this?’”
Because architecture is unfamiliar to so many students, Mr. Payne does not expect the majority of students to become architects in the future or master the skills of designing. Instead, he simply hopes for students to “discover a more acute awareness of the built environment” and to “have an architectural awareness and sensitivity that could help [them] at some other point in life.”
Some students, however, do hope to pursue a career in architecture, such as Samantha Kuo ’16. She audited one of Mr. Payne’s classes her junior year, and it inspired her to spend six weeks at Cornell’s summer architecture school, one of the best in the country. Now, as a senior, she is taking Architectural Design with Mr. Payne. “Not a lot of people see this, but architecture affects everyone’s lives,” she said. “I just love the idea that you’re constructing the environment [of people’s] daily lives.” She added, “I like the fact that there’s no right or wrong. Few people realize that, like any art, architecture can be a way to express yourself.”
Most students who take architecture classes at Deerfield do so because it is such a rare opportunity, especially in high school. “Unless you’ve sought it out,” Mr. Payne said, “you probably have had no exposure to architecture…. this is a unique offering at Deerfield just because it’s something that a lot of people have had a possible interest in but no opportunity to pursue it.”