Medial Ground: A Critique on the Disembodied School

by Allison Cottle (MArch '17)

Medial Ground critically examines the role of space and the consequences of its elimination in higher education. Positing that the spatial dimension has been largely discounted in the production of online coursework, this project proposes an alternative as a means to fuse the major benefits of online coursework and the traditional school. The thesis proposes a school for distance learning—remote schools where students gather to learn. Targeting rural communities with limited access to quality
higher education, the project introduces a virtual vein—a means of passage for the exchange of information between the city and the isolated community—actualized within a surrogate.

The thesis examines the bodily experiences essential to learning, the development of interpersonal relationships and the perception of an educational community, and constructs a stage for a performative architecture. The theatricalization of the commonplace mimics the perpetual hum at the heart of a campus despite an enormous disparity in scale. Similarly, when the theatrical becomes commonplace and the stage exists as an assemblage rather than a focal point, the apprehension of
participation may be overcome. The school for distance learning becomes a fusion of the egalitarian agora and hierarchical theater. As a typology, a school for distance learning must turn both inward and outward, be both generic and specific, and must be small, yet monumental. Visibility, audibility, and physical proximity must be curated at the scale of the classroom, the scale of the school, and the scale of the network.