Re-Arrangements: Spatial Intervention

There is something really challenging about trying to arrange this Program House space which my mind has yet to comprehend. The house is made of limited rooms and can be such a versatile building depending on the day of the week. So recently I reminded myself that my job is not to stage the furniture where it looks best for the showcase, but to observe furniture functionality within the space and how users interact with it and each other. Whether this means parties, movie nights, formal class, or community cooking, the space needs to remain transformable and secondly, be aesthetically pleasing. In this case, the space itself needs to tell me the story to narrate.

So after speaking with Sean Leonard again last week, I felt encouraged to try experimenting with the furniture placements in the space. What if the couch was in a different place? What if there was a table beneath the stairs? What if the computer changed angles? Where else could this book shelf go? While some would say it smart to make a model of the place or to measure/draw out exact measurements of the dimensions for every corner and inventory objects, I felt it best to just … do it. By Friday night the computer backed the bookshelf, both splitting the room between the nook area and classroom/entrance area, the couches squared around the television in a living room setting, the large pillows from the nook went up to the balcony and all the balcony chairs lined the window by the lower entrance. It was interesting to see the placement in action when we had a mini social event with games on the fold-out tables and chatting happening on the couches (no one even turned in the television). The evening closed with all attendees on the balcony “liming,” falling asleep, and laughing into the night. I look forward to another arrangement surprise this week!

Vander (another program student and very helpful friend) and I also found ourselves wandering a few blocks around the local neighborhood to see what materials are actually available to use. There are several hardware stores for paint, tools, etc, as well as a major furniture store where we found furniture sets, chairs, appliances, rugs, and more. So I have a visual measurement of what I want to happen. I got the painting tools, measuring tape, prices for some cabinet knobs and took note of other small things. While I want this place to gain a more homey feeling, I also know that it is an institutional building with many academic purposes and needs to be functional for years of program participants to come.

In observing how people use the space, and how I wish the building could be used, Nikki also mentioned that I should try to photograph people using the space in various ways. It would be interesting to note how its uses change with the day of the week or if my physical arrangement impacts how it is used. I’ve even gotten permission to leave the ‘living room’ couch set up for class on Wednesday, so we’ll see how the arrangement changes the classroom environment and group dynamics.

Last Friday I also got to meet the ‘cleaning lady’ and volunteered my afternoon to help her out. From the fridge, to the found shelves, to patio chairs, and moping, we cleaned everything in sight. She had some great ideas on how to improve the space too and mentioned how she has seen it used in the past. I look forward to helping her again this week and with the floor-waxing process in May. Would my alterations to the house change her duties? Even though we are the ones to use the house, whose responsibility is it really to take care of the place?


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