This past week I was out in Maine at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts for their summer conference. This year’s conference was titled “Design: Shaping the World and the World Shaping Us”. The conference also had strong tendencies towards architecture.
If you’re not familiar with Haystack, its a pretty amazing place. This summer is their 50th Anniversary, so its been around for a good while. Its located on Deer Isle in Maine, right on the ocean. Actually, I could gently hear the ocean from my bed when I was falling asleep at night. Instead of me paraphrasing, if you’d like to learn more about Haystack, and all its history and mission statements, follow this link to their website.
The architecture at Haystack is significant, to say the least. Designed by Ed Barnes….” It was recognized as an outstanding example of Modernist architecture by the American Institute of Architects in 1994 with the presentation of the organization’s Twenty-Five Year Award. It is one of only forty-one buildings in the country to achieve this distinction. Others include Rockefeller Center, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Guggenheim Museum, and the East Building of the National Gallery. In 2006 Haystack Mountain School of Crafts was added to the National Register of Historic Places as a building of national significance.” Quote from the Haystack website.
Here are a few pics that I took while I was there…
Everything is connected by the planked walkways you see in the middle picture. All the buildings and walkways are floating above the ground, and as Robert Campbell pointed out, this is Barnes’ effort to have the architecture respond and respect the environment it is placed in. The view from the lower deck is pretty fantastic…
And then the coastline is beautiful, which leads down to this perfect little beach. The water was cold, but sure felt great! One sidenote, by swimming here I was in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans in the same week.
Beyond all the architecture and recreation, the content of the conference was stellar. I think Haystack really did a fine job at how they structured everything. There was a smooth rhythm, and one presenter naturally played well off the next. The pun would be to say the whole thing was well designed.
A big highlight for me, as a lot of people, was Robert Krulwich! When I mentioned to him that I’m a studio artist, he knew where I was headed. It became apparent to me very quickly that someone else in my position, with at least 10 hours a day available to listen to things and a thirst for more information, has told him how much they love RadioLab. He gave a great talk entitled “The Shape of Things”, where he referenced some of my favorite ideas like the Fibonacci sequence, gave some fantastic quotes..James Watson discovering the shape of DNA “this shape is too pretty not to be true”, and discussed patterns and rhythms. I asked a question during a panel about my favorite Radiolab episode, Desperately Seeking Symmetry, and it seemed to tie in quite well with a discussion about patterns. He was discussing the role and abilities of designers, as being the people who are able to observe patterns and trends that the rest of us may not be consciously aware of. Then with that knowledge, disrupt the pattern enough so that we notice it.
Speaking of being consciously aware, Chris Staley was also in attendance, and brought up a wonderful concept that had been passed on to him. I’m unsure as to who this originated from, but I think its very good. The four stages of creativity are:
- unconscious incompetence
- conscious incompetence
- conscious competence
- unconscious competence
So, to say the least, I got a huge amount of information from the conference, and am still processing it all. If you ever have the opportunity to attend Haystack, I would highly recommend it.