On a rainy Thursday morning, Gladstone Secondary's staff room was jammed with students arrayed in small groups describing their dream school.
Four groups of students surrounded four graphic illustrators trained by renown architect Stanley King, the illustrators are part of the Co-Design Group, a group of artists, architects and educators who work with communities to imagine their future complex interactions and daily routines within an "idealized space".
Susan Chung is a Gladstone teacher and also a member of the Co-Design Group, led many of her students through the process of envisioning the future of Gladstone. Chung, who has been involved in a wide-range of projects ranging from the design to Hastings Park to the illustrated co-design of Woodwards and the UBC Farm, says part of the importance of a co-designing experience is to keep the door to creative input wide open. Ultimately, every idea is welcomed, even ideas that might not be realistic in the long range.
"The process takes all ideas because after the designing takes place, participants vote for consensus. Democracy decides which ideas become design criteria for the planner," she says.
This Thursday's project is part of a series of workshops integrating the views and perspectives of parents, students and staff from both Gladstone and Main Street Adult Education Centre. District staff hope to use the illustrations to inform future facilities plans when Main Street Adult Ed Centre moves to Gladstone in the fall of 2014.
"The big question is how do you take two communities and amalgamate them into one so that everyone wins," said District Principal Chris Atkinson.
That's a question that's of particular interest to one of the co-design graphic artists and facilitators.
"I really welcome the idea of co-designing my own school, because I will be directly affected by the result of it all," says Chung.
The VSB plans to hold two more co-design sessions with students, staff and parents of both schools. Once completed, the illustrated brainstorming documents will be given to VSB staff and planning consultants for them to use in the development of the new school environment.