Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Waitsfield, Vermont offers over 80 hands-on courses per year in design, construction, woodworking, and architectural craft and offers a variety of courses concentrating in sustainable design. Now in its 35th year, Yestermorrow is one of the only design/build schools in the country, teaching both design and construction skills. Our hands-on 1-day to 3-week workshops, certificate programs and semester programs are taught by top architects, builders, and craftspeople from across the country. For people of all ages and experience levels, from novice to professional.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Big Ideas about Small Spaces, by Andreas Stavropoulos


I am pleased to introduce a new course for Yestermorrow Design/Build School. Designing Small Living Spaces is a course that has been years in the making.

The origin of the course lies in the frustration of bigness. Bigness, to borrow the term from Rem Koolhaus, permeates all aspects of American culture. Bigness of portions, bigness of vehicles, and bigness in homes are just a few, and they are leading to bigness of problems. Sadly, bigness begets bigness, and, until now, there were few constraints of just how big that bigness could get. In the last 50 years our culture has been flooded with propaganda equating size with quality, explicitly encouraged by big business and tacitly condoned by the government.

However, of late, there have been many big signs that all is not well in our culture of bigness. The recent big drop in the stock market, as well as the big credit crunch, have given us big cause for concern. Big increases in oil prices and food prices may cause big changes in the way that we fuel ourselves and our transportation. At the same time that we are painfully discovering these limits to bigness, there are a number of rapidly growing small movements afoot. A doubling in the number of farmer's markets over the past 5 years is a big step in the direction of smallness. Big advances in wind power technology and solar are allowing more power to be produced on a local scale.

So when I proposed a class to teach some big ideas about smallness, Yestermorrow was enthusiastic, of course, in a big way.

Designing Small Living Spaces is offered as a week-long course at Yestermorrow as way to demonstrate that quality design can allow us to design, build and get big rewards out of small spaces. In the course, we will look at domestic and international examples of how cultures and individuals have designed small dwellings. Some of the dwellings are iconoclastic while others are miniaturized versions of the white picket fence concept. We'll look at students' individual situations, and generate big ideas on how to solve them. We'll generate small sparks of genius and deliver big doses of encouragement as students work together to apply big ideas to small spaces.

(Andreas X. Stavropoulos is an airstream-dweller, cargo trailer remodeler, tipi aficionado who works by day as a landscape architect to combat bigness by designing small spaces for people in Berkeley, CA)

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