Higher Ed Pre-Draft: Analyze an Image

Analyze an image/Write an illustrated description:

Using an image of an educational “structure” or “space” (i.e. a photo of the inside or outside of a building that would commonly appear on a high school or college campus, or an image of the broader campus as a whole), please address the elements below.*

* Asking the student to apply these questions to a photo he or she has taken will make this an effective homework assignment while doing a live observation allows this to be used as an in-class activity. The class might be split into small groups and assigned to investigate the QC campus and write detailed descriptions of one building—this building may be the one you assign them for the larger project. Finally, the instructor might also consider organizing a field trip to another local college campus to turn this into a “comparative” analysis.

Site: Is it in a neighborhood? Off of a major highway? On a removed hillside? In a business district? (What does the site tell you about how the school is supposed to relate to other city activities, such as business or home life? How does the site relate to the surrounding topography? What can you learn about this site from reviewing recent census data?)

Layout: (on the campus as a whole) What buildings are placed where? How do they relate to one another? Is there a main building? If so, how do other buildings relate to it? How do students get from one building to the next? (What relationship between administration and teaching is suggested by the layout? What connections between subject/disciplines is suggested?)

Massing: What shapes are the buildings? Are they largely symmetrical or asymmetrical? Densely packed together or open and diffused? Do they have more of a vertical or horizontal orientation, or do they cut across these orientation systems? How would you describe their tops and bottoms, fronts and backs, left and right sides? (How do the buildings masses orient students in space—do they put them off balance or reinforce balance? How might this massing affect the way subjects are taught?)

Style: What other kinds of buildings does this one remind you of? A Greek temple? An office building? A prison? (How does the style suggest a view of the purpose and methods of education?)

Materials: What materials seem to be used to construct this building(s)? Wood and plaster? Concrete and steel? Brick or stone? What is the roof made of? (How do the materials covey a message about the purpose and methods of education?)

Conclusions: How does the space you have observed seem to “orient” people within it? How does it seem to separate, combine, or discipline student bodies?

(This assignment might be followed by the Foucault reading from Discipline and Punish.)

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