Friday, April 1, 2011

The Floor of the Gateway Building

This past winter Head of School Craig Sellers and Facilities Supervisor Gary Harper asked if I would like to design and stain floors for the student area of our new Gateway building. I replied that I was confident my students and I could come up with some ideas. (I do not always think through these obligations…)

For the next week students in Advanced Studio Art each came up with ideas. They researched acid staining of cement and made drawings and watercolors. From these first individual design images they teamed up around four ideas that seemed most promising. In small groups they put together color samples and fit their designs to the unusual floor plan. Each team wrote a statement of how their plan addressed the future student lounge.

The four teams presented their proposals Mr Sellers and Mr. Harper. They did marvelously. We all agreed that any of the designs would have yielded exceptional results.

Here is what the chosen team said about their design:

We are proposing staining tree slices scattered about the floor. These end grain views have a strong environmental connotation, just as the Gateway Building has the mission to be as green as we can make it. The rings of the stumps also make a statement about the development a student has at The Derryfield School. The growth of a tree is evidenced in it’s rings. Think of each tree shown about the floor as an individual Derryfield student. Each ring of experience signifies an event in the life of that student: state championships, stage performances, class debates, papers accomplished and grades earned.


I returned from Switzerland in July with assurances from Mr. Harper that the building was ready for our design work. I walked into a BUSY work site. Our design required a shut down of the downstairs of the building. Subcontractors were put on hold until we were done! I called my student phone tree. I needed help. And the students poured in to participate.

There were late nights and early mornings, but in four days ambitious students had the floors done and work crews back into full operation. There were many students who came by to volunteer but could not be put to work on a particular day, and as many who so wanted to be there, but had family obligations. What an exciting event for all of us who were there. What a great learning event for all who had input.

One morning, after an especially late night, one of the carpenters showed up and admired the work. “Some day, twenty years from now, those students will come back and show their families what they did at The Derryfield School.”

Jim Larson and Stephanie Horn were the first to arrive, and what workers they proved to be.

Amy Trinh put plastic down as a stencil.

Grace Alenson…

and her brother Grant Alenson cut and taped the designs down to the floor…

I think they had fun working together (I bet he will miss her next year. I WILL!)

Jim Larson never seemed to go home.

So I fed him. (Is he having fun or what?!)

The staining was done in three stages: 1. dark bark…

2. Then Kate Ridinger peeled tape and plastic to expose the area between the tree designs for a green overall floor color…

3. Then finally the tan interior color was swept with dark rings to complete the composition.

The student efforts were generously complimented by the support of Billy Madden, Derryfield’s hard working and beloved staff. Gary Harper assured that Billy was available as needed to do the BIG cleanings and final mop/sealing.

As I reflect on my job, I am forever thrilled by the deep familairity each of us shares with the others in this team we call a school. For example, Billy knew each of the students who came in to help - and they know him - personally.

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