The Halprins’ pedagogy for their “kinetic learning” workshops rejected static curriculum in favor of loose, illustrated “scores”: Stand, Rise, Look East, Rotate. Walk down a hill blindfolded. Buy a birthday present for a seventeen-year-old boy.
Upstairs, the vibrancy of the workshops is electrifying. Kodachrome candids of the students at work are projected at a life-size scale, inviting visitors to place themselves on the northern Californian coast as fellow architects of ephemeral driftwood cities. Experimental films from 1971 reveal artists pushing against the boundaries of technology. By meticulously documenting their process, the Halprins were capable of disseminating their powerful new methodology of making.
Trailblazers in design today still value the dynamism in crossing unlikely industry lines, in keeping with the Halprins’ ethos. Group collaboration is a different landscape however: multi-party emails and cloud servers have become essential platforms for collective production. An immersive three-week collaborative studio in nature seems indulgent, even hedonistic, more of an artist’s retreat than an architecture workshop. Yet, the Halprins intentionally made introspection an objective of their sessions. They challenged students to expand awareness of their creative selves, rather than focus their attention on the concrete application of ideas.
Experiments in the Environment is not for the cynic. It is a love letter. The methodology on view is a freewheeling, sensory approach to design and performance. Architects will delight in the reminder to loosen up, be receptive of chance encounters, and investigate every space physiologically, experientially, and emotionally.