Those of you who are educators no doubt recognize the subtle homage to John Dewey's quintessential quote "Learn by doing" in the title of this post. While I cannot endorse the consequences of his secular humanist & reductionist/mechanist philosophy of instruction, I can affirm the accuracy of his observation. Some paths only become apparent as you walk them, some lessons can only be learned by trial & revision.
Following on the tails of Jason's post about the EMI trip, I'd like to share a brief example of incredible blessing I have received during the process of designing an Emergency Department with Jason, the EMI folks, and some special guest consultants from Grace Community Church and LAC+USC Medical Center. It started with thinking...and dreaming. "What would an ideal ER look like? What are the critical pieces and how would we arrange them? How much space do I need? How much space do I have?"
If you enjoy design as much as I do, you know the intoxicating allure of opportunity. I was asked in July for a list of my top 20 favorite things. I listed a new notebook/journal as one of them -- so many blank pages of opportunity. But even before I began drafting blueprints, I realized I did not know the answers to many questions about how to design an ER. Cue the first round of learning by drawing - pre-sketch learning. The very process of dreaming about a real ER for real patients occupied by real students, nurses, and doctors changes the level of precision and detail needed. "How many ER beds are required to serve a 300-bed hospital? How many patient visits do we expect through the ER? etc., etc."
|Draft #3.2 of the ER at Kibuye Hope Hospital (18 Mar 2013)|
And then you draw something...only to realize halfway through the assignment of space that you needed an area where private conversations and evaluations could take place. Scratch draft #1; on to draft #2. Each time you draw it out, you refine your design and deepen your understanding of the space. "How big exactly is a patient bed? Are they fixed or mobile? Will we be able to wheel the X-ray machine in here?" One thus enters the second round of learning by drawing - inter-sketch learning. Certain relationships simply do not become apparent until all the elements are on the page. Then the glaring absence of bathrooms becomes obvious.
But you're not done yet. Once you've researched all your answers, revised all your sketches (I switched to little paper cutouts of patient rooms, trauma bays, bathrooms, nursing stations, etc so that I could just rearrange them on the floor without redrawing everything all the time), and reassembled all your various elements, you draw a "final" draft. Satisfied that you have considered everything to be considered, you run it by your friends and team. They like it. Yes! So you ship it off to your architect friends for some sort of rendering process whereby it becomes AutoCAD files. Wham! Round three of learning by drawing - post-sketch learning.
|"Final Draft" of the ER at Kibuye Hope Hospital (27 Mar 2013)|
"What building materials are you using? How wide are the walls? What building codes/standards are you using?" One finds that he has indeed not considered all the salient features of this construction when designing the ER, and a tug-of-war commences in his heart. "How much of the 'final' design can be saved while correcting for these highly relevant issues?" In my case, this dilemma didn't last long as Jason and the EMI team quickly identified the footprint available as too small for the "final" draft. But what happened next was a beautiful gift straight from the Lord.
John Hixson, one of two architects who volunteered to help me in this process, responded thus when I reluctantly told him to scratch whatever work he had already done on the project as we'd be going back to the drawing board:
"P.s. I love the work God has called me to! I have redesigned things 6 times and loved every moment of it! This is truly a pleasure!!!"
And I find that there is even a fourth round of learning by drawing - supra-sketch learning. To embrace being subject to process, to discovering en route what needs to be known to move forward, to trust in One with grander plans than a big building in a small village in a tiny little country without enough doctors. It reminds me of one of my favorite scenes in all of cinema - where Jesus checks his lines while working as a carpenter. Couldn't He have cut that table leg perfect on the first pass? Nope, He made Himself subject to process too. It was part of being with us. And getting to be with Him and His people every step of the way through this process has been a genuine joy.