Field Trippin'

Another busy day behind us! Today was all about gathering inspiration for our designs from the environment and culture around us. After breakfast, two rounds of seated basketball, and a discussion on the historic architecture each student has seen in their home villages, we piled into the van and headed to the Inupiat Heritage Center. The museum guides and archaeology staff gave us an excellent tour, including a behind-the-scenes peak at their storeroom and the collections they have yet to document. The museum focuses on the whaling culture and gave us insight into the design of the tools and structures that make whaling possible. In particular, we were interested in the umiaq, or skin boat frame, the tents the crews use when they are camped out on the ice waiting for whales, and the qargi, a traditional communal structure. 

Our tour guide explains a typical whaling camp tent structure.

We also got a chance to visit the traditional room at the museum, where several artisans spend their day creating beautiful artwork from tusk ivory, whale bone, baleen, and other traditional materials. The students were all excited to see the amazing work of the artists and were able to ask questions about their process turning raw materials into art. After the workshop visit, our guides taught us to say the names of tools and materials we will be using in Inupiaq. We'll be practicing while we work!

Buckets of baleen await use in the traditional room workshop.

Nick snapped this shot of knives (savik) and tools (savalgutit) made with bone and antler handles.

Kirsten, Mike O., and Marina talk with our guide and an artist about his craft.

Our next stop of the day was the second playground, Sadie Neakok Memorial Playground, for more site analysis. The students mapped it out and took in environmental observations while beginning to think of design ideas for the shelters. They couldn't resist testing out the playground for their own use as well...

Kirsten sketches a walrus slide while Marina poses for a picture.

Testing out the court.

After documenting our site, we stopped by a couple of points on the coast to see the location of some historic sod houses similar to ones we had studied in an earlier lecture. All that remains of these ancient homes are some mounds of tundra poking up from the rest, but the landscape around Barrow makes it not so difficult to imagine what it might have been like before the cars and powerlines of modernity came onto the scene. 

Ancient sod hut in the foreground, modern day structures in the back.

Our final field trip of the day was to travel north of Barrow to the cabins at Pigniq. Masaak, the shuttle driver, came with us and gave us the inside scoop, since he owns a couple of cabins in the camp. He told tales of growing up in the small cabin his family still owns, and we all chose a cabin to sketch, observing for each of them orientation, window and door placement, roof structure, and foundation design. 

Masaak talks of earlier times in duck camp while Mike O., Kirsten, and Evelyn listen in.

Umiaq and typical cabin at Pigniq.

Once back in the classroom, we spent the remainder of the afternoon with a structures lesson and 'studio time' - beginning to brainstorm, draw, and model ideas for the playground shelters. 

Marina, Mike O., Joe, and Mike P. demonstrate how tension works while Milly explains.

Ideas were beginning to take shape as we left the shop / studio for the night... looking forward to seeing the progress tomorrow!