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Coded Structures, Decoded Identities

School: High Tech High Media Arts

City/State: San Diego, CA

Grade(s): 12

Format(s): 3D & Media

Subject(s): English Language Arts, Science and Technology, Visual Arts

Project Overview

During the fall semester of 2015, the HTHMA 12th grade students in Digital Arts, English, and Mathematics investigated the complexities of man-made structures found in urban/rural design and architecture. As part of this investigation, students explored the formal aspects of visual representation as well as the psychology and symbolism communicated by these visual compositions. As importantly, students learned to analyze critically how man-made environments affect the way we interact with each other and how this impacts our social world. All buildings, no matter how neutral or insignificant they appear to be, are designed to establish particular power relations between the people who use, work in, live in, or pass through them. Thus, students considered how our structures, cultural norms, and even our very identities are formed by design. The students’ inquiries and research culminated in a final exhibition using projections and paper sculpture to simulate a large-scale paper city lit up by interactive and provocative projected art. In this city of paper sculpture, the audience explored unexpected and disturbing intersections between mathematics, computer programming, social constructs, cultural identities, and architecture.

Teacher Reflection: “We asked students to do very sophisticated and complicated intellectual and artistic work. This process was messy, before it was beautiful. But, the final culmination was intricate, elegant and thoughtful. We are very proud of our students' work.” – 12th Grade Team

Student Reflections: “By far this was one of my most challenging and yet favorite projects. I really liked having the freedom to select my own topic and this brought passion to my work.“ – Karla 

“For me the most challenging and rewarding aspect of the project was having to make decisions about our physical art piece that insured our research was visible. We needed to be aware throughout the process that the aesthetic choices we made on our physical structure needed to have meaning and purpose.”— Ilias

How This Project Can Be Useful

  • Strong example of an interdisciplinary project
  • Features an unusually high level of sophistication in both artistic rendering and intellectual thought
  • Excellent model of the application of focused research to creative work
  • Highlights an unusual presentation showing the intersection of thought and structure

Relevant Resources

Common Core State Standards

Standard Long Term Learning Target
  • I can integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information in a variety of formats and media to address a question or solve a problem.
  • I can corroborate or challenge conclusions with other sources of information.
  • I can resolve conflicting information when possible.
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