“Cheap Wonder” is the creation of a fleeting sense of surprise with elements we already have in abundance in buildings. By working with the qualities, tendencies, and defects of “cheap” elements, the normative and the necessary create the exceptional ordinary.
By generating possibilities for teeming and vast spaces within a realistic frame, “Cheap Wonder” offers advantages to a public high school on an ordinary site. The pressure to conform is typically conveyed in schools by an emphasis on standardized testing, a rigid daily schedule, and a push toward universal metrics of success. This climate is supported by the normative tectonics and anti-urban character of the buildings, both of which are the result of standard answers to questions of safety and budget. How is it possible to work with these difficult realities, the qualities and tendencies of the school program, to create an architecture that is both flexible enough to support the needs of the district and distinct enough to support the different wonders needed by individual students within the school?
“Cheap Wonder” solves the challenges of safety and efficiency related to the public school program while infusing the routine of the school day with worlds of material wonder for the multitude.