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Glass House Site Launch: A Conversation with Jason Santa Maria

Last week, The National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Philip Johnson Glass House, and the School of Visual Arts MFA in Interaction Design launched the Glass House Conversations site. Designed and developed entirely by students under the leadership of Jason Santa Maria, Dorothy Dunn, Christy MacLear, and Liz Danzico, the site involves a guest host instigating a conversation with a single provocation.

To kick off the launch, Alice Rawsthorn, the design critic of the International Herald Tribuneasked“What do you consider to be the most important challenge for designers to tackle today?”—eliciting responses from students to design professionals to architects to nondesigners. This week, John Maeda explores, “If you had to choose between a pencil, a knife, or a hammer as the only tool you could ever own, which would you choose and why?“ to the excitement of responders far and wide. At a week’s end, hosts select a response as the “Final Word,” a capstone designed to give end to the conversation. Unfortunately, all good conversations must come to an end. But at least now, they’re archived.

We caught up with Jason Santa Maria, faculty and student mentor, about his role in the partnership and how the Glass House campus influenced the site design.

Screenshot of the Philip Johnson Glass House which recently launched

MFA Interaction Design: You were the mentor on the Glass House Conversations site which launched last week with Alice Rawsthorn from the International Herald Tribune and this week John Maeda from RISD. What was your role as mentor?Jason Santa Maria: It was my job to help keep the vision for the site intact throughout the creative process and to help the students develop their concepts.

MFAIXD: The concept is interesting: an invited host poses a provocation for anyone to answer, but in a limited timeframe. Tell me about what’s behind the concept of one-question-per week.JSM: The narrow scope of one question a week is what’s powerful about the site. Visitors know that they can participate in a conversation and not get overwhelmed by tons of other things on the site. Plus, one question that runs for a specific amount of time makes it more of an event to participate in; the time and scope are limited, which help keep the conversation focused.

MFAIXD: Can you talk about the design direction? How much influence did you have versus the students’ own influence?JSM: The design direction was entirely the students. They were inspired by many of the physical structures when we visited the Glass House campus and how those structures related to Phillips Johnson’s ideals of “reveal” and the notion of procession through a space in time. I was there to help guide the students, but the conceptual and visual direction were created by them.

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