What does it mean to design a great gym? What does a great gym need to have in order to cultivate the students and people it wants to put back out into the world? To start off with, it needs to be structurally designed with multiple different routes or “parkour lines” in mind. It must also be appealing to look at and must have the possibility to make someone stop and think or to affect their thoughts in some way, shape, or form. In return, those same thoughts should positively affect a person in some way and perhaps make them see an idea that they have never noticed before. A great gym needs to be designed so that it designs the people that walk through it.
The idea of Ontological Design is one that is very interesting and somewhat overlooked in certain facilities. The architecture and look of the space itself will not only affect how a student learns but also the quality of the learning itself. In a paper written by Anne-Marie Willis, theory of Ontological Design, she claims three important things:
Design is something far more pervasive and profound than is generally recognised by designers, cultural theorists, philosophers or lay persons;
That designing is fundamental to being human — we design, that is to say, we deliberate, plan and scheme in ways which prefigure our actions and makings — in turn we are designed by our designing and by that which we have designed (i.e., through our interactions with the structural and material specificities of our environments)
That this adds up to a double movement — we design our world, while our world acts back on us and designs us.
Here at PPK Philly we try to create a place where our students shape the way we use and train in our space, as well as how our space shapes our students. However, a well designed facility is only one of two ways in which we want our gym to passively or actively affect our students. We believe that the utilization of art has the ability to influence people simply by active or passive observation.
For example, one of our art pieces is The Periodic Table, it is a great example of passively stimulating the mind in a scientifically educational way. People can be in a cat hang on the wall while unintentionally staring at the elements on the table. In contrast to the periodic table we have a new piece in the works by another community artist. It depicts two hands reaching from opposite sides of each other seeming to touch, but are just out of reach. This piece is being placed strategically over the top of the mirrors that are near the dance floor so that when someone looks at the mirrors their eyes and attention are drawn to the hands floating above them. The artist wants the hands to be an inspirational piece, and have a feeling of helping others, and pay homage to one of Philadelphia’s nicknames, “The city of Brotherly Love.”. She hopes that by having the piece on display at the gym it will inspire other students to help one another in their journey of being a parkour athlete. These pieces along with our current and many future pieces will decorate our facility and provide thought provoking images, as well as creating a mentally and emotionally nurturing space for students to be in. While simultaneously providing new energy and an ever changing feel to our gym.