Saturday, October 6, 2012

Educational Indoor/Outdoor Spaces do students hang out in school?  Those large group/transitional areas can be critical to how students perceive the functionality and aesthetics of their school.  I remember in high school when the district decided to remodel our one "hang out" space during the school year.  Kids wandered the halls and it became hard to monitor the students and keep disruptions down.  One way that I see becoming more and more important is not only the "hang out" spaces but the connection of the students to their environment.  Indoor/outdoor spaces can provide great spaces for socializing or large gatherings but they can also provide that connection that students need to have with their environment.  The design of good transitional indoor/outdoor spaces can also be used as extensions of the classroom.

 I love the use of perforated metals and shade screens to provide transitional indoor/outdoor spaces at the Saguaro Building at Mesa Community College, Mesa, Arizona. Using high volumes on the shade screens provides a comfortable environment for large groups.  The use of newer glass opening walls also is a successful way to open up spaces creating that indoor/outdoor experience, extending teaching or large group spaces.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Compact School Design

So what happens when you need a school that can accomodate 30+ children doing just about every type of activity and learning style and only have one medium sized space to do all of it?  I came across a great webpage that showed a Primary (Elementary) School Design in London that uses space and furniture design to its full potential.  Not only does the space function great, it seems to have just the right amount of bright colors contrasted with the white walls and ceilings.  The main room is designed in a way that it becomes a large multi-purpose space used for small group learning, independent study, lectures or flexible learning stations.

Another thing that I love to see is the design sketches leading up to the final design.  Everything in this space seems to be multi-functional and the space is maximized - even the cabinets act as both magnet boards and white boards!  For more on this project visit their website at:

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Classroom Haptics

So what are haptics and what do they have to do with learning?  "Haptics refers to the sense of touch. It is a form of nonverbal communication."  Many people, specifically those that are kinesthetic learners learn through discovering - using their body or by doing and manipulating things with their hands.  In Montessori schools one of the ways that they teach children is through doing and working with what are referred to as manipulatives.  With technology growing so fast it was only time before the education community started to use it more with the children, in and out of the classroom.  This product takes things a step further and takes a simple tablet type computer and introduces a much more education friendly design that easily transforms into a laptop and can go from the classroom to home.  The cool thing about using technology with educational haptics is that kids love it and will use it.  At the architecture firm I work at we just finished construction on a middle school where all the students receive a tablet to use and take home!  The tablet has their textbooks on it and lets them access all the resources that the internet has to offer for learning...more on that later.

One other thing I liked about this product website is that it showed the design process which I'm always excited to see, I love to see how designers arrived at the solution they did.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Obsolete Classrooms

 So, I ran across an article that discusses obsolete school features that are still being built.  One of the features discussed was "teacher centered classrooms".  In today's world we continue to build traditional classrooms and simply replace the chalk board or white board with a smart board and call our schools "advanced".  While a smart board is a good first step classrooms need to be about learning, not teaching.  What I mean by that is that the classroom needs to be centered around how children learn.  They learn in many different ways from independent research to group projects to mentor based learning.  Flexible learning environments will replace the outdated classroom in all the truly advanced schools.

Below is an image of Colonel Smith Middle School which has Flexible Learning Stations that replace the traditional classroom.  The furniture is all moveable and can be arranged to accommodate the appropriate learning approach.
Flexible Learning Station

The article discussed:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Youth Factory

I love thinking about how kids learn and we seem to always think about classrooms and interior learning environments.  Think back to when you were a kid and playing on the playground or at the park, did you learn things there that you couldn't learn in a classroom?  I believe that the outdoor environments can be designed in a way that encourage interaction, cooperation and relaxation.  Architects sometimes take so much time and energy to design the interior environments of schools and public places of learning they neglect the outdoor environments.

I recently found an amazing outdoor space that is just a great outdoor environment that stimulates children to engage one another and creates spaces where more interaction can take place.  What's really cool about this space is that it is called a "Youth Factory".  We think of a factory where widgets get made and it is a really sterile environment, but "youth" really changes the connotation of the idea of a factory.  These spaces are where kids are made!  Check out the full website of the space, it really is an amazing space:

Monday, September 3, 2012

Paradigm Shifts in Educational Design

Premise for this blog: True Architecture is always a response to paradigm shifts that happen in an ever-changing society.  A particular interest to me is the design of Educational Spaces.  As educational theories and models continue to change and evolve the architecture of learning spaces needs to respond to those changes.  This blog is an attempt to capture the best ideas on the fluid nature of architecture and learning space design.

I recently found a great website where you can design your own classroom with a limited set of furniture and technology items that begins to start a discourse about what a 21st century classroom should look like.

Check it out whether you are a designer, student, teacher, or parent it stops and makes you think.  Let me know if you post a design there, I'm interested to see other people's thoughts. Below are a couple ideas that people have posted of their classroom designs.  Let me know what you think.