Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Designing Schools for the 21st Century

Schools need to become more didactic structures - they need to be environments for learning and also places that teach. Considerations of space allocation and square footage (right) combined with a nod toward making a unique and attractive building (envelope design) (left) are not enough for 21st century schools. The contents of the envelope have to be designed as well as the envelope itself.

Architects have a lot on their plates and don't see their job as extending down to the curricular and pedagogical level of the school. From their perspective, schools are already complex structures that have to be designed by considering the needs of school boards, administrators, teachers and students, what is taught in the school (programmatic needs), the site and local climate, and practical concerns like budgets and building codes. Well-designed schools fulfill the needs of the students and educators, the school's curriculum and philosophy, and the natural and built surroundings.

Some common factors architects consider when designing schools include spaces for all the different types of classes and other functions (programmatic needs); noise (acoustic separation between classrooms); shared space where students can socialize and work together informally; how people find their way around (wayfinding); setting and views of the surroundings (including fenestration); fostering a sense of community within large schools; sustainability; maximizing the use of daylighting, costs and resource-conserving strategies (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning - HVAC); the design (exterior envelope); and creating an environment that is comfortable and conducive to teaching and learning. Sustainability today is not only a strategy for better-performing buildings, but one for better-performing students as well.

It is the job of design teachers to help turn their school into a place where the images, objects, spaces and experiences in the halls and rooms are part of the teaching staff. Schools need to borrow ideas from interactive museum exhibit designers to create schools that teach the way museums, zoos and aquariums do.

Click on the heading above to see 6 case studies of award winning school designs.

No comments: