Sunday, February 14, 2010

Anne Taylor Explores Learning Environments

Anne Taylor (right) has studied how schools, classrooms, playgrounds, homes, museums, and parks affect children and how they learn, for forty years. She says that architects must integrate their design knowledge with an understanding of the developmental needs of learners, and educators, parents, and students must broaden their awareness of the built, natural, and cultural environment to maximize the learning experience. Schools and other environments can themselves become "three-dimensional textbooks" that enable children to discover the power of their own learning.

Taylor has a new book about these ideas called Linking Architecture and Education: Sustainable Design of Learning Environments (left) that presents examples of designs that are the result of interdisciplinary understanding of place. Taylor includes designer perspectives, forums derived from commentary by outside contributors involved in school planning, and photographs of solutions to create learning environments from comprehensive design criteria.

Taylor argues that architecture and the study of the built, natural, and cultural environment synthesize the world of material things and the world of ideas. It helps us to realize that we are a part of not apart from the environment.

Anne Taylor is the Director of the Institute for Environmental Education, School of Architecture and Planning, University of New Mexico. In 1997 she received a life-long honorary membership in the America Institute of Architects for her contributions in the field of children and environmental design.

She is interested in architecture for schools as pedagogy … architecture which is NOT passive volumes of space, or landscape design never used for more than gross motor development or recess. She has been working with imaginative and receptive architects who want to study user needs, who want to involve users in participatory planning and who want to understand the developmental needs of the population being served as well as the content of the subject matter being imparted and the learning processes that help us all gain access to knowledge.

Programming for schools shouldn't start with predetermined activity settings or square footage needs. Educational and architectural programming need first to look at the client, the developmental rights of that client, then at the curriculum and instructional delivery system.

Guidelines for new learning environment design criteria include:

Developmental needs as design criteria
Curriculum as a design determinant for architecture
Design studio format as a model for the American classroom
Flexibility, Deployability
Systems Thinking
Learning landscapes for Eco-Literacy
Co-location of facilities
Community use of the schools for lifelong learning
The community as a learning laboratory
User guides and post occupancy evaluation

No comments: