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04 May 2017

The complicated design of schools

Rethinking the role of architecture in classroom design could better a student's future

The purpose of the school is to create learning spaces where teachers can share knowledge with students and pupils fill their metaphorical schoolbag with understanding for adulthood, helping them navigate the employment waters of the future.

Given the importance of preparing students for the challenges of tomorrow and the variety of users in the institution, both the vast age differences among students and between teachers, school design can be a complicated and demanding architectural project.

Demanding more

If we are to compare the classroom of the early 1900s to classrooms of the early 2010s, one struggles to see the fundamental changes made to the architecture of the room.

While schools have incorporated new technology into the classroom, there has been little change to how students function in the space itself. Students will follow a variety of subjects in the same classroom for subjects that don’t necessarily have any similarities. The ambiguousness of the “soft classroom” can affect how students learn and behave.

The idea of a “strong classroom” tries to create rooms that clearly communicate to students what subject they are about to study. This is achieved by including relevant artifacts and tools for the lesson into the classroom, turning the teaching spaces into subject laboratories and workshops.

Beginning with the “What”

Like all architectural projects, understanding what the space will be used for and how it will impact the occupants is crucial.

In recent years, a philosophy of education that is built around strong classroom classification asks architects to rethink how we design the classroom – and perhaps it is time.

If schools should prepare students for the expectations of the future – creative thinking, design skills, collaboration – then we need to build schools where the architectural space facilitates students acquiring the skills needed for tomorrow.


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