School Design: It's an Architect Problem

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I well remember a first meeting with some architects a few years ago. We were wanting to design a new school and of course turned to groups of architects. You could tell they were creative my colleague quipped because they don't wear ties with their suits, whereas we of course did. 'So how do you see the school you want to build?' asked the lead architect attempting to get at our 'vision.' Before I could answer he whipped out a collection of pictures of new schools, all shiny with vaulting entrances. Lots if pictures of classrooms too. All great stuff.

'Well' I replied, 'Why have you brought pictures of schools? I don't want to design anything that looks or feels like a school. What about hotels or shopping malls? You know destination environments. Places that people might actually want to go to?'

'But it's a school isn't it.' replied the architect. 'And this is what they tend to look like.' He pointed once more at his collection of pictures.

We didn't appoint this architectural firm but found another who 'got' what we were talking about. The beginning for us was not the building but the processes that we wanted to run which would then give shape to the building. For us it was larger spaces and a cost cutting design. But how many schools I wonder just trust their architect to come up with a slightly updated design of an existing school. Hence - mostly -- not a lot changes in terms of buildings and the previous standard approach to learning continues.

We need enlightened architects to guide this process with schools and a greater focus on the design of new educational processes.

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