I saw a television interview today with a head teacher talking about a new school that he had designed. Then as an aside he said: “… of course I designed it with the architect”. Many might worry about this – but they shouldn’t.
Good environments are not designed by just one person, but as a co-creative project with the participation of those who will use it. Indeed design is a continuous process, with the environment being adapted (re-designed) to meet changing hourly or daily needs. A good building design enables this to happen, it enables users to continue long after the architect has departed.
For me the way to create an effective learning environment is to enable people to take part in the process. Two reasons. First, to design an environment you really need to understand what and how that environment will be used, which means you have to understand education and what learning and teaching involves. The people best placed to provide that understanding are educators and students. Second, designers are not just designing the physical structure they are designing something that constrains, or indeed enables users’ activities in some way, and something that either supports or changes the behaviour of people. In other words the building is more than just a mere shell.
None of this is to diminish the role of designers but to emphasise the complexity of the processes.
So, back to the head teacher. Clearly he had taken ownership of the project. That I think is a result!