Planning Learning Spaces

There are essentially two ways of educating people, says Herman Hertzberger. One is to tell them how the world works, and the other is to let people develop the capacity for thinking for themselves. The learning environment both pedagogically speaking and in terms of space needs to respond to the latter.

“Planning Learning Spaces” by Terry White and Murray Hudson (to be published 19th October) will provide much needed guidance on designing schools. They were gracious and generous in their invitations for contributions from a range of educators and designers involved in creating learning environments. The result is a practical guide for all those involved and interested in creating better learning environments.

The project was born from a deep frustration, shared by many, that there is a better way to create learning environments that address the needs of contemporary and future learning. Too often schools are still designed pedagogically and spatially as if one-size-fits all yet as Terry and Murray point out the future must focus on making learning personal by fully engaging the young person.

These days the kind of attributes that are seen as important in young adults are capacities such as “thinking for themselves” that Herzberger refers to. Capacities that enable people to live and work together and contribute to society. Of course, specific knowledge and particular skills are important and depend on the specific context, but it is the capacity to communicate, work with others and learn that students adults need to develop and continue to develop as adults, and it is these and many more that education has to facilitate.

One contributor, Michàl Cohen of Walters and Cohen Architects points out: “There is no single template for the design of schools: designs need to respond to each school’s unique ethos and context”.

Richard Leonard from architect Hayball notes that “you can’t successfully design education spaces unless you fully understand the learning and teaching practices they need to support it. It really is that simple.” Start with the education experience and design the space around it.

While the book gives practical advice on designing better learning environments it is not a recipe book that gives specific solutions for specific situations. It is in many ways a book about developing a brief for a learning environment. Readers are expected to do some work too. As Terry White and Murray Hudson explain in the Preface, “it requires the reader’s thinking and engagement to determine the learning approaches and teaching practices”.

See the book’s website: for more information and how to order.

The LinkedIn site: