Designing Spaces for Future Focused Schools

Creating learning spaces where students can effectively collaborate has become ever more important as schools focus on developing this life time skill seen as key to effective participation in both the workplace and society.

Using physical models to explore layouts is an effective way of having a conversation about the possibilities of a learning environment. (left to right) Lene Jensby Lang, Thorbjørn Bergquist, Mark Pratt, Gary Spracklen, Michál Cohen

We tested this with a design challenge in a one-day workshop. Here is what happened…

How can your school do things better?

There needs to be better evidence for the decisions we make when designing and creating learning environments. Much of what is done, is based on ‘evidence’ that is often not substantiated yet presented as if it were the final word. My friend Peter Lippman, in his book “Evidence-based design for Primary and Secondary Schools” relentlessly and rightly argues the point. Indeed Peter Barrett alludes to this in his recent study that led to his “Clever Classroom” report (see my post: Understanding Complexity in Clever Classrooms).


So, can your school do things better? At the OECD Centre for Effective Learning Environments we are aiming to provide answers. Continue reading

The Real Shift in School Design

Epping part-01

Partial plan of Epping Views, by Gray Puksand Architects 2007. The corridors have been incorporated into the learning spaces. ©Gray Puksand

The biggest, and I think the real, shift in school design is the wider recognition that a variety of spaces in schools and indeed outside schools can be effectively used as settings for learning, that schools can use more than just a rectangular classroom box. Continue reading

Valuing School Heritage: Lisbon School Given Prestigious Award

The renovated Liceu Passos Manuel in Lisbon, a picture of which has headed this blog for 18 months, has just won a Europa Nostra Award 2013 for European Cultural Heritage. It shows how an old building can be renovated to both preserve an identity but serve a modern context.

Liceu Passos Manuel, Lisbon, Portugal renovation completed in 2008

Liceu Passos Manuel, Lisbon, Portugal renovation completed in 2008

Passos Manuel is Portugal’s oldest Liceu, originally designed in 1882 but built a little later and opened in 1911. The Europa Nostra Awards are a prestigious mark of European heritage and Europa Nostra itself is about protecting Europe’s cultural and natural heritage. The award for the conservation work on Passos Manuel is a testament to the painstaking work of its architects, husband and wife team Victor Mestre and Sofia Alexio of VMSA Architects.

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The University: A Web of Arteries Feeding a City with Ideas

Universities create the life force of many towns, cities and regional economies. They foster places for knowledge exchange both within the student and research communities, but also between these and the wider community and business. They provide the nourishment that the city needs to survive.

Plaza of the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, Mexico
(Meritorious Autonomous University of Puebla)
Stimulating ideas, creativity and knowledge exchange

Many studies such as the OECD’s programme on Institutional Management in Higher Education into the role of higher education in local and regional economies, show the importance of universities in terms of knowledge creation and exchange, underpinning innovation through research and contributing to the development of skills in the local economies. Universities can also play an important role in regenerating urban areas by creating a focus for activity.

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University of The Future: Connected Environments

Why is the physical environment for higher education still important when arguably with the emergence of online learning and digital access, students do not need to leave their own homes?

Creating spaces that make connections

We are, as is so often pointed out, in a world where the focus is increasingly on personalisation. In healthcare gene therapy is tailored to treat specific conditions unique to a specific person; people can order cars or computers with specific features determined before production; and of course education where students expect that educators will meet their own specific needs at a time that suits them. Continue reading

Giving Hope to Communities

There is much dinner-table chatter these days about the role of schools in the community. Yet you may be forgiven for thinking that the reality on the ground is that often schools do not fulfil this role at all. Well, here is one example where they do.

These parents of children at a primary school in the state of Oaxaca in Mexico are not rich, but they are happy. Why? Because they been able to get some money to repair the school building.

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