Engage, Enrich, Envision: Creating a Common Language for Learning Space

When working with people from different disciplines, it is perhaps obvious that everyone should be able to grasp the basic concepts and language that the others use. If they cannot, then such conversations become at best unfruitful and at worst misleading. 

enrich engage -04

So often when designers meet clients and users of buildings, they present information in such a way that is inaccessible to their audience. Or, they ask questions in such a way that the people cannot respond easily. Therefore the solution must be to establish a common language that enables everyone to discuss issues in such a way that they understand each other. Here is one example of a project to do this.

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The Key to Effective Learning Environments

The idea that merely redesigning a school building will on its own lead to improved student outcomes and in particular drive education transformation is still being given more credence than it deserves. But the physical environment does play an important role.

Dandenong High School, Victoria, Australia

Dandenong High School, Victoria, Australia: The design of this environment was led by the school principal

All you need to do, so the argument goes, is redesign the physical learning environment and the rest follows – teachers will teach differently and students will learn more effectively. As attractive as the idea sounds, it is far from what the evidence suggests. What really leads to improvement in a school is effective school leadership and good teaching backed by coherent policy making. A well designed physical learning environment will contribute to it, but is not itself the driver. Indeed effective leadership is also the key to an effective learning environment. Continue reading

Do you really need that new school building? Try this…

Imagine that you as a school principal or a teacher and have been told that your school going to get a new art / science / math (pick your subject) block. You have to define what is wanted so that the architect can start work on the design. Where do you start?

The solution may not be a new building. Well-designed furniture gives learning spaces versatility.

The solution may be well-designed furniture giving learning spaces versatility.

Merely writing out a list of different spaces and expecting them to function in the way you expect is not the place to start. Apart from anything else, the designer’s assumptions about how they function may be entirely different to yours. The fundamental question is:  Continue reading

Quiet please! We’re trying to learn.

If students cannot hear, how can they learn? Why is sound such a difficult issue in schools?

Quiet please

Is this an effective way of taking control of a problem that should not exist?

Imagine that you are sitting in the middle of the room and all you can hear is a garbled “mash” from the teacher. You don’t know what has been said, are you being asked a question? Or, given an important piece of information? If you are reasonably extrovert, you might ask someone else. If you are at all shy, you may well keep quiet to avoid looking stupid amongst your peers. 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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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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