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A New Era for School Architecture

WHY CHANGE NOW?

Did you know that school design has not substantially changed over the past 200 years? (1) Well, school architecture is undergoing some significant changes now, and computers are a big reason why. The following is an excerpt from Tomorrow’s Schools, by Jackie Craven, to highlight this point…

The Shape of Things To Come In tomorrow’s classrooms, students no longer need to face a podium, teacher’s desk or writing board. Learning stations are distributed along walls, in island clusters or in zigzag patterns. For small study groups, work spaces are triangular rather than square. Rooms are wheelchair friendly with wide, unobstructed passageways and low handles and switches. (1)

Lights, Cameras, Action This futuristic classroom resembles a television studio with two monitors, three cameras and related equipment. One of the monitors displays presentations broadcast within the school building, while the other displays students and teachers at other locations — anywhere in the world. The television cameras are directed at students and the teacher, or focus on visual aids used in teacher presentations. Bright overhead spotlights enhance the quality of video transmission. (1)

Sounding Off Flush mounted microphones on student desks assure that everyone can hear and be heard. Materials used for walls, ceilings and floors are especially chosen to optimize voice clarity. Echoing linoleum hallways are a thing of the past. (1)

Plugging In In the school of the future, there are no computer labs with rows of monitors and miles of tangled cables. Electrical outlets and communications ports are strategically located throughout the building. Wide conduits inside walls and beneath floors accommodate wires and cables. (1)

Going Mod More than ever, school design is modular. Rooms are added to divided and reconfigured as the curriculum changes and technologies evolve. Portable carts allow computers to move freely throughout the building. Movable partitions permit teachers to shift from small to large group activities. And, since furniture design is standardized, work stations may be moved and reassembled anywhere in the building. (1)

With computers really stirring things up in the world of school design, it is important for architects to understand how to balance these emerging technologies with fundamental architectural features (like views of nature, healthy levels of natural light and a strategic use of interior color) to foster learning for healthy classroom designs.

DON’T LET TECHNOLOGY TAKE OVER

It is important for school architecture to support student learning, socialization and health — not only by focusing on computer technology, but by finding a balance between that technology and other essential elements that make up a successful school day for a student.

For example, technologies like “monitors, cameras, microphones and computers” (1) can merge with optimized acoustical treatments and modular furniture arrangements that can take advantage of natural daylight or promote lively student interactions, discussions or scholarly debates.

THE KEY IS INTEGRATION

Be sure that technology informs your design but does not overshadow it.

(1) Craven, Jackie. Tomorrow’s Schools. About.com.

Image Credit: © Night Owl City | Flickr

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