Outside-the-Box School Design – Innovative or Chaotic?

school in box

The modern model for educational facility architecture strongly emphasises collaboration.

From the overall industry involvement, to rooms designed in a way the provokes communication and creative involvement, the notion of collaborative learning has inspired architects to think way outside the box in terms of design.

This trend is sweeping across the world, but in Canada it takes on a slightly more controversial edge.

The Globe and Mail has posited that collaborative, open-planned school design, which takes its inspiration from the Fielding Nair International design model, could lead to a chaotic environment, led more by design ego than logistics.

At its most basic root, modern school design principles focus on promoting collaboration and flexibility in the learning space, allowing teachers the opportunity to tailor education to each child in a hands-on manner.

Such principles are embodied in the space through the incorporation of group seating in lieu of singular school desks, a minimization of corridor spaces, the promotion of activity zoning with both quiet and loud working zones, and shared office spaces for the teaching staff.

Lord Kitchener Elementary School in Vancouver was identified by the Globe and Mail as one example where these modern principles were implemented into the designs for their redevelopment project.

old school building

“The new school design takes into consideration many different learning modalities beyond the traditional teacher lectures in classrooms, with increasing student self-direction as they mature,” according to a Lord Kitchener schematic.

The designers met this goal by developing a modern schooling facility that links classrooms in larger common room areas, sharing teaching spaces and ‘clustering’ classrooms to avoid overt group separation.

According to the Globe article, parents have had a mixed response to the school, with some questioning the move away from the more institutional design orientation, and others willing to wait and see.

Open learning can increase motivation in some students, but it can also add distraction, with visual interaction and noise pollution prevalent.

All involved in this particular development, and others of its nature have suggested that further work into the overall design model needs to be put into action.

A global phasing out of institutional design models is being undertaken. The level of success of these new collaboration-oriented buildings will now depend on each interpretation, the education of the designers and their delivery of the project.

By Emily D’Alterio
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