A School for Learning

Kate Ganim | Thesis Presentation | Fall 2011

The Problem with Schools

● Teacher-centric design reflects an ineffective educational model ● The traditional classroom has not evolved with our growing understanding of learning and development ● "A School is a Building with a School in It"

"There can be few building types that have so poorly evolved during the past hundred years as schools. It was only in the closing decade of the 20th century that we saw deviations from a type that has been standard since the year dot. Only the form, particularly that of the exterior, moved with the times. How schools were organized was evidently unassailable."                      Herman Hertzberger, Space and Learning (2008) 

"A School is a Building with a School in It"

School-Building     Education

Taking Education out of its useless Shell



Archigram's "Ideas Circus"

● Instantaneous ● Unexpected ● Temporary ● Educational Road Show ● Interchange of ideas between unconnected people 

Cedric Price's "Potteries Thinkbelt"
● Abandoned railway system converted into a university ● Integrated with community ● Mass education ● Disposing with the "architectural symbolism of academia"

Buckminster Fuller's "Education Automation"
● To truly think, one must be alone ● School acts as a babysitter + social hall ● Children will be able to educate themselves using "two-way TV's" ● Calls for "well-equipped capsule-rooms to be sent to all the homes" so children can educate themselves in private

"There is no reason why everyone should be interested in the geography of Venezuela on the same day and hour unless there is some 'news' event there, such as a revolution."         Buckminster Fuller, Education Automation (1962)

● Similar to homeschooling, but kids are left to pursue their own interests freely ● No formal teaching ● Based on premise that children have an intrinsic motivation to learn and explore, and will if given the chance ● Little data exists indicating the relative success of unschooled children in adulthood

Thesis Proposal: Activating the School


Hertzberger: The Evolution of the School

● Teacher-centric model shifts to student-centric model (collaborative instead of dictatorial) ● Integration of the long corridor as learning space ● Rectangular classroom to articulated classroom to abandonment of the classroom altogether

"At the end of the day, education, besides being about reading, writing, and arithmetic, is about exploring the world. It is not just obtaining insight that is important but, increasingly, accumulating interest and love for the riches the world has to offer. This happens in interactive situations that could be stimulated more by the physical environment than designers are prepared to concede."                                   Herman Hertzberger, Space and Learning (2008)

Waldorf and Montessori Schools
Waldorf schools: ● use of pastel colors ● natural materials ● soft edges ● no straight angles ● "discovery" environment

Montessori schools: ● space is articulated ● objects are scaled appropriately for a child's independent use ● unprogrammed space for retreat

Using Scientific Findings to Foster Education

● Learning styles and the multiplicity of intelligence ● Attempt to integrate cognitive, developmental, and psychological findings into design to optimize the environment for learning ● Series of design experiments, modeling a space or an attribute of a space, based on these scientific findings  

Mapping the Interactions and Behavior of Elementary-Aged Children with their Environment

Site Proposal: San Francisco (specifics TBD)

● Innovative ● High value on education ● Many alternative schools already here ● Urban site with access to green space

Questions Raised
To what extent can a building contribute to the learning process? What are the goals of education?   How can technology be integrated into the design to support learning and exploration?   How can a building be made such that the majority is plastic + dynamic, rather than static? How can the hierarchical nature of the traditional school building be broken down to enhance the learning process?


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