The symbiotic relationship between architecture and education
Modern architecture and building design are constantly changing. The industry shifts almost as often as the education sector, and the two fields aren’t mutually exclusive. With that in mind, how is modern building design influencing education? And how can we expect to see both sectors evolve in the future?
Design Has Come a Long Way Since the 1800s
The design of educational facilities has come a long way since the one-room schoolhouse of the 1800s. In the “olden days,” everything had to fit into a limited space, from the students’ desks to books and supply storage, and, of course, the enormous chalkboards. The one-room schoolhouse has its place in history as it marked the creation of a free education system in the United States, even if most students left school to work by the age of 14.
It wasn’t until the 1900s that high school enrollment became more common. At the time, less than 7 percent of 17-year-old’s graduated from high school. In 1940, the Crow Island School in Winnetka, Illinois, became the first school to integrate progressive education into its very architecture. The Crow Island School had L-shaped rooms, better lighting and an open campus with a student-friendly design.
Crow Island School might have been the first of its kind, but as modern trends suggest, it wouldn’t be the last to change the standard architecture of educational facilities.
Modern School Buildings Help Students Thrive
Modern school buildings don’t look anything like the iconic one-room schoolhouse of the past. These new designs incorporate open areas, greenery and natural lighting, all of which improve student outcomes and support their success. In truth, many of these buildings don’t look like schools to the casual observer.
Fuji Kindergarten in Tokyo looks like a giant round donut, with two floors and massive open areas. This school caters to children between the ages of two and six, utilizing the Montessori Method to encourage students to explore the school and learn through what they discover there. The top floor is a massive wooden track where children can run in circles until their hearts are content.
Other facilities, like the Mesterfjellet School in Larvik, Norway, let in as much natural light as possible. In addition to looking like an architectural marvel from the outside, this design reduces the need for artificial light within the school, making the entire design eco-friendly. A study from the US Department of Education found that students in classrooms with more natural light do 20 percent better in math and 26 percent better in reaching than those without natural sunlight.
Even playgrounds are taking advantage of these modern architecture trends. Instead of separating areas by age group, schools are creating integrated playgrounds where students can play alongside their friends, regardless of age. These new playgrounds also incorporate the local landscape, making the equipment mesh seamlessly with the hills, trees and bushes.
New school buildings and playgrounds are popping up all over the landscape, and no two of them look alike. These facilities, with their large windows, open floor plans and unique designs, will keep students interested in learning throughout their school careers, fostering a natural curiosity that will carry past graduation.
The Future of Education and Architecture
Education and architecture have always shared a close relationship, and as architecture continues to evolve, it will change the way designers look at educational facilities. Architects around the world are already moving away from the square and rectangular brick-and-mortar designs that most readers grew up with. They’ve left the one-room schoolhouse in the realm of history and fiction novels.
Today’s schools no longer keep students separate from the rest of the world. Instead, these innovative buildings teach them to take part in the world around them, from the incorporation of natural light, to massive windows and open floor plans that move away from the more traditional rows of desks. Modern schools can help students succeed without dotting the landscape with bland, utilitarian block buildings like the schools most of our readers attended.
A school doesn’t have to be boring or constrain itself with these stereotypes. New designs can help students thrive, and the potential of these buildings is only as limited as the imaginations of the architects who create them.
Written by: Holly Welles, BOSS Contributor
Holly Welles is a real estate writer who covers the latest market trends in everything from residential to commercial spaces. She is the editor behind her own blog, The Estate Update, and curates more advice on Twitter.
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