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Archive for March, 2006
“Truth in Class Size Act” — Georgia March 27th, 2006

From “Cap on Class Size Passes” (3.26.06), Atlanta-Journal Constitution:

Public school pupils will have fewer classmates in English, math, science and social studies under Gov. Sonny Perdue’s “Truth in Class Size Act,” which won final approval Friday. But some of them will probably be taught by less-experienced teachers in classroom trailers.

“Yes!” Merchuria Chase Williams, president of the Georgia Association of Educators, exclaimed when she heard the Senate passed House Bill 1358 50-0. “Ah, that’s wonderful!”

Why it matters? Read the rest of this entry »

Creating an ‘Internal Ideas Market’ for Conceptual Investing March 27th, 2006

As someone who has always been a natural brain-stormer, this one hits near and dear to my heart. Good stuff out of FastCompany’s FCNow blog:

Fast Company cofounding editor William Taylor penned a useful piece for Sunday’s edition of the International Herald Tribune. Entitled “Here’s an Idea: Let Everyone Have Ideas,” the article concentrates on the innovation practices of Rhode Island-based Rite-Solutions.

One interesting project at the company is an internal ideas market in which employees invest in conceptual stocks. These investments are in effect votes for which initiatives get formal recognition, backing, and leverage.

How do you solicit, identify, and give the nod to the best new ideas where you work?

Excerpt from the article mentioned above: Read the rest of this entry »

ArchNewsNow — Check it out! March 27th, 2006

Been pleased to be in conversation with Kristen Richards, Editor-in-Chief of ArchNewsNow as of late. Amazing site that spans the world of architecture globally. Worth a look. Extends beyond school design, per se, but part of a critical conversation.

You can reach her at:

Feel free to subscribe to the ArchNewsNow site as well. Great daily feeds!

And definitely check out the international calendar of events. Lots of wonderful opportunities to get involved, showcase your projects, learn, etc.

Randy Responds to School Leader’s Views on Design Myths March 26th, 2006

Recently, Chris Lehman — principal of the soon-to-be-opened Science Leadership Academy in Philly — wrote a series of reactions and questions to one of Randy Fielding’s articles on myths within the school design realm. Randy just offered the following set of responses. Here they are in order: Read the rest of this entry »

Possible to Build Great Schools from the Inside Out? March 26th, 2006

*****Very interesting job opportunity for someone interested in the future of urban schools and real estate development*****

Been in an interesting conversation with Susan Cunningham ( of EdBuild during the last 24 hours. She led construction and operations at the SEED School for about 7 years:

The SEED Foundation opened its first school, The SEED School of Washington, D.C., in 1998. The SEED School offers an intensive academic and boarding education to 320 urban children in grades seven through twelve. Every student at The SEED School is from the District of Columbia, but each individual represents a spectrum of personal experience. Overwhelmingly, SEED families want their children to have more and better opportunities than they did. Some students are pushed onward by strong families who are seeking out the best education for their children. Others find a refuge at SEED, a safe place for them to learn and live while their families overcome personal challenges. At SEED, all students find a network of family and community support that helps them to thrive academically and socially.

In any event, she just left SEED late this fall to start EdBuild, partially funded by NewSchools Venture Fund (a national grant-making organization that supports high quality public schools and school districts). EdBuild is working to create and sustain more high-performing schools in Washington D.C., working with DCPS to modernize school buildings quickly and to support improved instruction in the traditional and charter public schools housed in these buildings.

To that end, EdBuild is looking to hire a Vice President of Real Estate: Read the rest of this entry »

65% Funding Solution March 26th, 2006

It seems that the ‘elephant in the room’ these days for all school design teams (at least here in America) is the future of funding. Beyond the more obvious implications that school construction takes capital, there is the underlying question of whether or not ‘prototype’ designs will begin to become a requirement in various states around the nation as politicians and funding leaders begin to demand ‘efficient’ building programs.

To that end, there is more and more talk (some whispers, too) about the potential of the “65% funding solution” that ties school funding to instruction vs. non-instruction needs. Standard and Poors — well known for matters well outside of educational circles — has an intersting initiative named SchoolMatters that appears to offer a fairly objective look at the implications of the “65% funding solution”. Might be worth your time to scan the site and its resources if you’re beginning to sense the potential impact of this topic on school construction in the future.

Also, received an email from Susan Shafer, the Director of Marketing and Communciations @ Standard & Poor’s School Evaluation Services today reminding me of SchoolMatters 1 Year Anniversary. It read as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

Teachers Talking School Design March 24th, 2006

Sometimes great conversations about school and classroom design are being had by folks who are not traditionally part of the design ‘industry’.

Case in point: AJ, a San Francisco-based teacher focused on language acquisition who offers the following in his teacher/language-oriented blog:

“A study at Georgetown University found that even if the students, teachers, and educational approach remained the same, improving a school’s physical environment could increase test scores by as much as 11 percent.” –Dan Pink

How’s that for a “hard numbers” reason to take school design seriously. We’re all debating, endlessly, the proper teaching approach. Yet here’s a very simple way to boost our effectiveness… one that requires no change to how we teach. Read the rest of this entry »

High Performance Schools Symposium March 23rd, 2006

Just got this in from Rebecca Borden ( at the Arts Education Partnership which focuses on documenting the impact of arts on learning, showing why and how arts matter in the lives of students, teachers and communities. They work at a national level to identify and share successful strategies for ensuring the arts are taught, and taught well, in our public schools. Note: she wrote a great article a ways back for the NCEF on how to involve kids in the school design process — well worth the read!

Reminder: High Performance Schools Symposium at the COG in DC on April 24th.

To register: Please E-mail your registration to Pam Vosburgh at VSBN

Here’s the full story…

We will have speakers from school districts throughout the region present their work, and case studies on high performance new school design, renovations and O&M.

MCPS will present the winners of our Portable Classroom Design Challenge as part of School Building Week, and later the MCPS Green Building Program in one of the breakout sessions in the afternoon. Read the rest of this entry »

School Leader and School Planner Discuss Myths of Design March 22nd, 2006

Last fall I received one of those out-of-the-blue phone calls or emails that only happens due to the blogosphere these days.

Chris Lehman, a principal opening up a new school in Philadelphia (fall, ‘06), had some questions about the potential lay-out of his retrofitted school and wanted to know if I could give him some advice on his floor plan before he confirmed decisions with his architect. Read the rest of this entry »

Will Architecture Firms Begin Blogging? March 22nd, 2006

Whether as a marketing tool or as a pre-design tool with clients, it only seems ‘logical’ that architectural firms will begin to consider the pros/cons of adding blogging to their communication arsenal.

Me, I’m biased, but there is much to weigh and each firm must think it through on their terms. For school design firms, it seems even more advantageous given the nature of needing community feedback and buy-in over the conceptual and schematic phases of project development. Read the rest of this entry »

Getting Close to AIA-CAE Awards Time March 22nd, 2006

Was reminded by Tim of the Cunningham Group (Minneapolis) of the AIA-CAE Education Design awards that will be handed out at the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Spring Conference soon; he mentioned it in an email as he was getting ready to fly off to join the rest of his co-jury panel. Here’s a reminder of what the awards are focused upon, for those of you who do not occupy the ’school design’ or architecture worlds on a daily basis.

The call for entries to the fourth annual Committee on Architecture for Education Design Awards program opens on October 3, 2005. The CAE Design Awards recognize exemplary design of educational environments. Submissions will be due on December 6, 2005, with jurying in January 2006 and announcement of the winners at the CAE Spring 2006 Conference.

The awards program is looking identify, honor, and disseminate the projects and ideas that exhibit innovation and excellence in the following ways:

1. A planning and design process that is educational, collaborative, and builds the capacity of the school and its community to support its students
2. Enhancement of the client’s educational program through the thoughtful planning and design of facilities
3. Integration of function and aesthetics in designs that also respect the surrounding community and context.

Throw Away Those Chair-Desks and Give the Kids Something Real (or Should We?) March 22nd, 2006

Anyone in the ‘education’ game these days MUST confront the issue of what school’s purpose is, whether it be the last bastion of liberal arts training or socialization/citizenship practice or just the preparation for the 21st century office. No matter where you fit, it does have an impact on what our clients think…and thus how we design their learning spaces.

Whenever I catch myself drawn to a truly innovative school design, esp. the ‘learning’ space or whatever the non-classroom is called these days (I know, I know — there are lots of good semantic changes afoot), they seem to look like hip, modern offices in one manner or another. As if something good/wholesome or market-driven in us believes that if we can get kids into ‘real world’ work spaces, they will not only be productive, but they’ll also love our design savvy and instincts.

But then I think through the ‘problem’ from the other point of view and how if you were to design offices today, the last thing they’d want is something that looked like an office. Read the rest of this entry »

Why That Remarkable Design Brochure of Ours Really Doesn’t Matter March 22nd, 2006

One of the many wonderful things about architecture firms and school planners is the high-design of many of our press releases, brochures, RFQ documents, client PowerPoints, and other “hey, look at what we can do!” media-darlings. Seems impossible to imagine a day when we wouldn’t all be invested in showcasing our firm’s ability, culture, and services in high-gloss ways, esp. in an effort to tell a great ’school design story.’

The question is, however, does it really matter? To the client, does all of this really end up making a difference?

According to Seth Godin (PR-god; author of the Purple Cow and other marketing gems), it doesn’t matter one tiny ounce…but read his words to learn for yourself: Read the rest of this entry »

Possibly a Pattern Language for the New Internet? March 22nd, 2006

Prakash and Randy, you might find this curious and timely:

According to those in the inner circle of the re-creation of the Internet (read: “Web2.0″ for those who live more typical lives and may still be trying to get their heads wrapped around email and eBay), there is discussion of pulling off this epic shift via “patterns”. Thought you might find that of interest. Here’s what one article (from the good folks at “Web Monkey”) that is trying to explain the power of “pattern language” for a brave new Internet to come:
Read the rest of this entry »

What is the Potential of Creating a School Architecture Internship Like This? March 21st, 2006

Project M 2006
June 1–29
Belfast and Searsport, ME

Inspired by the late architect Samuel Mockbee and his Rural Studio, John Bielenberg began this design workshop in 2004 hoping to encourage graphic designers to create for social causes. Last year, the participants designed a rolling studio that was then used to deliver supplies to designers displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Five participants will be selected in all, after which they will all agree on a project to work on throughout June. The cost will be $2000 per person.


Considering the Unique Design Elements of a K-8 Facility March 21st, 2006

A Colorado-based architect sent the following to DesignShare recently about the unique attributes of a K-8 school design:

We are working with a school district who wants to build a K-8. Our firm has never designed one and we are struggling to understand how a K-8 is different from a elementary combined with a middle school. Could you help in directing me where to research either on your website or elsewhere? Specifically, do you know of K-8 educational specifications??

Any ideas? And any research you’d send his/her way?

Value of Curb Appeal for Schools? March 21st, 2006

The following invitation came from Peggy Kinsey, AIA, CEFPI of
SlaterPaull Architects:

I am writing an article that deals with the current need for individual schools as well as school districts to “market” themselves. I think this is as recent phenomena. In the past, other than in the case of non-public schools, most parents didn’t have a choice as to where their child would attend school. You moved into a neighborhood so your child could attend a particular school. As most of you are acutely aware of, today that is not the case.

Thus the question for you – How important is “curb appeal” in this new world of choice?

V International Congress on the Development of Physical Infrastructure — Mexico, May 31 - June 2 March 21st, 2006

The Administrative Committee of the Federal Program for School Construction (CAPFCE) extends an invitation to the V International Congress on the Development of Physical Infrastructure en Education, in City Zacatecas, México, on may 31, june 1 y 2.

The aim of the Congress is to exchange experiences and present examples related to the following elements of educational spaces: Read the rest of this entry »

Continuing to Talk about Mold In Schools, But from a Different Point of View March 21st, 2006

This mold-n-school article comes via the “Constructionmail” e-newsletter from the good folks at McGraw Hill. While in a construction-related context, the article is more focused on allergies in general having a negative impact on kids and learning. Yes, the underlying elements of black mold (et al) are still there, but glad that it’s not the typical conversation on building materials are good or bad.

An excerpt before you dive into yet another dialogue on the mix: Read the rest of this entry »

Schools Ain’t Factories…or Prisons March 21st, 2006

I was struck recently by a recent “Guardian” article out of the UK that discussed bringing prisoners into the conversation of prison design. Nearly stopped me in my tracks, truth be told. Not so much because of the idea of guards and prisoners sitting down at a table with architects, and creating bubble diagrams of how ‘transparency’ and daylighting could make the prison experience less, well…ah,…prison-like, but because it simply reminds me that so few kids and teachers and parents and community members are actually invited into the mix when schools are planned and designed. Read the rest of this entry »

Weekly Invitation to All Writers March 6th, 2006

“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.” — George Bernard Shaw


The DesignShare Blog team has greatly appreciated the diverse range of visitors, as well as the positive feedback, during our first few days of operation. Still very much a work-in-progrees, we are now beginning to see the fruits of dialogue grow.

To that end, each week we will invite all visitors to the DesignShare Blog to offer a post of their own, something to add to the on-going conversation. Here are the rules (or simply put, a few handy steps to launch you into the blog-publishing world!):

Read the rest of this entry »

Doing-Spaces: Studios for Learning March 5th, 2006

Word play is a wonderful way to generate new ideas, and often its the only way to help any of us break free of the binds that keep us tied to old ways of finding solutions.

As this blog was partially created to help us re-think the very ‘language of school design’, it seems that this is certainly one for consideration. Even better, it comes from outside the industry of architecture. Perhaps the paradigm shift won’t be so difficult as we all think if more and more non-school design folks are already building the new vocabulary.

To that end, I’d like you to consider the following post called “Classrooms as Studios — Personal Doing Environments” from Jeremy Hiebert, an expert in the fusion of technology and learning and design and life: Read the rest of this entry »

A Survey of Comments March 5th, 2006

Blog visitors offer feedback, questions, and challenges on Philly’s “School of the Future”, bridges between educational models, flexible space in schools and classrooms, future memories of interactive learning, and re-thinking the classroom wall. Read the rest of this entry »

The Community’s Voice Is Heard March 5th, 2006

An interesting view of the impact of blogging to draw together a larger community of educational facility stakeholders. This comes from David Sundersingh:

Dear Randy,

Congrats on a blog & a very newsy newsletter. You are taking this into the 21st Century, I am sure content will become more focused in the coming months as more professionals take part actively in the blog. Read the rest of this entry »

From Start-Up to Blog in Just 3 Short Weeks: An Open-Source Story March 3rd, 2006

Tonight I was talking with Randy shortly after he exited yet another plane (how many states in how many days?) and the “…in just 3 short weeks…” comment bounced back and forth.

You see, the entire create-a-DesignShare-blog-experience started pretty innocently only 3 weeks ago today with just a single phone call: Read the rest of this entry »

ArchVoices: Define the 21st Century Practice March 3rd, 2006

“…the profession definitely needs a kick in the pants, and we see this year’s essay theme as an opportunity to provide it. ” — ArchVoices challenge (a true “Arm me with Audacity” call if I’ve ever heard it, Randy!)

Okay, you’ve read the first post about the upcoming ArchVoices Essay Competition. Well, here’s part two to wet your whistle. They continue:

So, next time you and your co-workers get into a heated discussion about the future of architecture at an office happy hour, get out your sketchbooks and pens: the world is waiting to read your manifestoes, dreams, and even your carefully laid plans for architecture or revolution. Stage One’s 500-word essay proposals are due March 31, 2006. The future of our profession can hardly wait.

Want to know more? Read the rest of this entry »

ArchVoices: Staring Bright-Eyed Into the Future March 3rd, 2006

“Frequent interaction with the public might elicit an enlivened interest in the role of architecture…” — Excerpt from “Engaging the Everyday,” by Hannah Teicher, 1st Prize, 2005 ArchVoices Essay Competition


Many of you may be familiar with ArchVoices, a remarkable virtual community that supports the professional development of architectural interns as they move towards licensure. All of this grew out of an intern’s desire a few years back to find resources in an often confusing world of requirements, acronyms, and test preparation all while trying to just ‘get it’ as one moves from studio to professional practice. And in many ways, it is a reflection of the collaborative efforts of the DesignShare Blog as we all strive to not only share best practices but also seek to broaden the base of participants. Read the rest of this entry »

Considering Philadelphia’s “School of the Future” as a Model March 1st, 2006

Had the pleasure of reading “Is This the School of the Future” (Scholastic Admnistrator magazine Feb. ‘06), last night, thanks to the suggestion of a superintendent I’m currently working with these days. His curiosity about the Microsoft/City of Philadelphia initiative was quite evident, both as a partnership and program. And I believe he was equally interested in it as a school ‘design’ in the purest architectural manner.

Without getting into the Microsoft debate, or even if this is or is not the ‘ideal’ progressive architectural solution, I simply pose the following question to you:

How would you describe the “school of the future” and what are the components and elements that give it meaning and form?

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