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Archive for April, 2006
Blogging for School Design Teams: Fear of Feedback or Collaborative Fuel? April 27th, 2006

Some of you in the greater DesignShare community are aware of the growing use of blogging for school design teams to connect with their client communities.

As background, check out these resources: 1) Why blogging might be a transformative tool for school design teams; and 2) a review of the same topic done as a presentation for CEFPI earlier this April.

For some firms, it’s merely about marketing (not the winning answer, by the way…but you can only learn that truth the hard way). But for a ‘brave’ few, it’s really about learning to be an ‘expert by listening’ and empowering the client community to be asking for the right things when they say ’school building’.

Ran across the following from Paul Baker on his “EducationPR” blog. He’s talking about the opposite side of the table, about the growing use of blogs for school officials and trustees to engage their community. Seems that if our clients are going into the blogosphere, it’s only right that we are at least familiar, if not yet passionate and nimble.

He wrote:

I enjoyed reading Craig Colgan’s story “What’s in a Blog?” in American School Board Journal, July 2005. He provides several case studies of school board members, administrators, and teachers engaging their communities with weblogs. Read the rest of this entry »

CAE (AIA) Spring Conference: “Building a Language for Communication” (Cincinnati, Ohio) April 25th, 2006

Been speaking with Donnie Williamson, Project Manager, Professional Practice, of AIA today about the upcoming CAE Spring Conference: “Building a Language of Communication”. The conference will take place in Cincinnati, Ohio between May 11-13th.

Click this link to read the on-line brochure.
Click this link for the printed Registration Form.

The 2006 theme is Planning and Programming, and this spring the emphasis will be on the early planning stages where major decisions are made. How can we as architects be more involved in guiding these decisions?

We will see how decisions affect the quality of the learning environment and the building’s design from multiple perspectives.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dispatch from Tasmania: What If We Designed Schools as…Truly “Connected”? April 24th, 2006

You might be interested to review David Bartlett’s (Minister of Education for the State of Tasmania) comments and ideas on “connected” schools and school design made at the CEFPI conference last year (4.05):

He writes:

This week I presented a paper at the CEFPI Architects and Educators conference. A number of people have asked me for a copy of my speech.Unfortunately I don’t actually have a copy of the speech as much of it was made off the cuff from notes.

However some of the following points were made:

The Connected School

The response to all of these trends, needs to be what I call the “Connected School.” And I have chosen the word “connected” very deliberately to mean many things. So what does the connected school look like?

What if we considered school as… Read the rest of this entry »

Digital Kids, Antiquated Schools April 24th, 2006

Why is it that for the first time in history, our children are so very different than us? And what does this have to do with the design of our schools?

These are the underlying questions posed by Jim Craig in the South Bend Tribune (Indiana) in his “Schools Need to Meet the Needs of ‘Digital Natives’” editorial recently. He continues:

We adults are described as “digital immigrants.” Just like someone who learns a foreign language later in life rather than growing up with it, we will never have the same intuitive understanding our children do. This has nothing to do with intelligence, and everything to do with how one learns.

We view each new device as a new challenge to be learned, often painfully. Digital natives do not. Rather, they see each new development as a continuously evolving and improving facet of their lives that is something to be used, not just figured out.

What does this have to do with school? Everything. Read the rest of this entry »

Blurring Line Between Real and Virtual Spaces April 24th, 2006

From the illustrious mind of George Siemens and his “elearnspace” blog (and e-newsletter)subscribe!!! — comes this tasty morsel about the blurring lines between real and virtual spaces. Implications for our field are very real:

For all my chatter about the changing nature/need of learning, I think I’ve largely ignored what is becoming one of the most interesting trends: the absolute blurring between online and physical spaces.

A Virtual World’s Real Dollars: “It’s easy to see why Second Life has captured the attention of Bezos and other investors. Second Life is a three-dimensional digital world in which players can do just about anything: Create an avatar that acts as an online alter-ego, fly around landscapes dotted with dance clubs and gardens, and socialize via text messaging with friends’ avatars. The population inside Second Life has grown eightfold from a year ago, when just 20,000 “residents,” as they’re known, called it a second home.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Collaboration and Future-Oriented Design at Northwestern University April 24th, 2006

ArchNewsNow strikes beautiful design chords again. This time, a view of the future when schools of design and education come together:

Built specifically to obtain certification in environmental sustainability, Northwestern University’s Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center, designed by New York City-based Davis Brody Bond, is now the focal point of the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science’s initiatives in design education.

Made possible through a $10 million grant from Ford Motor Company, and significant gifts from Steelcase, Illinois Tool Works, John Deere Foundation, and 3M Foundation, among others, the $30 million, 80,000-square-foot facility supports a wide range of undergraduate design efforts, from the first year’s integrated design curriculum, to more specialized senior projects and annual competition entries. Read the rest of this entry »

Philly: But Where Will the Children Go? April 24th, 2006

Kristen and ArchNewsNow continues to provide great news hints. Case in point, this story out of Philly where new urbanism might be making ’school’ forgotten community resource. An excerpt:

Every week in Philadelphia seems to bring another condo proposal. By the end of the decade, booming Center City could be home to 10,000 new people. We know where those residents will live. We can guess where they will shop, dine and park their cars. But has anyone thought about where they might send their children to school? Not yet. Read the rest of this entry »

Stylish Daycare Center in Denmark April 24th, 2006

If getting a combined 52 weeks of maternity/paternity leave for new parents wasn’t enough reason to move to Denmark, these recent and very stylish daycare center projects in this Scandanavian country might be at least worth a visit:

Denmark is a pretty good place to have kids. New parents receive a combined total of 52 weeks (one full year!) leave from work, and the government guarantees children space in day-care facilities after their first birthday. The latter provision has had an interesting architectural side effect. When a recent baby boom in Copenhagen necessitated the construction of new day-care centers, the city commissioned Dorte Mandrup-Poulsen–one of Denmark’s most acclaimed and busy young architects–to design two of them, bringing smart design to preschool digs. Read the rest of this entry »

Brad Pitt Shares Love of Architecture to Help ReBuild New Orleans April 24th, 2006

Worth a glance, according to Forbes magazine:

The whole world wants to know about the rumors of a “Brangelina” wedding in Namibia, not to mention the chances that the first biological child of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie might be born in Africa next month.

But all the publicity-shy actor wants to talk about is his new architecture project - a design competition to encourage eco-friendly rebuilding in areas of New Orleans hardest hit by hurricane Katrina.


Pitt was much more forthcoming on his love of architecture and his plans to sponsor a design competition and lead its jury.

“Our goal is to kick off the rebuilding effort. It’s certainly long overdue and I can only go from the reports that we get … that it’s behind, absolutely. People are frustrated,” Pitt said. Read the rest of this entry »

Inspired Flight vs. Crash-n-Burn: Los Angeles Unified School District and Design Team Push Artistic Boundaries April 24th, 2006

Any school design project is a hot-button topic in communities large and small. The general safety phrase is “efficient, cost-savings, and 50-year building” that everyone understands and will vote for (i.e. pay for).

When you push the boundaries on school design, however, you open up a can of worms. But this time I’m hoping the worms will be very pleased (or at least hang on to learn more).

From Los Angeles, this story excerpt of a very provocative school design grows wings:

IT’S not a bird. Could be a plane. The collective Angeleno imagination will have 2 1/2 years to conjure an appropriate image for the irregular-looking assemblage of gray- and sand-colored structures in concrete, plaster, glass and steel that will soon begin to rise downtown above the Hollywood Freeway. However the city eventually decides to define the strange shapes on its new public arts campus, given the estimated cost of $208 million, it had better be Superschool. Read the rest of this entry »

Learning Space in Pakistan to Demystify Research with Community-Focused Development April 24th, 2006

Great chance to lend a hand to colleagues in the Middle East and throughout the world:

Subject: - Subscription of Books / Information Material for Information and Learning Center Khuzdar

Institute for development Studies and Practices (IDSP-Pakistan) is providing a learning space for the group of motivated individuals from various field of research and development. It is a space where this group shares, learns, promotes, practice and together try to create an environment where the process of development can be de-mystified and redefined. The courses offered by the institute are based on community-focused development, combining theory and practice, which ultimately contribute towards the project objectives and policy shifts towards just and equitable development processes. Read the rest of this entry »

Dutch Learnscapes April 24th, 2006

In discussion with Jan Koster about the 4th national congress of school building in Amsterdam and the principle of “learnscapes” as a design pattern. Here is what he wrote to us in a recent email:

On the eve of the 4th national congress of school building in Amsterdam (April 5th and 6th in the Okura Hotel), we will give you in headlines a view on our national developments. Mind you that we cannot prevent ourselves from our perspective of sustainable education and environmental development.

Schooling for the future [involves]: Read the rest of this entry »

Discussions about the School of the Future April 24th, 2006

Been talking with Tom Blackwell, the Director of Facilities and Construction of the Leander Independent School District in Texas, recently about the ’school of the future’ (not to be mistaken with the Microsoft-supported new school opening this fall in Philadelphia). He writes:

With Education coming under fire from all sources now, when will facility design actually facilitate future flexibility in order to better serve the quickly-changing needs of contemporary as well as future education? That is, when will the facility actually become a verb rather than a noun?

As an ex-English teacher, I find that previous question to be a true shot across the bow. Tom continues to push us all with his following questions: Read the rest of this entry »

Inspiration in Iran April 24th, 2006

The following email came to the DesignShare offices this past weekend.

Messages like this remind us that we are very blessed to be involved in the larger world of school design, planning, and construction, acting as advocates for design teams around the globe. More importantly, we are blessed to share this larger world of ’school design’ with passionate and committed individuals like this writer:

I have known your website and its [Design Awards] competition since I was an M.Arch student. Your web site was a great motive for me to chose educational field as my thesis subject and future career.

I chose Tehran Virtual School for my thesis title which was a school designed for the Iranian Ministry of Education. Articles and Award winning projects that were presented on your website really helped me to get a new approach for deigning this unique school which will be the first Iranian cyber school. Read the rest of this entry »

Opportunity and Pain in the Small Schools Movement April 24th, 2006

As many parts of the US (and the world) face the difficult issue of school closings — often due to funding, changing demographics, or academic standards — there is tremendous pain and heartache that comes with each decision, good or bad. Case in point, the pending closure of the George W. Wingate High School in New York City, turning the historic school into several smaller learning academies:

When the George W. Wingate High School opened in 1955, excited students helped unpack the furniture and baseball legend Jackie Robinson attended the school’s dedication. Trophy cases soon brimmed with accomplishments at the Brooklyn school that would graduate a future U.S. senator.

But today is a very different story for this historic school:

All that is little more than a memory now. The Class of 2006 will be the school’s last.

Wingate, a long-troubled institution, is one of 20 public high schools in New York City being phased out over seven years, a historic spate of closures by officials intent on raising student achievement and staff accountability. For the final class, the mood grows glum when talk turns to carrying school spirit forward.

And even for students who will be graduating, this comes as a very difficult time for them: Read the rest of this entry »

What to do with extra classrooms? April 20th, 2006

Received the following email recently about a school in Arizona that has too many empty classrooms…and a call for ideas as how to re-format them to support a team-teaching approach:

I thought I might ask for your direction on finding information regarding an issue I am investigating for my school.

I work at a Middle School in Flagstaff, AZ. Due to a number of factors we have seen a dropping enrollment in the past few years. This will leave
us with 10 unoccupied classrooms next year… I would like to propose giving the space to the students in the way of “Team Rooms”.
Our middle school is divided into teams and I thought some team common space would be a nice use of the extra space. I am envisioning a space that would be open to students before school, lunch and after school that would be monitored by staff… but for the most part furnished, organized and designed by the students themselves. I was wondering if you could point me in the direction of research or models that give students common space within their buildings. My staff is a bit of the old guard and they need convincing. Any light you could shed on this subject would be greatly appreciated.

What would you advise?

Perils of Prosperity for Design Firms April 20th, 2006

2006’s top-500 Design Firms.

Are you on the list? And do you agree with the premise of the ‘perils of prosperity?’

The U.S. economy is strong and so is the construction market. No one knows this more than designers who are at the leading edge of the boom. But just as the recent recession brought new issues and concerns to the design profession, so has prosperity. A lack of people to do the work, the drive for greater efficiencies in light of technological developments and the personnel squeeze, and new and subtle threats in the future have many thinking hard about where the design profession is headed.

Will School Facilities Remain Relevant 50 Years From Now? April 20th, 2006

Thanks to DesignShare’s friend, DK, and his “phatgnat” blog, we are asked to consider a future without school facilities:

Regardless of our roles in society, each of us will be affected by what happens in the field of education in the coming decades. The knowledge gained, the work habits developed, and even the moral values learned by today’s students in our schools will, for every American, at least partially determine the future efficacy of our health care system, affect our place as a country in the world market place, and influence the level of safety and security we will experience individually and collectively in the coming decades.

But what does this have to do with school design, or lack thereof?

A new paper by Kenneth R. Stevenson presents both possibilities and critical issues related to what the future holds for the field of education and the facilities that house it. Will schools as physical places disappear by 2055, and be replaced by virtual schools?

Intriguing question. But what’s really fueling it?
Read the rest of this entry »

I’m Nobody! Who are you? April 19th, 2006

Thanks to Aaron V. for this timely link.

Straight out of the ‘Young Architects Forum’ of the AIA, an interesting take on how architectural firms ‘tell their story’ to win over potential clients. Not only relevant to the field as a whole, but very much of interest when you realize what it takes to draw a school client your way…and what it takes to inspire the community itself. Hopefully.

“I’m Nobody! Who Are You? The Ins and Outs of Authentic Publicity” was written by Joan Capelin, Hon. AIA, Hon. AIA NYS, Fellow PRSA.

A quick excerpt:

Time was when the work came to the architect. Without branding. Without advertising. Without publicity (well, that could be argued). Just good solid family connections and a modicum of luck.

In the late 1970s, all that changed.

Well worth looking closely at the 6 Fame Principles Capelin outlines. Only change I wish she’d make would be to switch the first from “Redefine ‘accomplishment’ as ‘helping the design community succeed’” to “‘helping the community succed through design’”, but perhaps that’s just me.

Your thoughts?

“Digging Deeper” Blog Introduction April 16th, 2006

Well worth checking out the McGraw-Hill Construction website and their “Digging Deeper” blog.

While it certainly covers the ‘obvious subjects’ in the construction industry, it smartly seeks to look at tangential topics as well. Not only good for the unexpected (a positive in the blogosphere), but it reminds us all to re-think the very foundation of expertise we all take for granted.

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