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Archive for May, 2006
Needy Facilities, Falling Enrollment, Rising Construction Costs — What’s a District to Do? May 30th, 2006

It’s a remarkable catch-22.

Your district is facing dropping enrollment but your facilities need to be updated and/or replaced. And construction costs continue to climb and climb and climb with no end in sight.

What do you do? Move forward aggressively to lock in construction budgets/bids? Or hold off until you absolutely need to act?

And if you’re facing a projected $1 billion in facility master plan as is Cincinnati, Ohio, what does such a project scale do to your ability to bring the community and your school district along? Read the rest of this entry »

How Would DaVinci, Einstein, and Jamie Oliver Design Your Classroom? May 24th, 2006

An intriguing concept:


If you sat DaVinci, Einstein, and Jamie Oliver down to design their ideal ‘learning studio’, what would they come up with? And could it be incorporated into our current school facilities?

If you’ve been flipping through the virtual pages of Edutopia recently, you may have noticed a new article written by Randy Fielding, Jeff Lackney, and Prakash Nair entitled “Master Classroom” where they discuss 3 possible “learning studio” designs as conceived through the filter of these master thinkers: Read the rest of this entry »

Schools in the UK Must “Go Green” by 2020 May 24th, 2006

When the UK Secretary of Education Education, Alan Johnson, proclaims the future of school design “must be green” within the next 14 years, the DesignShare community takes notice:

Schools must become more “carbon neutral” by 2020 by reducing pollution and encouraging children to walk or cycle from home, the government says. Education Secretary Alan Johnson also called for lower water and energy use, with some schools in England using solar panels and wind turbines.

Needless to say, when design can positively impact not only the general learning environment, but also the larger realms of social behavior and school finances, it might be worth paying attention to:

He said a government consultation would bring a “win-win situation”, improving pupil behaviour and saving money.

Can green school buildings really make a difference? Mr. Johnson seems to think so…and is betting a great deal on it: Read the rest of this entry »

National School Summit Report to be Released May 17th, 2006

The DesignShare team has been in conversation with the good folks from the KnowledgeWorks Foundation and the American Architecture Foundation recently about the upcoming press conference at the National Press Club in DC to announce the soon-to-be-released report of the National Summit on School Design on June 12, 2006.

GSBDesign This grows out of the ongoing Great Schools by Design (GSBD) inititaves.

This includes the GSBD summit that took place last fall in the Washington DC area. 300 or so of us attended, discussing the future of school design across the national spectrum. Intriguing group convened: plenty of well-known school designers, but also policy folks, mayors, high school kids, developers, researchers, educators, builders, community activists, etc. As anyone knows, if you don’t involve all stakeholders, you’ll never change the daily language of school design. And if we don’t push the acutal language of school design — so that all stakeholders are equals at the table — we’ll still be only re-tooling the assembly line schools of the past except offering fancier window dressing for good measure.

Rumor has it that on stage at the press conference will be some pretty intriguing guys, including: Chad Wick (CEO of KnowledgeWorks), Ron Bogle (CEO of AAF), Robert Ivy (Editor-in-Chief, Architectural Record), Ray Simon (Deputy Secretary, US Dept. of Education), either Arnie Duncan (CEO, Chicago Public Schools) or Robert Hughes (CEO, New Visions for Public Schools), and several others.

The DesignShare team was honored to be asked to be one of 2 respondants to join them on stage. Our schedules will not allow a trip to be made to DC on the 12th, but we anxiously await the formal release of the report…and applaude the efforts of everyone associated with the project.

When Stark School Playgrounds Meet Phillipe Stark May 17th, 2006

Concrete is efficient. Reasonably priced. And satisfactory for bouncing a ball.

But man, other than a few pirate-ship themed playgrounds and a few charming projects receiving awards, rarerly do you designers really roll up their sleeves and re-conceptualize the singularly most important school space in the life of a kid in the typical school.

uk playground Well, perhaps we’re onto a minor revolution over in the UK:

Primary school playgrounds used to be stark tarmac yards where bullies lurked, ancient outdoor lavatories reeked and teachers rarely went. Not any more, fortunately.

Such is the case in one elementary-aged school in England that has grasped the fundamental law of play = learning:

Take Alexandra Infants School in Bromley, Kent. The walled garden behind its red-brick Edwardian building has all-weather surfacing in green and blue. Island clumps of bamboo are ringed and passed by paths made from coloured paving stones. There are carved totem poles with peepholes and a low, flat, wooden dragonfly from which a group of children are jumping before they begin a traditional clapping game.

Joining Forces in Maine to Save On School Heating Costs May 12th, 2006

One of the DesignShare team members grew up in Maine and can attest to the oh-so-cold winters (and springs and falls, too).

This story about a Maine superintendent joining forces with local organizations to save money on rising heating costs demonstrates not just a necessary solution in the M&O side of expenditures, but also speaks to the power of collaboration. From National Public Radio comes this broadcast (note: you can listen to it in its entirety):

Paul Knowles, the superintendent of Maine’s School Administrative District 11, has seen the district’s heating and electricity costs rise nearly 24 percent since last year. By joining with dozens of local organizations, he obtained a yearlong contract to provide heating oil at $2.29 a gallon.

Amazing what we’ll do to save money. But that doesn’t limit us when it comes to the consideration of dynamic partnerships in every other facet of designing, building, and running schools.

Do you have examples that speak to that spirit within your school design projects?

Home Buying Explosion Set Off By Enrollment Ceiling May 11th, 2006

School quality and housing markets have always gone hand in hand.

When a realitor can say little about the demographic make-up of an area, often they are left to describe the local school system. This is the say-it-without-saying-it secret everyone seems to accept as ethical. And clearly attendance zone boundaries, ‘neighborhood’ or ‘walkable’ schools, and language like that couches other expectations as to the connection between a school and local residents. But generally, changes in housing trends remain fairly slow-moving when it comes to the connection with local schools. Generally.

The DesignShare team took notice of a story out of San Antonio, Texas recently when an enrollment cut-off for schools sparked a massive home-buying trend as families aggressively sought new homes so that their kids were guaranteed spots in coveted schools: Read the rest of this entry »

Has Harvard Gone Back to Ugly Buildings or Stepped into the Future? May 10th, 2006

Thanks to Kristen’s continual great work at ArchNewsNow for this original story:

In the hallowed halls and ivy-covered campuses of Harvard University, there has been much talk of the new B-school that is being built ‘across the river’ in Alston. Much ado about the impact on the local community, certainly, but now there is concern from the vantage point of the students themselves that Harvard has lapsed back into the 60’s and 70’s for their design aesthetic:

The 1960s and 1970s may be the only decades in human history—at Harvard, anyway—where ugly buildings were somehow desirable. All over campus, starkly geometric concrete slabs were erected like tombstones, housing students and offices, and raising the ire of those who prefer serene beauty to hideousness for diversity’s sake.

We are not worried that the University will repeat the same mistakes, but after the presentation of sketches for Allston’s first new building—a science complex—students cannot help but wonder if the University will make all new mistakes, albeit of the same genus.

The student editorial gives a quick description (albeit a bit biased, as an editorial suggests): Read the rest of this entry »

Re-thinking the School Library of the Future May 10th, 2006

Although not a post specific to school design, the DesignShare team was interested to read Doug Johnson’s “Blue Skunk Blog” recently when we came across a post he offered about interviewing prospective media center specialists. Why was this important?

Johnson offers a series of potential interview questions for other school library leaders. Under a list of alternative questions, he offers the following:

What your job will be like ideally in five years? Answer honestly in ways that both fit your teaching style and personality as well as what you think is best for the students and teachers you serve.

  • How will the media center be different than what it is now?
  • What new resources and services might it offer?
  • How will the skills you teach be different? How will the methods use to teach them be different?
  • Under what conditions would a child come to the media center?
  • Certainly questions that would be found at the center of any dynamic school design team’s efforts with an eye on 21st century learning environments.

    What would your answers be on a global level? On a local level?

    And wil you ask these of your next school community client, in one manner or another?

    An Innovative Teenage Unit for Cancer Care in the UK May 9th, 2006

    While not a school, the following project speaks to the heart of re-thinking the future of schools and learning environments geared towards young people. But even on its own right, this story about a pioneering teenage unit for cancer care in the UK deserves special attention:

    A £700,000, 665m2 specialist unit for cancer patients aged between 12 and 21 has been completed at University College London Hospital (UCLH).

    Funded by the Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT) the unit was shaped by international architecture, planning and design consultancy Llewelyn Davies Yeang (LDY) and is situated within the young persons’ unit, which forms part of the new UCLH building completed by the same architects in 2005.

    The design brief was for a teenage-friendly environment for the delivery of state of the art clinical care, alongside sensitivity towards social and psychological needs. LDY said: “The unit dilutes the institutional atmosphere of many healthcare environments.” The TCT unit can accommodate 19 young patients, in nine single bed wards and two multi-bed wards. Bedrooms and en suite bathrooms are individualised and were designed with the input of patients. Direct natural light and views across the London skyline enhance each patient bedroom. Rooms also feature coloured LED lighting to enable patients to control the ambience of their own space.

    50 Lessons Storytelling for the School Design Profession May 9th, 2006

    If you were to pick 50 ‘leaders’ in the world of school design — globally — who would they be?

    And why would you select them as a voice-to-listen-to as we look forward to the future of designing true 21st century learning environments?

    This comes to mind because of a recent e-newsletter from David Gurteen that we received in which he shares yet another video in the “50 Lessons” initiative: Read the rest of this entry »

    To Revit or Not To Revit May 8th, 2006

    “If you want to survive, you’re going to change; if you don’t, you’re going to perish. It’s as simple as that.” —Thom Mayne, FAIA, 2005 Pritzker Prize Winner, during the Building Information Modeling Panel Discussion at the 2005 AIA national convention in Las Vegas.

    Not an everyday conversation quite yet, but more and more members of the greater school design community are beginning to explore the long-range benefits of BIM (building information modeling) on design projects.

    The following quotation by Norman Strong, FAIA, (one of 4 national vice presidents for the AIA) was sent to DesignShare by Aaron Vorwerk of K-12 Architecture firm Huckabee recently. Often the assumption is that only large firms can afford to interweave this technology into their project processes and into a current beta-test project. Or that school communities/districts aren’t hungering for such an evolutionary shift in design practices.

    As Strong writes, however, the potential for small firms and a very diverse client base to achieve remarkable gains from this software is very real:

    My work with the AIA regarding issues of project delivery, BIM, interoperability, and integrated practice over the last couple of years has convinced me: This change is real and it is already here.

    This revolution is already changing my firm, and it will change yours—big firms and small firms alike. Actually, small firms are using the software more prevalently than the big ones, so this is definitely not just a big firm/big project issue. And although BIM is an enabler, it’s decidedly not just about BIM—it’s a cultural shift that will touch everything we do. Our profession will be utterly different, transformed, within the next 5–10 years. Read the rest of this entry »

    NYC and Chicago Debate the Small Schools Movement May 3rd, 2006

    From EdWeek comes this story of an unfolding debate out of NYC and Chicago in the realm of closing schools in order to open up smaller academies. An excerpt:

    Major initiatives in New York City and Chicago to close unsuccessful schools and create small schools in their wake are stirring criticism from some community activists, local politicians, and others.

    Beyond the resistance that school closures often generate, some critics charge that the growing scale of the efforts is producing negative ripple effects on other schools in the cities.

    In the world of school design, do you consider this a worthy trend or something with little long-term value?

    Proof Positive of the Small School Movement Before There Was Such a Thing May 3rd, 2006

    From Edutopia comes this striking story of one large historical school in NYC being re-designed as 6 different ’small schools’/academies that has had remarkable success long before the small-school movement took hold An excerpt:

    What first strikes you upon entering the Julia Richman Education Complex (JREC), in the heart of New York City, is how neatly the past intersects the present.

    Rows of yearbooks from previous decades line the high beige walls as today’s students whiz by on their way to class. The students of 2005 bear little resemblance to the photographs gracing the old annuals, though. It isn’t just the clothes and the hairstyles that have changed. The building that was once a high school for thousands of adolescent girls is now home to six schools, serving students from prekindergarten through high school.

    It’s past:

    Built in 1923, Julia Richman (named after the city’s first woman district superintendent of schools) was a thriving all-girls high school for 50 years. It began to founder in the mid-’70s, battered by budget cuts, overcrowding, low student achievement, and crime.

    The turn-around…

    In 1993, when the school’s graduation rate hovered around 35 percent, the school board voted to close it. Instead of giving up, however, they decided to reconfigure one large failing high school. It was a radical move — well ahead of the high school reform efforts that have since taken root countrywide.

    And when they talk about a community by design, they mean precisely just that: Read the rest of this entry »

    Considering 21st Century School Libraries May 3rd, 2006

    Interesting article on libraries that have been granted ’21st century status’ by Scholastic Administrator magazine. An excerpt:

    Let’s face it. The librarian we all remember, studiously stamping and shelving hardcovers according to the Dewey Decimal System, stopping only to shush a group of rowdy students, is officially a thing of the past (if she ever actually existed in the first place).

    School libraries are adapting to a changing landscape as the wealth of information available digitally grows. The sheer volume of it and its varying levels of quality and accuracy require new thinking about how students locate and process data. The librarian’s alter ego, the media specialist, is leading the way. Media specialists are essential in any school that wants to turn out research-savvy students who can identify and analyze quality information.

    Here are the stories of three librarians boldly blazing the trail. As Janet Williams of Charlotte County (FL) Public Schools says, “The school library is not dying, but it’s changing. Libraries fashioned like 20th-century facilities will die.” How healthy is your library compared with these three?

    Thanks to Doug Johnson and the “Blue Skunk Blog” for this link.

    When School Design Enhances the Entire Community May 2nd, 2006

    From District Administration Magazine (focusing on K-12 Education Leaders) comes a timely article on the impact of stylish design, energy-responsible buildings, and smart layouts can have a positive impact on the greater community.

    Of particular value to us is the focus on teachers having an increased freedom to teach in innovative ways due to savvy school design. An excerpt:

    Schools with innovative and flexible designs that maximize natural daylight and save energy can benefit teachers, community members and students. Students thrive in sun-filled classrooms; teachers have the freedom to explore alternative instructional models; and community members enjoy bottom-line budget savings through energy reductions.

    Lakes Community High School in Lake Villa, Ill., and Hassan Elementary School in Rogers, Minn., are two schools designed and built with energy efficiency in mind, but also with careful attention to the school’s appearance. These schools exemplify how a new school can encourage collaboration, fit the current and future curriculum and facilitate interaction between the school and the community.

    Do you have suggestions within your own community of school designs/plans that have had a similar impact? Of projects that echo one interviewed school leader who challenged his team to “not let design get in the way of what the future will bring us.”

    Build It Whether Federal Funding Comes or Not May 2nd, 2006

    Imagine sitting down with a group of teachers discussing the unfolding story of the ‘rebuilding’ of Gulf States schools. Now, imagine asking them for their opinion as to the progress federal officials/agencies have made in getting schools rebuilt and ready for kids to return.

    What do you imagine they’d say?

    In a fascinating and telling article from USAToday recently, this very topic was explored, shedding light on how schools are coping in spite of full funding as promised. An excerpt to help you test the waters:

    Eight months after Hurricane Katrina flattened the Gulf Coast region and displaced about 372,000 students, school officials say restrictions on how they can spend federal relief money are slowing down their efforts to rebuild and reopen schools. A few lawmakers say the effort should be stripped from the Federal Emergency Management Agency altogether and handed to a proposed “education recovery czar” at the U.S. Education Department.

    In many cases, superintendents have started rebuilding efforts on their own, crossing their fingers that federal aid would follow.

    “We’re in the position that we’re funding the work, waiting for the check to come later,” says Mobile, Ala., superintendent Harold Dodge. He says he hasn’t seen a dime of promised “restart” money from the U.S. Education Department. One of his schools was destroyed, and most others were damaged.

    The goal of this post is not to add one more insult to injury where FEMA is concerned. It is to highlight the fact that many communities and districts must simply act first and hope the money follows in time. Hopefully they will be supported over time.

    Shedding Daylight on Learning Spaces May 2nd, 2006

    Ask most kids, teachers, and visitors to a classroom, ‘daylight’ feels good. Rooms with the right degree of daylight are always called out as being more comfortable, easier to work in, and frankly more desireable. Some even argue that they improve learning and achievement, too.

    To that end, it’s always worth exploring research and thought-pieces that work to explore the positive impact of daylighting on learning environments. Such is the case in this recent article excerpt, “Bring It On” (4.1.06), found in American School & University magazine:

    In recent years, scores of educators and designers have been won over to the view that natural light — provided by the sun instead of bulbs or tubes — is desirable and beneficial for education facilities.

    Studies that show students performing better in classrooms that have the right kinds of daylighting bear out the intuitive beliefs of many teachers that a classroom with natural light is a more appealing learning climate. Daylight also enables schools to trim their utility bills by becoming less dependent on electricity and artificial light.

    But acknowledging that daylighting benefits schools won’t transform every classroom with a window into an ideal learning environment.

    For daylighting to have the desired effect on learning and energy costs, designers and educators must plan carefully.

    We appreciate the idea that ‘daylighting’ is not a guaranteed cure-all, but must be carefully thought out in order to help create an ideal learning environment.

    How to Balance Safety and Aesthetics May 2nd, 2006

    Is it possible for school design to support calls for safety/security while ensuring an optimal learning environment that feels welcoming?

    “Defensive Design” (American School & University, 4.1.06) attempts to answer just that question. An excerpt:

    Although violent crime in schools has showed a steady decline in recent years, it remains a serious concern, and administrators are continually looking for more effective approaches to school safety.

    At the same time, the best school environments are not only safe and secure, but also attractive and comfortable. The right school setting can generate enthusiasm, self-esteem and academic achievement.

    One such setting is an open physical environment. It can enhance a building’s aesthetics and encourage learning. Open spaces can increase a sense of awareness, personal control and ownership among students and staff. These factors can promote positive behavior and thus, reduce crime risks.

    When Schools Were Built Too Big May 2nd, 2006

    Generally, one hears frustration due to inadequate space per child in a classroom, or schools that do not have enough square footage to allow for all necessary activities. Rarely do you see a headline that shouts in the opposite direction, as is the case in the state of Massachussets these days:

    Many Schools Grew Beyond Past State Size Limits

    More than 90 percent of the 250 or so Massachusetts public schools built or renovated in the past decade were bigger than state rules dictated. The Boston Glove reports that the review by the state School Building Authority attributes the out-of-control spending to a lack of oversight and a poorly staffed Department of Education that simply didn’t enforce basic standards for school size.

    Original link (requires registration).

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