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Archive for June, 2006
To Name Or Not To Name, That Is the Question June 30th, 2006

Thanks to the quick eye of DK and his youth-focused organizations, MediaSnackers and phatgnat, we were led to an NPR story about Wisconsin schools selling naming rights to all sorts of learning spaces. Far more than just naming a stadium after a beloved alumni, this move suggests that in an effort to deal with rising costs and hesitant tax voters schools may have to look at every conceivable opporutnity to raise funds:

Milwaukee’s school district is selling naming rights to everything in sight, from rooms and hallways, to gyms. School administrators think it will be easier to enter into marketing agreements with companies than raise more money from taxes. Marge Pitrof of member station WUWM reports on who might buy these rights, and why.

Not sure if private schools have faired poorly from similar activities to raise endowment funds, but certainly it does offer yet another challenge to the idea of ‘public’ schools. In your opinion, is there any difference between a room being called the John A. Smith Memorial Library vs. the Pepsi Media Center or the Intel Distant Learning Lab?

Check out the link, listen to the podcast, and let us know what you think.

School District Buys Land at $1 Million An Acre June 30th, 2006

Re-read the headline several times just to be sure. $1 million an acre to build new schools outside of Atlanta. Amazing. Humbling. And from what we can gather, this is just the cost of entry for one Georgia school district that is facing extraordinary realities to help with expanding facility needs, as they have to raze the existing properties just to have access to the land itself:

The Fulton County schools will pay an extraordinary amount to make room in Sandy Springs for a new elementary school–topping $1 million an acre. And that doesn’t even cover the cost of leveling the 1960s-era homes sitting on the land.

The school system is buying an established neighborhood, complete with 24 houses and a road ending in a cul-de-sac. Once the occupants clear out, Fulton will tear down the houses and build the school.

The purchase, which should be completed today, is easily among the most expensive land acquisitions made by a public school system in metro Atlanta.

Hard to imagine any voter would be able to get behind such a land acquisition strategy in this day and age of rigorously challenging all investments. Certainly good for the home owners that are part of the program, one can imagine, but good for the kids? Perhaps the ‘life cycle’ issues over time will more than balance out these initial costs. Hard to say. Here’s what they offer in reply to all these questions: Read the rest of this entry »

CEFPI Expands Innovative Program to Introduce Kids to School Design June 30th, 2006

You never know how one story will lead to another, how one conversation will lead to another, how one project will lead to another, but such is the wonderful case in the world of blogging where connections happen so quickly these days.

Yesterday DesignShare had the opportunity to connect with Barbara Worth, the Associate Executive Director for the CEFPI (Council for Educational Facility Planners International) Foundation & Charitable Trust. She had read one of our recent posts on a high school design program sponsored by Texas-based Huckabee, and she was kind enough to ask us to become involved in a progam that is near and dear to her heart:

Just read “High School Students Challenged to Develop Learning Environments for Disaster Zones” – [Huckabee is] to be congratulated for such a great program! And, it struck me, that you are already quasi-participating in School Builidng Week’s School of the Future student design competition. Couldn’t have come at a better time, since we are planning to take the design competition nationwide this year.

Needless to say, DesignShare compliments Barbara, CEFPI, their sponsors/allies, and the evolution of their program as they seek to share their resources with even more kids, teachers and schools. Considering the range of sponsores/allies they have already lined up, there is no doubt in our mind that they stand to make a significant contribution to not only education, but hopefully to help inspire a few young school designers to come out of the pack.

Barbara’s enthusiastic comments continue below: Read the rest of this entry »

From the Mouth of Babes, So To Speak June 30th, 2006

With a voice as eloquent and passionate as this, you sense that in spite of significant changes lying ahead for all of us in design world that successful evolution is certainly viable for the firms/teams that decide to be proactive and innovative rather than be conservatively status-quo:

We understood that we had reached a critical point where, unless we acted, our profession would face extinction. We knew we had to do three things: stay at the cutting edge of research and in turn share newfound knowledge with the entire architectural community, remain open to the possibility of new paradigms and allow invention to be a catalyst for its own necessity, and to utilize IT enabling software to collaborate seamlessly with our clients and the other fields involved in the design, fabrication, and assembly processes.

This reflection is shared with readers who discover “Research, Invention, and Collaboration” written by NY-based Eric Kath, the First Place prize for the recently announced 2006 ArchVoices essay contest. If you’re unfamiliar, ArchVoices stands out in the architectural industry as a critical leverage point for all young professionals making their way through the internship experience. No longer satisfied with simply doing ‘door and toilet details’ and working their way slowly up the ladder without a map, a group of young professionals set out a few years ago to re-write the rules for how knoweldge was gained. And their yearly essay contest speaks to the raw intellect and passion of emerging professionals/leaders everywhere.

As an ex-educator turned school planner, I’d love the same quotation to be written within the educational sector as well. A vision for the necessity and viability of high-quality research, unapologetic invention/innovation, and the need to collaborate nad partner in all sectors. No longer are ’silos’ of expertise or programs viable solutions for the ‘future of learning’.

And hopefully parties from the design community and the education community will begin to see that its in their best intersest to pursue all future school design projects using the same paradigm of intention. All of our futures demand it!

HIgh School Students Challenged to Develop Learning Environments for Disaster Zones June 28th, 2006

Consider the following scenario:

  • Design a school to help rekindle a community devastated by natural or man-made disaster.
  • Design a school that is both adaptive and nomadic for a range of environments regardless of condition.
  • Design a school that is sustainable and priced to allow a community to realistically take advantage of the solution.
  • Design a school that is deliverable to the community regardless of transportation options.
  • Design a school that can help the community stage a “return to normalcy” as rebuilding eventually begins.
  • Now, imagine you’re 16 or 17. It’s summer break. You’re walking into a professional architecture office. You’ve never formally studied architecture before and must learn everything on the fly. You’ve just joined a group of kids you’ve never met before. And you’ve been told that you have one week to not only create an innovative solution to the previous scenario, but you must publically present your ideas to a large audience and professional jury on the final evening.

    Such was the case for a group of 6 high school students this past week who entered the innovative design program called NGDI (standing for the Next Generation Design Institute). The program offered by Huckabee, a K-12 architecture firm in Texas, and co-sponsored by the University of Texas at Arlington School of Architecture, is in its 4th year…but this summer they decided to push the kids to radically re-think the future of school design via a scenario inspired by the recent hurricanes in the Gulf Coast and the tsunami in Indonesia.

    The company’s recent press release offers a bold summation of the potential that comes out of seeing kids dive head first into such programs:

    Each team came up with a different, yet successful solution that met each of the criteria.

    “It was nothing short of impressive,” said Chris Huckabee (Huckabee’s CEO). “Think back on when YOU were 17 and 18. Where were you? Probably laying out by the pool or sitting on the couch watching television. It’s their summer vacation and look how they chose to spend it! They’re sitting in an auditorium surrounded by their family, friends, school administrators, judges and architects- what a tough crowd! These kids are leaders - I can say without question that our future is in good hands.”

    In addition, DesignShare was honored to join other local professionals in the jury panel. Jury members offered feedback to the students that included not only the quality of the design solutions but also to their ability to respond to the ‘audience’ while presenting in a passionate and professional manner.

    Want to learn more?

    Go to the Huckabee website and look for the “Six High School Students Seek to Make a Difference” article on the left side of the page. Contact Huckabee’s Corey Wheat or Jennifer Clariday to learn more about the program.

    HS Math Assignment: Design a School in the Year 2050 June 28th, 2006

    When Apple and Edutopia both point out a teacher as a role model, you should at least raise a curious eyebrow and ask to learn more:

  • Apple’s case study found here.
  • Edutopia’s case study found here.
  • When that teacher challenges her geometry class — great at preparing for tests but a bit overwhelmed when integrating concepts into the real world — to design the school of the future as a way to do ‘real math’, then DesignShare becomes particularly intrigued.

    Such is the case for Mountlake Terrace High School math teacher Eeva Reeder who asked her students to dive into a new class project that would test them on a wide range of skills…and turn them into school designers to boot:

    Working as a member of an architectural team in the year 2050, you are competing against five other companies to win the contract to design a state-of-the-art high school on a given site. You must present your proposed design to a panel of professional architects who will be awarding the contract. Your design must meet the learning needs of students in the year 2050, must accommodate 2,000 students, and must make use of the natural benefits of this particular site, while also preserving at least half of the existing wetland.”

    Care to learn more?

    On June 12 and 13, 2001, the nine design teams comprising Reeder’s 9th-10th grade geometry class presented their state-of-the-art school designs, plans, and budgets to Seattle architects Kirk Wise and Mark Miller. The design that was judged best with regard to concept, use of the site’s features, building and classroom design, and cost would win the competition.

    A GLEF film crew was on hand to document the presentations and collect other artifacts of the students’ work.

    Edutopia presents the work of three teams here.

    Considering Trends in the Design of Public and Academic Libraries June 27th, 2006

    Consider the library’s role in the community, both as a public space and an academic space.

    As we gaze at the future of learning and and to the continual development of communities alike, libraries offer us a striking chance to watch history and trends weave together. Libraries continue to be the last bastion of classic research and civil behavior. At the same time, with the advent of wide-spread technology use, the introduction of ‘coffee shops’ into historically silent lobbies, and the very value of book stacks being called into question, one has to wonder if the library of the future will resemble the quiet/reflective book-dominated spaces of the past.

    To that end, DesignShare was pleased to see a wonderful conversation introduced by Kristen and ArchNewsNow that took place between architects with much to say on library design trends. This was the scenario:

    In celebration of the annual American Library Association Convention being held this month in New Orleans, we asked ArchNewsNow contributor Kenneth Caldwell to interview two leading architects on library design trends.

    Mark Schatz, AIA, a principal with Field Paoli, is well known in the San Francisco Bay Area for his community centers and public libraries. Schatz discusses combining those building types and the public process that is required to get there.

    Ed Dean, AIA, LEED, recently joined San Francisco-based Chong Partners as a project director working on academic and large public libraries. Dean offers some observations about combining these uses.

    We appreciated the entire converstation, but in particular were intrigued by points made about the civic nature of library spaces, creating ‘pre-reading’ zones for younger children, the merger of libraries into commercial spaces, the very process of bringing a community together as new library projects were beginning to be discussed, and the issue of sustainable spaces that can remain flexible. And of course the issue of technology was certainly front-and-center in both public and academic libraries.

    Clearly the future of libraries will not be a mirror reflection of what we’ve all grown-up visiting.

    Challenging the Vision of the Community School Model June 22nd, 2006

    Historically, schools were ‘community’ minded for many reasons. At the very least, the school building was one of the most valued buildings in small communities/villages/towns. The shift to an urban environment took ‘community’ out of the equation, regulating the entire experience to curriculum, programs, spaces, and testing.

    Well, ‘community’ appears to be all the rage today. In the last few years, ‘community’ has become one of those buzz words that seems to show up more and more in school design conversations no matter what part of the world you’re considering. Urban, suburban, villages alike. Schools designed as a ‘community learning center’ is on the tip of everyone’s design tongue.

    While a historical ‘norm’, planners and educators and builders seem to mean something new in this day and age, which certainly seems logical because our context has changed and our needs have evolved.

    To this end, DesignShare is proud to see one of its own, Prakash Nair, challenge the “Community School” conversation by speaking to new solutions: “Community Learning Centers” (CLCs) and the “School As Community” (SAC) model in a recent Edutopia article entitled “Getting Beyond the School As Temple”. He primes the pump here:

    In their eagerness for a school to achieve the status of a community school, education stakeholders, from administrators and planners to parents, are distracted from asking crucial questions such as “As we move deeper into the twenty-first century, what will education look like?” and “How should teaching and learning and, by extension, learning environments respond to changing needs?”
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Ask a Child: What Type of Building Do They Want To Learn In? June 20th, 2006

    It’s not rocket science. It’s not distracting. It’s not value-added. And it’s not an excuse to challenge your PR/marketing team to create a ‘cute’ press release.

    Simply ask a kid what sort of space they’d like to learn in.

    You’ll get your fair share of castles and clouds and malls, but if you listen — really listen with respect and curiosity — you’ll hear thoughtful answers from a young one’s mouth, answers that might not only be logical but might inspire innovative design solutions that can have an impact in real time. And even when a child is not directly involved, it seems imperative that every one of we professionals involved in the design process imagine the answers they’d give if offered the chance.

    The UK’s Guardian has an intriguing story entitled “Classroom with a View” that speaks to the value of kids being asked to participate in the design process. And you can tell something vital is happening when you realize the author is defending process over solution in the following way:

    The actual form successful new school architecture might take could be any number of different shapes, materials and colours. What matters is how the schools are planned, and the spirit in which they are founded, funded and run.

    The “spirit in which they are founded,” indeed!
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Bringing Kids Into the Design Process June 19th, 2006

    At DesignShare, we talk often about the impact of linking design to learning outcomes, childhood development, creating learning communities, etc.

    We also speak about the power of inviting kids into the design process itself. Asking kids what they actually think their schools, learning spaces, playgrounds, etc. should look and feel like. Just listening to their imaginations unfold. And reminding ourselves to go beyond the press release of the moment, but to truly listen, take their ideas seriously, and allow these young thinkers to inspire great design solutions.

    Just received the following email from a parent whose child took part in just such a process. Clearly, this went beyond a single design charette, went beyond writing down a list of kid-wishes. And clearly the long-term impact will extend far beyond one design project for this young person. Her words say it best:

    I just finished reading the article from the Philadelphia Inquirer entitled “It’s Not Just a Gym: Kids win when we let them be part of the team.” (Excerpt: Lankenau High School in the Andorra section of Philadelphia is getting a new gym. The $11 million addition is a very small part of the city school district’s $1.7 billion construction makeover. But it could make a big difference in the future of some Lankenau students, because educators and the project architect took the time to make them a big part of the design team. “I wanted to involve the whole school community in the project,” said architect David Schrader. So he began work last September by involving students in a five-day version of the hands-on brainstorming sessions that architects call a charrette. The students were asked to help come up with options on where the addition should go, how it should look and how related renovations to the existing school should be handled. To give meaningful input, they had to learn about design, engineering, site planning, “green” buildings and landscaping. )

    It is heart warming to me to see the children involved in the process of being a part of the design team. Our children are our future, and we need to let them start becoming a part of the future. Read the rest of this entry »

    What’s the Price of Bad Design? June 19th, 2006

    In the world of school construction, the issue of ‘design’ is often axed in a drive for reverse engineering to save money and prevent the “looks too nice to spend tax dollars on” reaction.

    While everyone knows intutively the impact of being in a poorly designed space, and it doesn’t take an architecture degree for a parent to realize if their child is in a space that was created with an emphasis on learning and design, we still face enormous challenges to defend the value of design in our projects. But can we do anything to reverse the tide of efficiency and front-end economics?

    With this in mind, this story grabbed DesignShare’s attention recently: “New Campaign to Find UK’s Most Depressing Public Building”:

    A new campaign to highlight the impact of bad design on people and the places where we live has been launched by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment.

    CABE believes that bad design is not just about aesthetics: it is about buildings and spaces that don’t work, can’t be maintained, and waste money because they need to be replaced sooner than they should.

    As part of the campaign, the public is being invited to nominate the buildings, streets and spaces that depress them.

    The public survey coincides with the launch today of CABE’s latest publication ‘The Cost of Bad Design’.

    We applaude CABE for focusing on spaces that “don’t work” rather than just sheer beauty or aesthetics. And we also think that the front-end focus on school design more often than not creates spaces that in hind sight not only make the public cringe, but more importantly put the learning process at risk.
    Your thoughts?

    What is DesignShare? DesignShare is the central address for the very best in educational facilities and their impact on the learning process. DesignShare provides an invaluable service as a facilitator of ideas and resources about best practices and innovation in schools from early childhood through the university level. Who is DesignShare’s audience? DesignShare reaches a truly global community of professionals. More than 150,000 architects, planners, educators, and facility decision makers visit the site each month. Architects who specify products for schools and universities make up over half of DesignShare’s total readership. Who are our sponsors?
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