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Archive for November, 2006
Voice of Reason: Can a School Be Safe and Welcoming? November 29th, 2006

With the recent US-based school shootings in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Colorado, it was not surprising to hear that President Bush had called for a national summit (entitled “School Safety”) of ideas to speak to safety/security issues in US schools. What would come from it — in real terms — was to be determined.

The District Administration magazine offers a decent survey of the event, indicating that it may have sparked idea but no clear decisions were made. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and Attorny General Albert Gonzales were in attendance, along with a range of experts from the fields of education, school design, security, etc.

What grabbed our attention, in particular, was Paul Houston’s comments about ‘balance’. Note: Houston is the executive director at the American Association of School Administrators in Arlington, Va. He offered:

Besides developing safety and emergency plans-which some schools still lack-he says educators also need to follow the ABCs of school safety:

  • Awareness: All staff need to be trained on how to recognize and handle potentially dangerous situations at their school, whether it’s a stranger roaming the halls or a strange truck parked in the school’s lot.
  • Balance: Educators need to develop a balanced perspective and approach to school safety. Over-reacting by building a prison like environment in schools can create even bigger safety issues.
  • Control and Connection: School administrators need to control their campuses by connecting with students through staff or school resource officers who work in collaboration with local police.
  • Equally important, we appreciate his reminder that schools should support the very human experience we’re trying to protect in the first place:

    “Schools should be a place of some joy and of a sense of openness,” Houston says. “You want kids not to feel so repressed and beaten down. So you have to have the view of there are some things you can do to marginally make them safer but is the price worth it? I’m not sure it is.”

    In a day and age of increased need for security measures, how do we strike a balance? Your thoughts?

    What Does the Future of Learning Demand of Us? November 29th, 2006

    We’re curious: what does the school of the learning demand of us as educators, designers and planners, and community members? And how will it affect the educational facilities and campuses we create?

    Consider a child born today in 2006.

    They will roughly graduate high school around the year 2024 assuming they continue relatively uninterrupted in a traditional manner. What will it mean to adequately “design for the future of learning” to adequately serve their learning needs over the span of their young lives? How about well after high school graduation, when they enter higher education, professional certification programs, or vocational training spaces? How are we taking into account the classic roles society will require as well as professions not even yet in existence? And will such spaces equally serve their life-learning needs as in a multiplicity of ways across their personal, social, and professional roles?

    For many of us, school design and planning in the 21st century now extends far beyond the literal building and campus itself. Long gone is the traditional school house as an icon for learning. Yes, basic shelter and classic ‘lecture’ spaces will forever be valued. But the overall model for school of the past is being replaced with new expectations for learning and society. While the school house image continues to persist, the rational for such spaces becomes less and less vital with each day. Or better said, the ‘purpose’ of the building and campus is changing, and thus inviting new design strategies to support learning in the future.

    For some, even the core business of schools is up for grabs in a day and age of ubiquitous information access. When information is available everywhere via the Internet, the very future of the schol building must be explored.

    How do we design spaces that engages and sparks collaboration? Provides the ‘just-in-time’ learning resources and spaces needed for tomorrow’s learners? True 21st century learning environments (read: “School 2.0″) demands we frame bold questions and research, seek cross-pollination, embrace new technologies, and expect collaboration as a means to innovative solutions. This is true not only of school design teams, but of the very leaners we’re serving as well.

    What do we mean by a school? When will it be used? Who are the learners and teachers? What does learning look like and how do spaces reflect that? Are there any non-learning spaces in the school of the future, or is every square meter seen as potential collaboration space? And how do we build a school/campus that serves the needs of today’s learners while being agile enough to be relevant in the future as well? Is this a square meter and life cycle issue? A space naming and allocation issue? A resource and political issue? Or a deeper paradigm shift?

    Look around.

    Google and Wikipedia are competing with the traditional library space for your student’s attention. Starbucks and similar “third spaces” are not only supporting entreprenurial and social relationships, but they are becoming a viable model for school spaces in the future — both on campus and off. Hand held PDA’s, cell phones and the $100 laptop program (OLPC) that nobody will be cut off from the Internet, as well as beginning to suggest that computer labs may have to be re-commissioned in time. Possibly not even necessary in the first place. Second Life, Bebo, and MySpace are becoming ad hoc ‘learning environments’ as well as social networking communities for many of our students. The Web2.0 (blogging, etc.) is beginning to re-write the rules of expertise, information sharing, collaboratoin, publication, and learning, thus making the traditional ‘teacher wall’ or ‘front of the room’ an antiquated model for many students. Podcasting means that students no longer have to attend their college classes to be in ‘attendance.’ MIT is giving access to all of their courses for free on the Net. The world, as Thomas Friedman suggests, is becoming very flat and very connected. And information — the prime currency of education’s past — is no longer held as a monopoly by schools and libraries alone. Instead, learning is becoming less and less about getting information, and more and more about evaluating and re-mashing information. This undoubtedly will have an impact on space design and allocation. And what school spaces actually engage learning and learners.

    And none of this takes into consideration the growth of homeschooling, virtual schools and districts, early college programs, a re-branding of traditional vocational programs/spaces, political and social demands split between a ‘back to basics’ vs. a ‘the world is flat’ approach to modern education, and the absolute fear that bullying, shootings, and terrorism puts our schools and students at great risk.

    In short, the rising generation of “digital natives” and the increasing pressure on school facilities to support vast new ways of learning (on top of the myriad of society’s needs that other organizations are less and less able to serve) challenges us all. We believe that each of us, very school design stakeholder, must re-imagine the very foundations of what educational facilities will mean in the future. This is true in ever corner of the globe whether in Melbourne, Glasgow, Austin, Sowetto, Singapore, Chicago, Jakarta, Oslo, or San Paulo. And we’re just beginning to get our hands wrapped around what a true 21st century learning environment means.

    So, once again think of that child born today in 2006. Potentially graduating in 2024. How will the act of learning and the spaces to serve a learning life evolve? And are we prepared to support them based on the facility decisions were making today?

    We welcome your answers, suggestions, ideas, and collaboration!

    Further Exploring Microsoft’s School of the Future November 15th, 2006

    Thanks to the quick eye/ear of Judy Marks, Associate Director of the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities, we were alerted to an interesting broadcast about one of our 2006 DesignShare Award winners: The Microsoft School of the Future (Recognized Value Award winner).

    She pointed us to a recent episode of the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer that focused on the school’s efforts to integrate cutting edge technology into the academic lives of low-income students in Philadelphia. Note: the episode can be downloaded as video or audio presentation as well.

    The correspondant starts off with an introduction that gets right to the “impact” question:

    West Philadelphia has the reputation of being a rough part of town, not the kind of place that most cities would use to test out a new approach to public education. But this is where the school district has chosen to build what it calls the school of the future. It’s a gleaming $62-million edifice constructed on former park land.

    In telling the story of this unique partnership between the City of Philadelphia and Microsoft, the report shares the voices of a wide range of stakeholders. This includes parents and students, which we were most pleased to see, as well as the school’s Chief Learner, Shirley Grover, and representatives of her teaching team. Additionally, Mary Cullinane (who heads Microsoft’s U.S. Partners in Learning initiatives), Bill Gates, and Paul Vallas, CEO of the Philadelphia School System, were also included.

    A couple of key sound bytes that caught our attention in particular:

    Paul Vallas spoke of the reasons why the city partnered with Microsoft…and what it could provide over time:

    It was advantageous to us because, at the end of the day, the human resources is what we’re seeking, and sometimes money can’t buy high-quality human resources. And it’s advantageous to them, because it’s just not about them writing us a check. It’s about them putting some of their best and brightest on a project that is dear to their heart and that they’re committed to.

    Shirley Grover talking about partnerships:

    The partnering on the outside is important to sort of have us — we’ve always looked inwardly as educators. It’s sort of like been our little world, and we’ve looked in. We thought we knew the answers to what needed to be.

    And I think, over the years, what’s happened is we’ve recognized the fact that we need to look outwardly, also, that is has to be dynamic, both inside and outside, because we’re shaping kids for the world and not just for education.

    Ryan Wheeler, student, discusses the culture of success that is already taking shape here:

    They want you to succeed, so they’re like just, “Go ahead. You can do it. You can do it.” They give us time. They want us to succeed, so they keep pressuring us to do — because they’re determined for us to take another step higher.

    Diane Jass Ketelhut, Temple University, speaks as to the challenges that present itself when looking at a forward-thinking model like this school, and what lessons and long-term impact can be taken away for an entire city and school system:

    If I was a student and I went to a school that had been built 50 years ago, was run down, and I walked in everyday, the message I’m receiving is, “My school doesn’t matter. Therefore, I must not matter.”

    I walk into a school that’s $65 million was spent on, and I say, “Wow, I was selected for this school. I must matter. And, therefore, this is an important place to be, and I have to live up to the expectations of me.”

    And so it’s very difficult to know whether what they’re doing is because of their educational model, the business model, the technology, or just the fact that somebody spent time preparing and creating a good environment for learning.

    We also appreciate the paradox of creating a state-of-the-art school for over $60 million that can serve only a fraction of a city’s student population. Diane Jess Ketelhut speaks to this in ways that are hard to ignore:

    We have a school district here in Philadelphia that has 200,000 students in it, and yet they’ve spent $65 million fixing up one school for 500 students. While that’s great and this is a model, is it a model for the rest of the Philadelphia schools?

    It’s unlikely they can afford to do that with the other 40 or 50 schools that are in the school district. And therefore, one wonders whether this is money well-spent from that aspect, whereas what could we have done to raise the level for all students somewhat, as opposed to a lot for a small group of students?

    What do you think?

    Will the Microsoft School for the future — as an architectural and educational model — end up having a scaled impact on communities around the US and the world, or will it be seen ultimately as a profound experiment for 500 students alone?

    DesignShare Saddened by Loss of John Mayfield November 15th, 2006

    It is with heavy heart that we pass on the news of John Mayfield’s death this week. John has been a friend of DesignShare for many years and a passionate voice in our annual Awards program as a long-standing reviewer. He passed away on November 14th as the result of a heart attack. His funeral will take place on November 21st in South Australia. Condolences can be sent to:

    Ann Gorey
    Building Management, Strategic Services
    Department for Transport, Energy and Infrastructure
    GPO Box 1072 Adelaide SA 5001
    tel 08 8226 5340
    fax 08 8226 5588

    Ed Kirbride’s recollection:

    “Gentleman John’s influence on quality school design for students has been important to our international community. We have had a wider understanding of our world and student needs since we met John at our CEFPI International UEF Symposium in Baltimore, Maryland in the Fall of 1999.

    We and the students of yesterday, today and tomorrow are grateful for John Mayfield and his contributions.”

    Prakash Nair’s recollection:

    “John was the brainchild of the Barcelona conference and we are glad that we got to see him do what he loved best, to work with him and share many happy memories together.”

    Randy Fielding’s recollection:

    “John’s was a joyful voice on the planet, and a beacon of intelligence. He was a champion for big ideas about learning, and also for the smaller projects that others missed.

    During the DesignShare 2003 awards review, John called our attention to an Aboriginal school in Oak Valley that no one else had noticed. He wrote: “The school’s aim is to provide ‘ngapartji ngapartji’ which is the Anangu concept of equal and reciprocal giving and sharing for everyone’s benefit.”

    Ngapartji ngapartji is a good description of who John was. We were blessed to have known him.”

    Biographical background that speaks to the enormous expertise, contributions and spirit that John possessed:

    John Mayfield has had a long involvement with Education as a teacher and senior administrator.

    On graduation he was appointed to the Adelaide Boys High School from which he gained promotions in the State Education service to Science teaching positions at South Australian Secondary Schools. In 1967 he was awarded to a Churchill Fellowship to study Science Education in several countries. He returned to South Australia where he was appointed as a Consultant and later Superintendent in Education. In 1970-72, accompanied by his family, he studied at Harvard Graduate School of Education in the USA gaining his Doctorate Degree.

    John Mayfield returned to South Australia where he held senior positions in the State Education Department including Director of Facilities and Deputy Director General Education from 1982-89. During this period, he was elected a Fellow of the Australian College of Education and held numerous State and National appointments including President of the Adelaide College of Advanced Education, Chair of various committees of the Australian Schools Commission and (Acting) Director General of Technical and Further Education in South Australia. In 1989, he was seconded as Senior Advisor to the Department of Premier and Cabinet where he helped develop the proposals which gained the MFP-Australia Project for South Australia.

    From 1990 to 1994, he held the position of Manager of Education Business Development in the MFP-Australian Project from which he retired to establish Danton Services International offering a range of Educational consulting services.

    John has had a long involvement with the OECD Program on Educational Buildings based in Paris. He has held positions of Chairman of the 21 nation steering committee and Senior International Consultant to the Program.

    Community Service: John Mayfield has been active in the service of the community. He served a term as an elected member of the East Torrens District Council, has been a member of the Council and Trustee of the Pembroke School in South Australia, a Director of the Rotary Club of Adelaide, a Member of the Board of Aged Care and Housing Group and the Trustee for Science for the Alumni Association of the University of Adelaide.

    “Second Life” Vying to be the Campus of the Future November 15th, 2006

    Whether an educator or school planner, one would be hard pressed to not take notice of this recent provocation from CNN:

    The classroom of the future isn’t on a college campus. It’s in the virtual world of “Second Life.”

    For those not in the-know, “Second Life” is a virtual world where:

    …virtual residents — cartoonish-looking characters controlled via keyboard and mouse — create anything their hearts desire.

    Also known as avatars, the residents start up businesses, stage their own concerts, sell real estate and design fashion lines. Reuters news agency even has a correspondent based in the cyber community.

    But what impact does this have in the world of education?

    A growing number of educators are getting caught up in the wave. More than 60 schools and educational organizations have set up shop in the virtual world and are exploring ways it can be used to promote learning.

    The three-dimensional virtual world makes it possible for students taking a distance course to develop a real sense of community, said Rebecca Nesson, who leads a class jointly offered by Harvard Law School and Harvard Extension School in the world of “Second Life.”

    “Students interact with each other and there’s a regular sense of classroom interaction. It feels like a college campus,” she said.

    She holds class discussions in “Second Life” as well as office hours for extension students. Some class-related events are also open to the public — or basically anyone with a broadband connection.

    Heck, when a Harvard Law class is begin taught in “Second Life” complete with a professor avatar and each student taking on the virtual identify of their choice, all while participating in the full classroom experience, you know something is beginning to gain momentum.

    One of the critical ‘drawbacks’ for many who challenge alternatives to the ‘real’ F2F experience of attending classes — whether it be via a virtual university or a “Second Life” course — lies in whether or not the student is actually participating, and whether the participation affects the other members of the course. The following is offered as a testament to the potential of “Second Life” courses:

    Most people think online learning doesn’t require participation or engagement with course material, he said. But in “Second Life” there’s real-time interaction, which means students need to engage in the discussion — much as if they were sitting in a brick and mortar classroom.

    John Lester, community and education manager at Linden Lab, the creator of “Second Life,” echoed that view. “There is a real human being behind every avatar — the people are very real. It’s just the medium is different,” he said.

    This, of course, calls into question whether or not this rising trend of virtual education, from the University of Phoenix to avatar-filled “Second Life” courses will have an impact of note upon the school planning/design community. In otherwords, as more and more educational experiences can be given robust life in a virtual context, what impact does this have on brick-n-mortar facility decisions?

    Your thoughts?

    Pushing Beyond the Design of a Building November 3rd, 2006

    An Oregon (US) community seeks something bold as they move forward with the creation of true 21st century schools. Powerful vision, it seems:

    “People tend to think about designing buildings based on what they already know,” said Ken Noah, the district’s superintendent. “I wanted us to think about serving students in 2025 and 2050 — the concept, goals and vision of a 21st-century high school.”

    And for this community, it appears to be moving beyond the buiding itself:

    While neighboring school districts are making the final push for support of Nov. 7 bond measures, the Gresham-Barlow School District is unveiling the first step in its 2008 bond campaign.

    On Tuesday night, a committee of community members and district staff presented its vision of a new high school in Damascus. But, the recommendations had little to do with architecture, paint color and carpet choices.

    So. What does a school that truly serves and engages students in 2025 and 2050 look like? And how do we answer that question in a way that combines the design with the mission?

    Prompting Schools to Go Wireless November 3rd, 2006

    We were reminded of an ahead-of-the-curve article previously published here at DesignShare — “Wired vs. Wireless” – after reading a recent article at Education Week entitled “Technology Upgrades Prompt Schools to Go Wireless”:

    As educational software and web sites become increasingly rich in multimedia, and more schools adopt one-to-one laptop computer initiatives, districts are turning to high-speed wireless networks to make better use of that software and bandwidth-heavy interactive Web sites.

    Students and educators want the “bigger pipes” the newer wireless networks provide, which is one reason why both K-12 and higher education are in the forefront of this technology trend, according to experts such as Rachna Ahlawat. She is a research director with the Gartner Group, a Stamford, Conn.-based firm specializing in information technology research.

    The new networks can handle the plethora of wireless devices, such as personal digital assistants and Voice over Internet Protocol phones—telephones that convert analog audio signals to digital data, then transmit that over the Internet—that educators now use, Ms. Ahlawat said.

    “Education is one of the biggest [markets] for wireless right now,” she said.

    Perhaps the vision of the “Wired vs. Wireless” article is alive and well afterall!

    Are Nature-Oriented Campuses too ‘Expensive’ to Design? November 3rd, 2006

    Mmm. The following quotation from a recent article out of Arizona (US) about the need to change campus design due to the expense of having too many buildings and exterior walls seems to suggest something deeper about why we design schools in the first place:

    “(Campus style) is fun. It looks good. It’s fresh. But is it really necessary?” asked John Arnold, interim executive director of the state board.

    Arizona schools often use ‘open’ campus designs due to the mild climate. Clearly, as the director states above, the atmosphere of an open campus that connects students to nature has some benefits. But it also seems that such benefits of a campus designed in human/nature terms is a little too expensive for some leaders to justify these days. One can’t argue with costs as a compelling part of the school design process. When campuses, districts, states, nations look to maximize their educational facility construction dollars, obviously good people are going to look at every expenditure. But one has to ask if our quest to simply save dollars puts something more vital at risk.

    Didn’t school design of the 70’s — minimize glazing and any sort of window feature in an effort to save on energy costs — teach us anything about the long-term impact of cutting our students/teachers off from the natural world around us? Aren’t the vast majority of us well beyond describing schools that invest in daylighting, natural ventilation, vistas and views, natural relationships with nature and the larger community as “fun” (as the director argues)? Aren’t we at a point where we can finally begin to see that the ‘cost’ of a school design, over the life cycle of the building and community, extends well beyond the initial costs of external walls?

    Perhaps we’d be wise to follow Milton Chen’s lead in his recent Edutopia editorial (”Curing Nature Deficit Disorder”) and review of Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods. Perhaps we’d be wise to read more about the “Inside-Outside Connection” design pattern. Perhaps we’d be wise to consider ways that leaders — such as those in Arizona — can accomplish the same financial goals while still protecting the underlying human experience of being in classrooms and on campuses.

    Your thoughts?

    The Re-Booting of MIT’s Famed Media Labs November 3rd, 2006

    Feeling like a very awe-struck and engaged kid roaming around a learning and technology candy shop is the sensation of spending time in MIT’s famed Media Labs, a design, technology, and education epicenter of innovation. In some respects, it epitomizes the best of what a learning environment can inspire due to what the spaces are meant to engage over time.

    Many of you may recall that the Media Lab was due for a major expansion a few years ago. The crash caused the university to pause the now-$120 million project designed by Fumihiko Maki. Architectural Record, however, reports that the mothballs have come off and the project is back underway:

    Unrealized during MIT’s recent spate of marquee projects, the Media Center project had to be resold to decision makers as a space that would benefit numerous departments and the greater campus community, according to Adele Naude Santos, dean of MIT’s school of architecture and planning. “There’s a larger mission than serving one entity,” she says. During the go-go ’90s, the Media Lab, avatar of the so-called new economy’s melding of digital media, advanced design, and marketing, proposed funding the building itself through mostly corporate donations. As the tech bust proved, Santos explains, “that was not a tenable position.” MIT wound up investing in the project along with corporate and private donors.

    Here is more on the project expansion from MIT itself.

    We also were pleased to note 2 programs that will be housed in the expansion that have great promise for the future of school design and learning: the Okawa Center for Future Children and the LEGO Learning Lab.

    “We Need Agile Thinking” and Schools to Match November 3rd, 2006

    As many of you know, DesignShare is passionate about innovative school design around the world. Even more importantly, we’re passionate about how we “design for the future of learning.” This demands understanding the critical learning trends, conflicts, opportunities, and debates that will fuel the need for innovative educational facilities.

    To that end, we have deep appreciation for thinkers that push our thinking well beyond the physical ‘walls’ of the school buiding, well beyond the ‘fences’ of the campus itself. This often means stretching beyond the obvious sources and experts in search of provocative voices that are pushing the deeper conversations that are having an undeniable impact on education itself. The “Creating Passionate Users” blog is just such one source. While their main thrust lies in the connection between business and technology, especially how it relates to how the brain is impacted as well as how to apply brain-based techniques to improve learning, there is much to adapt from their writing. And trust us; while they are not afraid to throw punches, they are always passionate, creative, and diverse in their thinking. And they are one of the top-rated blogs in existence with an equally passionate following.

    They recently wrote the following in a post on the sad state of engineering and math programs in the US educational system, although we suspect it has implications far beyond one nation as we all look towards the future:

    “Our educational institutions–at every level–need drastic changes or we’re all screwed. The generation of students we’re turning out today need skills nobody really cared about 50, 40, even 20 years ago. Where we used to prepare students for a “job for life”, now we must prepare students to be jobless. We must prepare them to think fast, learn faster, and unlearn even faster…

    The Waterfall Model of education is failing like never before. We need Agile Learning.

    Three of the many people who’ve been leading the charge on this are Roger Schank, Dan Pink (his “Whole New Mind” book is a must-read), and computing/learning guru Alan Kay.

    We were very pleased to note their mention of Roger Schank. Many of you will recall a piece about Roger’s ideas entitled “Death to the Classroom” that was published here at DesignShare. Likewise, we were pleased to see the blog mention Daniel Pink. Many of DesignShare’s community believe that Daniel Pink’s recent best-seller, A Whole New Mind, has enormous potential to influence new ways of thinking about the future of school design. Pink’s premise of a merger of right- and left-brain thinking by imagining life beyond the “information age” (linear, one-way, expert-driven learning) where schools (and all of society) respond to the rising “conceptual age” (pattern-based, symphonic, design-oriented collaboration) radically re-positions the look/feel/purpose of the classroom space and beyond.

    Can Zero-Carbon Emission School Buildings Be A Reality? November 3rd, 2006

    Considering the rising attention given to “high-performance” school buildings and the use of LEED certification to validate innovative facility design in the education market, one can easily begin to conside what trends may lay on the next horizon line.

    With that said, we wonder if the “2030 °Challenge” will catch fire in the educational facility design field:

    That all new buildings and developments be designed to use 1/2 the fossil fuel energy they would typically consume (1/2 the country average for that building type).

    That at a minimum, an equal amount of existing building area* be renovated annually to use 1/2 the amount of fossil fuel energy they are currently consuming (through design, purchase of renewable energy and/or the application of renewable technologies).

    That the fossil fuel reduction standard for all new buildings be increased to:

  • 60% in 2010
  • 70% in 2015
  • 80% in 2020
  • 90% in 2025
  • Carbon-neutral by 2030 (using no fossil fuel GHG emitting energy to operate).
  • In the meantime, consider using this EnergyStar tool to look specifically at K-12 educational facilities.

    Want to learn more about the “2030 °Challenge”, contact Edward Mazria AIA, Architecture 2030 Founder

    Edward Mazria AIA, is a senior principal at Mazria Inc. Odems Dzurec an architecture and planning firm in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is author of The Passive Solar Energy Book, senior analyst for the Southwest Climate Council and adjunct professor at the University of New Mexico. He speaks nationally and internationally on the subject of climate change and architecture.

    Thanks to Jessica Barth, current University of Texas @ Arlington School of Architecture graduate student, for mentioning to DesignShare how impressed she was by a recent presentation given by Ed on the subject.

    Collaboration Spaces are Hot, Hot, Hot! November 1st, 2006

    From “On Campus: Sharing Space, Sharing Ideas” (BusinessWeek, 10.30/06):

    When taking a broad look at some of the nation’s—and the world’s—most adventurous, well-endowed, and forward-thinking campuses, it’s clear that one rising trend is toward encouraging increased cross-pollination between fields.

    Okay, you got our attention. And we appreciate the chance to learn more about the following campus/building designs focusing on collaborative spaces such as The Frank Gehry-designed Stata Center for Computer, Information, and Intelligence Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the James H. Clark Center at Stanford University designed by Foster and Partners; and many others:

    Other well-funded top universities are taking the concept of collaboration to new heights, pouring pooled resources into superlative collaborative tools for the sciences and computing. A group of elite academic institutions—the University of Texas, Texas A&M University, Harvard University, MIT, the University of Arizona, the University of Michigan, and Australian National University—is working with Carnegie Institution of Washington and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory to construct the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), to be located at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile for best viewing possibilities.

    But why such a profound focus on ‘collaboration’ defining learning spaces on university campuses as of late?

    In other words, the spirit of collaboration that is fueling the design of the nation’s most innovative campus architecture and facilities is clearly fueled in part by efficiency—economic, intellectual, and scientific. Shared resources and spaces could mean ideas are exchanged and projects developed more rapidly than if fostered in a siloed department or in an individual institution with perhaps limited means.

    Trend for the future? Spaces or purposes?

    To evaluate whether today’s radically inventive university buildings and resources herald future cross-disciplinary breakthroughs in science and engineering (or, in the case of the Stata Center, linguistics and philosophy, too) will take time. After all, these structures and tools are experiments in themselves.

    Interesting take-away that suggests that such design thinking is radical. While the physical spaces and envelopes and materials may suggest profound new ways of imaging university facilities, we more appreciate that the focus on ‘collaboration’ lies at the heart of such learning environments. In a day and age of rising ‘digital natives’ seeking learning programs to remain relevant and engaged in the larger world, perhaps such spaces are the necessary currency to remain competitive as institutions. A school design project such as the recent award-winning Estrella Mountain Community College that connected with Herman Miller’s innovative design strategies for collaboration and “radical flexibility” in allowing groups/individuals to work in dynamic ways shows that it can arise from the inside out, as well.

    Ultimately, this ‘experiment’ seems most likely to endure if campus facilities are destined to remain relevant for authentic real-time ‘learning’ rather than traditional ‘instructional delivery.’ This is precisely why we think this is far more than an experiment, far more than a trend. Perhaps schools and school designers are beginning to shift attention towards the larger forces of learning that are indeed at our fingertips.

    Thanks to Kristen at ArchNewsNow for posting the BusinessNews link that grabbed our attention.

    North Carolina: Trying Its Hand at Small Learning Academies November 1st, 2006

    “The education model in public schools is well over 100 years old,” said Jason Mammano, academies coordinator at Forestview. The new model “gives kids more individualized attention.”

    And so launches an article out of the Charlotte, North Carolina region about the Gaston County Schools’ decision to develop small learning communities (or SLC’s) at 4 of its 6 public high schools.

    How will the 4 schools move into the SLC world?

    The names of the academies and the way they are divided vary among schools, but each will have one academy for freshmen and three that focus on career-related interests, such as art and communications; math, science and engineering; and business.

    We’re pleased to see another school system begin to invest in a school reform/design model that promotes student/teacher relationships, helps ease 9th graders into high school life, and creating strategic learning pathways that engage students at their passions.

    The school system has opted to use a modified SLC framework that may or may not lead to success long-term. This means that students can take courses outside of their academies and students. This may or may not challenge the culture/formation of each SLC along the way, but it appears that they are taking measures to bring the community/parents/students along with them, which may ultimately be the reason they succeed:

    Students aren’t locked into their academies; they can switch to another academy if it has space.

    Unlike Olympic High School in Charlotte and some others across the country that have formed academies within schools, Gaston’s schools won’t split up completely. Students will be able to take classes in other academies.

    A federal grant of $100,000 per year for three years to each of the six schools has paid for the salaries for business managers and coordinators so far. Though the grant is in its final year, academy coordinators say they expect the county will maintain the initiative.

    Some parents were concerned about students having to choose career paths at such a young age, said Suzanne Wallace, an instructor at South Point, but she said teachers are just trying to give students options for the future.

    We particularly applaude the following educator sentiment who beautifully expresses the power of SLC reforms/designs on fostering strong identity formation through the student experience:

    “Without the smaller learning communities, they’re just thrown in this big high school environment with no identity,” said Wallace, who teaches computer applications and digital communications. “Instead of going aimlessly into four years of high school and entering college, we’re trying to give kids some direction.”

    Thanks to the Edutopia e-newsletter for this story link.

    AIA Releases “Greening American Schools” Report November 1st, 2006

    Just learned today that the Capital E (along with the co-sponsorship of the AIA) has released a new report demonstrating the positive impact of “green” schools. Certainly worth the attention of all those invested in the further creation of sustainable, green, high-performance school facilities.


  • Building energy-efficient schools results in lower operating costs, improved test scores and enhanced student health.
  • Schools that are designed to be environmentally friendly would save an average of $100,000 each year – enough to hire two additional full-time teachers.
  • Case Studies:

    The report includes a detailed analysis of 30 green schools built in 10 states between 2001 and 2006, and demonstrates that the total financial benefits of green schools are 20 times greater than the initial cost, and include energy and water savings, and improved student health and test scores.

    As stated in the AIA press release, “With over $35 billion dollars projected to be spent in 2007 on K-12 construction, the conclusions of this report have far-reaching implications for future school design”:

    “This study underscores the enormous cost of poor design and the critical impact that good design and operation has on the quality of our children’s education,” said AIA President Kate Schwennsen, FAIA. “The findings indicate that there are tremendous benefits from energy-efficient school design, not only from an economic standpoint, but from increased student test scores and far healthier environments through improved indoor air quality.”

    Ireland: The UCD Gateway Project Architectural Competition November 1st, 2006

    An interesting university design competition coming out of Ireland that challenges the traditional model of a campus beyond simple “places of learning.” Instead, the design competition seeks to be informed by universities as “microcosms of cities” that push learning well beyond the campus walls:

    Context & Challenge:

    The role of University College Dublin as Ireland’s premier educational establishment is changing in response to a rapidly evolving national and international social and economic framework. Universities are no longer seen simply as places of learning, but rather as focal points for knowledge and industry, providing strategic locations where strong links between industry and education can develop and thrive. In many ways, campuses have become microcosms of cities, extending the university experience beyond the traditional classroom and further opening to the outside community.

    The past two decades have proven a tremendous transformation in Ireland’s social and economic performance at the local and international level, transforming Ireland into one of the wealthiest European countries.

    Since its modern inception in the 1964 campus masterplan, UCD has recognised the need for the campus to grow and develop in response to broader social, economic and physical changes. As evidenced in the Campus Development Plan 2005-2010-2015, UCD is aware of the timely importance of the Gateway development at the entrance to the university. Our aspiration is that the Gateway area will further enhance the architectural heritage and sylvan setting of the campus.

    The Invitation:

    The UCD Gateway Project Architectural Competition is seen as an opportunity to establish an internationally recognizable signature image for the Belfield campus. In this respect, the university is keen to retain the very best architectural talents to meet this challenge, resulting in a built environment that will not only provide an attractive and functional development for the region, but will also be a defining architectural feature of UCD in the 21st Century.

    2-stage Competition:

    This is a two stage competition process to select the architectural consultants for the masterplanning and schematic design of Gateway buildings and open spaces at the entrance to the Belfield campus. The Expressions of Interest stage will first produce a longlist of up to ten candidates. Following an interview phase, this number will be reduced to three candidates. In the second stage these three competitors will prepare masterplans and schematic architectural design submissions. The winning architectural design will be announced in second quarter, 2007.


    In order to be eligible, firms must demonstrate that they have extensive experience in the design of institutional/commercial buildings and must demonstrate experience with the design of large civic spaces, associated landscape and open space design. Firms must also have successfully completed prime consulting contracts for major capital works projects.

    Additional details:

  • Expression of Interest, Site, Jury
  • The Campus
  • Schedule of Competition
  • *****
    Thanks to Kristen at ArchNewsNow for posting the original competition link that grabbed our attention.

    Charter Schools Putting Cleveland’s School Building Boom in Jeopardy? November 1st, 2006

    What would it take to disrupt the planned $1 Billion dollar school construction plan in Cleveland, Ohio?

    About 54,300 students are enrolled this year. That number is expected to drop to 45,530 by the 2010-2011 school year. Factor in that charter school enrollment in the city has climbed to about 12,000 students and you get some idea why the brand-new Hannah Gibbons-Nottingham Elementary, which opened in August, is 100 students short of capacity.

    Interesting to see an influx of mission-driven, student-oriented, community-based charter schools popping up throughout Cleveland having a demonstrated impact upon the evolving facility needs of the larger public school system.

    Are we watching a charter school ‘tipping point’ unfold in Cleveland?

  • On the one hand, the rapid increase of charter schools appears to be living up to the original premise of charter schools nationally — to be both an incubator of ideas/programs and to challenge the traditional public systems to continually improve due to market-based factors. It seems that what is happening in Cleveland shows just how long-range facility planning for a larger urgan district can be impacted at a certain point.
  • On the other hand, there is a limit to the number of charter schools that can be created, find/renovate or build adequate spaces, and house enough kids in any existing urban system, and thus public schools will only lose so many students.
  • The challenge, however, is that even if they retain the majority of their students, long-range facility planning and construction can be dramatically affected and thus further inspire students to seek alternatives.

    “The amount the state provides for a construction project is based on the number of students the building can hold. If the school district can’t fill those new schools, it will mean less for future schools, Burns [Cleveland’s COO] said. “

    Is Cleveland a unique example? Or will we see similar results in other urban contexts?

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