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Archive for March, 2007
Bruce Jilk: “Schools Have Old Stuff” March 22nd, 2007

Bruce Jilk is regarded by many in the field of school planning/design as one of the truly inspired minds, especially in terms of creating inspired learning environments around the world.

Going back to a series of 1998 conversations between Bruce and Randy Fielding, we found the following ‘timely’ gem that seems to be more and more true today, even if our design examples sadly remain limited on the most part. Here’s a snippet that could easily be said today without much effort at all:

For the present, many educational systems require that we build and maintain separate school facilities. If we have to segregate learning in school buildings, the most cohesive approach includes a small school, accommodating a broad range of ages, closely linked to the local community.

In 25 years, learning will be interspersed with the businesses, homes, and institutions that make up their communities, making schools as we know them obsolete. In terms of quality and timeliness, businesses have more knowledge than schools. Schools have old stuff. If you want the new stuff, you go to labs, businesses and the internet.

Whether or not we’re actually taking his ideas to heart as a design/education community nearly a decade later is entirely a different matter…but it doesn’t make his words back in 1998 an less true.

Read the entire conversation here. And then ask yourself where we’re getting it right today.

Announcing the 2007 DesignShare Awards Jury March 21st, 2007

We are proud to announce what is arguably the most talented, experienced, diverse, and passionate jury team of any school design awards program in the world.

2007 Review Team

New to the team in 2007:

  • Daniel Pink ** special “Guest Juror” ** Best-selling author of A Whole New Mind, contributing editor Wired Magazine, international speaker, board member of The Big Picture Company. His articles on business and technology have also appeared in The New York Times, Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and other publications.
  • Alan November ** special “Guest Juror” ** Senior Partner of November Learning and founder of the international Building Learning Communities summer conference, best-selling author of Empowering Students with Technology, International educational technology leader and keynote speaker, co-founder of the Stanford Institute for Educational Leadership Through Technology, and elected as one of the original five national Christa McAuliffe Educators.
  • Stephen Heppell - formerly ran UK’s famed ULTRALAB, described by Microsoft and the Guardian as “Europe’s leading on-line education guru”, leading consultant for the Building Schools for the Future programme, international speaker and writer on technology, education, and school design, and lifelong educator.
  • John Weekes, AIA - Principal of DOWA (Dull Olson Weekes Architects), Jury Chair for 2007 AIA CAE Awards program.
  • Peter Brown, AIA, LEED AP - Principal, Director of K-12 Practice, Perkins+Will.
  • Judy Marks, Hon. AIA - Associate Director, NCEF (National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities).
  • Beth Hebert - education/curriculum author, former Principal of the Crow Island Elementary School (recognized architectural landmark for school design), passionate school design advocate.
  • Tim Dufault, AIA - President of Cuningham Group Architecture, P.A.
  • Ron Bogle - President & CEO, American Architectural Foundation and the Great Schools By Design initiative, jury member of the 2007 AIA CAE Awards program.
  • Ana Ines Bajcura - architect, winner of 2006 DesignShare Honor Award for an innovative kindergarten in Moreno, Argentina.
  • Chris Lehmann, founding Principal, Science Leadership Academy, named as one of “20 [Educators] to Watch” by the National School Boards Association in 2006.
  • Christian Long - President & CEO, DesignShare.

Returning to the team from the past:

  • Dr. Jeff Lackney, AIA, REFP - author of “Thirty-three Educational Design Principles for Schools and Community Learning” (NCEF), Partner, Fielding/Nair International.
  • Dr. Susan Wolff - author of “Design Features for Project-Based Learning”, Dean of Instruction at Columbia Gorge Community College.
  • Jeff Phillips - Principal Consultant for Research and Development in Facility Planning for the Department of Education and Training in Western Australia; President of Australasia Region of the Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI).
  • Dr. Frank Locker, AIA, REFP - CEFPI Planner of the Year (1999), principal with Frank Locker Inc, (educational planners), senior planning consultant with Fielding Nair International, principal of DeJONG-LOCKER.
  • Dr. Pablo Campos - Architect, campus planner, professor of Architecture in the Universidad San Pablo-C.E.U. (Spain)
  • Bobbie Hill - Partner, Director of Planning, Concordia Architecture & Planning.
  • Ulla Kjaervang - educational facility planning consultant, formally with the Danish Centre of Educational Environment (Denmark).
  • Amy Yurko, AIA - Founder of BrainSpaces, leader in the design of innovative learning environments.

Ex-Officio advisory team:

  • Prakash Nair, REFP - Managing Editor of DesignShare, Partner and President of Fielding/Nair International, CEFPI MacConnell Award winner.
  • Randy Fielding, AIA - Founder of DesignShare, Chairman and founding Principal of Fielding/Nair International.

In-depth biographical information for each jury member will be provided in the near future as they prepare to review projects from around the world this summer. Additionally, we’ll be publishing podcasts, editorials, trend debates, and additional articles by this team later this spring and into the summer. An amazing opportunity to learn with some of the very best in the world!

Join the conversation: If you have any questions you’d like to ask them, please feel free to send an email so we can share your thoughts with the team.

Does New Urbanism Bring Community Back to Schools? March 13th, 2007

Thanks to Kristen and ArchNewsNow for the story link.


Sadly, the trend towards investing in huge ‘green field’ campuses, with the school footprint being dropped dead center on a massive multi-acre site, has been almost compulsive in many developing parts of the United States in the last few decades. Streetscapes where school and community crossed paths were hardly embraced in such design solutions. Instead, the ‘community’ would be kept as far away from the learning experience as possible. Parking lots tended to dominate anything that might resemble the possibility of ‘interaction’ when outsiders attempted to approach the school.

Thank goodness for buses. And epic turn-around lanes.

This is hardly a ’school’ only phenomenon, to be fair. US citizens have been rapidly building gated communities at every possible turn. Safety and separation were investments proudly touted in marketing literature. Sadly, communities and legitimate interactions were tossed over the edge of good intention, unless you call predictable subdivision layouts and possibly a pool for planned play to suggest neighborly relations. Not too surprising, then, that many communities would design their schools the same way their developers planned their streets and cul-de-sacs.

The Denver Post’s recent article, “Americans are Leaving Gated Communities: Neighborly interaction tops list for desirable homes” suggests a potential positive consequence for schools as well:

The report deemed “New Urban” communities such as Prospect, Colo., the most desirable areas in which to buy homes because they monitor sprawl, foster walkable amenities, and strike a development balance between homes, schools and businesses. The re-emergence of front-porch socializing, main streets and corner stores are key to America’s most popular neighborhoods.

“The scenes here really do revolve around a feeling of belonging, being joined by a common interest, being part of something bigger,” Enders says.

A small section of the article considers the need to “strike a development balance between homes, schools and business.” Nothing shocking. Nothing earth-shattering. Nothing that will re-map the entire discussion of school design in the US and around the world.

But it does strike at something pretty primal that may underlie what we’re really talking about when we design schools as centers of community. Not just ‘allowing’ for a the design of a ‘community partner’ room somewhere in the administrative suite or along a generic corridor that can easily have a nameplate changed when deemed necessary. Instead, it might suggest that true partnerships, true community investment in the school, demands that the school itself be part of the community.

One streetscape at a time.

Congratulations to the School Building Expo Team for Inspiring Passionate Conversations March 12th, 2007

You’d be hard pressed to have been in Florida this past week as a participant at School Building Expo to say that it’s a ’start-up’ with only 1 previous year under its belt. Simply too many reasons to assume it’s been around for decades. And certainly suggestive, in our opinion, that School Building Expo will become one of the must-attend events for school planners/builders and their partners in the years to come.

Also appreciated seeing that the AIA CAE (Committee on Architecture for Education) leadership team made the decision to have one of their 2 annual national conferences at the Expo. Everyone that was in attendance were also given the opportunity to see this year’s winners of the annual CAE School Design Awards as well. Some truly inspired projects in story, project intentions, and images! Hopefully we’ll see CAE teaming up again with Expo in 2008 in Chicago.

But given the wide array of school planning/design/construction conferences that each of us considers attending, sponsoring, or speaking at here in the US, time only allows so many choices. And you have to applaud the planning team of this very relative ‘upstart’ event for putting on a show that so successfully gathered such a large and diverse audience of professional leaders from around the school design planet for 3 days of pushing hard on the key questions in our industry. Looking around the keynotes, the workshop sessions, and the trade show floor, it was hard to find any of the key leaders not represented on some level.

Besides the quality of the participants, DesignShare was intrigued by the Expo’s ability to bring together passionate manufacturers as well as key design thought leaders, while most conferences tend to lean one way or the other. Scott Goldman and team have a knack for being entrepreneurial and inspired. It’s no wonder so many folks made the trip down to Florida to take part. As with so many things in life, passion comes from individuals who have vision and a knack for bringing together a very diverse set of stakeholders.

We were also interested in playing a role ourselves when Scott began to suggest that there was a way to re-design how conversations could take place at conferences. And how a traditional trade show floor could become ground zero for passionate thought leaders coming together after keynotes and workshops to push harder on key topics/questions. When they asked if we’d be willing to add our name to the idea of an “Expert Bar”, it was a no-brainer because Scott and the entire Expo team understood that people will talk openly if they have a place to relax and get comfortable first. You certainly have to appreciate the decision to invite a talented cellist to set a tone for all those who stopped by for conversation. And the coffee, too!

Even better when the majority of key speakers were given specific time slots to meet at the “Expert Bar” to meet audience members who were equally passionate about the topics/presentations, including (to name only a few who stopped by during the Expo):

  • Dr Catherine Burke BA, M.ED, PhD (Senior Lecturer, The University of Leeds, author of The School I’d Like which brings student/kid voices back into the discussion)
  • Lindsay Baker (US Green Building Council) and Robert Kobet, AIA (US Green Building Coucil LEED for Schools Committee)
  • Dr. Dieter Breithecker (Germany-based and internationally renowned Sport & Movement Scientist)
  • Jim Dyck (passionate advocate for Montessori designs and President, The Architectural Partnership)
  • Dr. Jeff Lackney (author of 33 Principles of Educational Design, planner/architect at Fielding/Nair International)
  • Kirk Meyer (Executive Director, Boston Schoolyard Funders Collaborative)

Looking forward to next year’s School Building Expo in Chicago and seeing who will stop by the “DesignShare Expert Bar” in the spirit of fueling passionate and innovative school design conversation.

Want to get involved yourself? Send Scott Goldman an email ( or call his Expo team (800.746.9646 ) if you’re interested in participating, sponsoring, or getting involved in a variety of ways in 2008.

Ready For Big Questions and Bold Interaction: KnowledgeWorks Map of the Future March 12th, 2007

Did you hear that KnowledgeWorks interactive “Map of the Future” (created for them by incredible minds at The Institute for the Future) has finally been turned on and made available for all who stop by to use their virtual tools? Here’s the back-story of the map’s creation, FYI. A quick summary of what you’ll find:

It could be video games. Bioengineering. Or health care. All of these forces and more are explored on the KnowledgeWorks Foundation and Institute for the Future 2006-2016 Map of Future Forces Affecting Education.

Look around the map. Explore it. While we’d never suggest that this map contains all of the answers and perfectly predicts the future, it does offer a clear point of view based on countless hours of research, analysis and expert opinion. Think of the map as a provocative tool, as the beginning of a movement, or, at the very least, part of a good conversation. Join in. And help us shape the future.

Why do we suggest this?

We often smile at the good-natured use of “School of the Future” or “21st Century School” in our current school design conversations. It’s the latest gold-rush in the school planning world. And it’s the minimum skin-on-the-table, so to speak, when you want to suggest a forward-thinking approach to learning environments that will adequately serve and engage our kids/communities in the decades to come. Really getting one’s head wrapped around what is actually meant by such phrases, however, is a bit of a challenge. Marketing, aside.

So, let’s put the following premise on the table. You want to design a school that will adequately serve future students, educators, and communities. And you want to be ahead-of-the-curve. Maybe even win an award in the process (or at least look shyly humble when it comes your way).

Minimum expectations today?

  • You want to embrace technology (the no-brainer part of the question), of course. If you’re not yet considering entirely WiFi-based projects, you’re probably still embracing buggy-whips with one hand and trying to still argue the need for computer labs at the end of the double-loaded classroom corridors with the other hand as forward-thinking solutions (minor sarcasm, but not too far off the chart).
  • You want to show how the building will serve demographers’ research (and not have to come back with ‘portables’ to house the extra kids who suddenly show up and mar the look of the future-thinking campus in the process).
  • You want to certainly demonstrate the use of ‘flexible’ design strategies (hard to throw a rock in the air and not hit a manufacturer to designer who isn’t touting their latest project/product as being ‘flexible’ suddenly).
  • You want to demonstrate fiscal and maintenance-based [read: life cycle costs] stewardship (at the bare minimum, that means creating a building the will be ‘of use’ at least 1 day longer than the bond/loan that helped pay for it’s construction).
  • You want grandmothers/fathers and community elders to be comfortable with the design (must resemble how they ‘went to school) and you need kids to like it, too (must not resemble how their grandmothers/fathers and community elders ‘went to school’)
  • You want the school to suggest customized, just-in-time, response-able, multi-collaborative space design thinking (and call every ‘classroom’ something else to suggest a radical re-thinking of the teacher/student relationship).

So, where do you begin?

Besides showing yet another hard-to-read Excel Spreadsheet of years, inflation-based budgets, student counts, square footage predictions, and room capacity projections in yet another hard-to-stay-awake-for PowerPoint presentation to the school board and community, perhaps we might be better served by asking more provocative ‘future-think’ questions and adding innovative new tools to our arsenal.

Nothing wrong with a calculator and spreadsheet. Just not sure the future is going to be friendly to design teams and communities who only look at left-brained and linear tools. Might need to step back a bit further and ask the harder questions about what our world will look like in 10 or 25 or 50 years. Might be a good thing to get out of the business of just cost-projecting the school structure and begin to ask who the building will even serve in the coming decades and what other regional, national and global trends will impact our lives, society, and everything we believe will support/challenge ‘learning’ in the first place.

If you agree with us, perhaps it’s worth taking a spin around the “Map of the Future” at KnowledgeWorks (created by The Institute for the Future) that was recently released as a truly interactive future-strategy tool. Demands the willingness to ask big questions and look for a symphony of patterns forming. Not so ideal for rigidly left-brained participants. But if you believe in what Daniel Pink (in A Whole New Mind) offers as right-brained skills begin to become more valuable lenses for the future, you’ll begin to see the magic of the “Map of the Future” just as we did.

School Designers: Are Virtual Schools the Proverbial Elephant in the Corner of the Room? March 12th, 2007

Thanks to Kristen at ArchNewsNow for the link tip of the hat on this story.


If someone said the following to you, “Try NOT to think of a white elephant sitting in the corner of your room for the next 1 minute,” you’d be hard pressed to ignore the imaginary pacaderm. No matter how hard you tried. Same with the following offered in a recent virtual copy of “District Administration” magazine:

…virtual schools could be the hottest trend in U.S. education today. Twenty-four states offer virtual school programs, which account for more than 500,000 courses, according to the D.C.-based North American Council for Online Learning’s latest report. And statistics show a steady 30 percent enrollment growth annually, according to NACOL president and CEO Susan Patrick.

The question that begs to be asked seems to read: If you’re a school planner/designer, what is YOUR ROLE in researching and helping to facilitate the rising tide of ‘virtual’ schools (and programs) for your clients and communities?

  • Quickly spirit your marketing team into a frenzy of describing your computer ‘labs’ in ‘innovative’ ways?
  • Ignore it at all costs. After all, we only deal with brick-n-mortar ‘tangible’ schools. And if they have computers, they can do whatever they want with the ‘virtual’ components.
  • Begin to radically transform your role/expertise in designing the conceptual gray area that lies between ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ schools as the educational delivery market begins to question the ‘need’ for buildings of any variety. Or at least the re-use of school facilities for both real-time and just-in-time ways.

From the previous article, the following might capture your attention:

“Across the board you have without a doubt a technological movement in this country,” says John G. Flores, CEO of the United States Distance Learning Association in Boston. “Distance learning is not only impacting education reform and education change, but more importantly it’s giving students new options they’ve never had before.”

Patrick claims only 30 percent of chemistry teachers have all the qualifications to teach in their field, and there aren’t enough foreign language teachers to go around.

Online learning allows students anywhere to access teachers who are out of their zip code, and it also opens up course work to the homeschool crowd. Some administrators say students enroll because their families want to travel, and virtual school education becomes the means to enable this. Virtual schools also offer advanced courses that are not available in the brick-and-mortar buildings in some districts.

Just a curriculum issue or something that will begin to boldly sneak into the school design conversation as well?

Design Like You Give a Damn: X-Prize for Technology Labs in Developing Nations March 12th, 2007

Design Like You Give a Damn…to say the very least!

Anything that combines mention of Architecture for Humanity, an X-Prize for the design of a forward-thinking technology lab that can have a positive impact on developing nations around the world, and the TED Conference is going to get our attention. Quicker than you can say Jiminy Cricket!

As one of the rare winners of the coveted TED Prize, 2006 winner Cameron Sinclair (co-founder of Architecture for Humanity) recently announced that $250,000 has been made available to help conceive/build a “an off-the-grid, multi-use tech center in a yet-to-be-determined developing nation.” From Wired Magazine, this story caught our eye:

The Open Architecture Prize will get under way this summer, in partnership with tech company AMD’s 50×15 initiative, which has the stated goal of connecting 50 percent of the world to the internet by 2015. An international panel of judges, including experts in sustainable building and electrical engineering, will evaluate entries though the Open Architecture Network, which launched earlier this week.

“The reality is you cannot have social entrepreneurship if there is not a baseline of technology for connecting ideas and potential businesses,” said Cameron Sinclair, who cofounded Architecture for Humanity with Kate Stohr eight years ago.

Contestants will post their blueprints and entries using special tools on the network. But anyone can track the work of wannabe winners online throughout the contest. After the judging ends, visitors to the Open Architecture Network can critique the works on the site.

Even better? The technology center will have dramatic impact as an educational ‘tool’ as well. And hopefully will inspire other ’school design’ stakeholders in developing nations (and the rest of the world) to re-think the way a ‘learning environment’ can radically transform the way entire communities can ‘connect’ to the rest of the world:

The purpose of the technology center is to serve as both a school and a meeting place for an entire community. But this is no Oprah dream academy. While classes will be taught and entrepreneurs will conduct business from the center, the site will also be used to generate income in order to make the project sustainable. It could house, for example, a cell-phone charging center, or an internet cafe, or a health-care clinic. The building’s functions will be determined based on the winning design.

When you think of the ‘future of learning’, ’school design’, and ‘making a difference’, perhaps we need to use such an X-Prize — both as an enabler and a model — to inspire bigger investments in the larger world around us. It’s one thing to use the language of a ’21st century school’ or community center to suggest a forward-thinking school design project. It’s another thing to re-invent the entire purpose of such a learning environment, especially as a change agent leverage point for parts of the world so often overlooked.

When worlds are connected, lives change. Period.

And when you take on the same attitude of ‘action’ over ‘ideas’ as Cameron suggests, there is no limit to what is possible:

This contest is the first in a series of architecture prizes to be hosted on the Open Architecture Network. Each prize will address a different social need. Architecture for Humanity will oversee implementation of the winning designs.

“Idea competitions are a waste of time,” said Sinclair. “We are a profession that builds. Competitions should be about implementing innovative solutions.”

Student Contest: Redesign Your School March 2nd, 2007

Love to find out that a great rumor leads to an even better reality!

Such is the case with the launch of the “ReDesign Your School” Contest sponsored by the American Architectural Foundation (AAF) and Target that “aims to generate innovative ideas for 21st century learning spaces”:

Grade 9-12 students are invited to create the ideal 21st century learning space, with a chance to win up to $10,000 in scholarship money.

See for more information.

A couple of quick links for all students (and teachers/parents) to get you started:

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?
Fielding Nair International: Architects and Change Agents for Creative Learning Communities
VS America, Inc.: Ergonomic educational and office furniture.

Become a SPONSOR by Joining the "Partners in Education" Program.

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