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Better Schools For a New Century
 
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The American Institute of Architects Committee on Architecture for Education (CAE) April 9-10, Moscone Convention Center, San Francisco

Learning Environments for the 21st Century
Keynote Speech: Anne Taylor, Ph.D., Hon. AIA

Anne TaylorAnne began her talk by placing a large, colorfully wrapped box near the podium, and asking two volunteers to open it, as though they were 5-year olds. The anticipation, movement and noisy unwrapping immediately transcended the windowless, institutional setting of the conference room. The box revealed two elementary classroom chairs - one battered wood and steel with a cracked back; the other a new, plywood-molded, contoured chair, scaled just right for children. Anne used the chairs as an example of the disparity between school districts in this country. She called upon attendees to create better learning environments for all of our schools, including less affluent regions.

Anne went on to speak about her design philosophy: “I am very interested in Architecture for schools as Pedagogy … architecture which is NOT passive volumes of space, or landscape design never used for more than gross motor development or recess. I am deeply interested in working with imaginative and receptive architects who want to study user needs, who want to involve users in participatory planning and who want to understand deeply the developmental needs of the population being served as well as the content of the subject matter being imparted and the learning processes that help us all gain access to knowledge, which I call the order in the universe.”

The Educational and Architectural Programming Process:
“Programming for schools does not include predetermined activity settings or square footage needs. Educational and architectural programming need first to look at the client, the developmental rights of that client, then at the curriculum and instructional delivery system” Guidelines for new learning environment design criteria include:

  1. Developmental needs as design criteria
  2. Curriculum as a design determinant for architecture
  3. Design studio format as a model for the American classroom
  4. Flexibility, Deployability
  5. Systems Thinking
  6. Learning landscapes for Eco-Literacy
  7. Co-location of facilities
  8. Community use of the schools for lifelong learning
  9. The community as a learning laboratory
  10. User guides and post occupancy evaluation

Anne spoke about the schools in Reggio Emilia, an Italian town internationally renowned for innovative preschool programs. Each of 34 schools has a central “atelier” (studio). The atelier has lots of glass, can be seen from most areas in the school, and is filled with books, child-friendly furniture and craft materials. “Windows galore” look out to “children dancing in the piazza” (outdoor courtyard). Anne also spoke of babies in open-ended baskets on the floor; upon waking up, instead of crying, they roll out of the baskets and crawl about. These children are more creative and independent then children raised in cribs, who must cry for adult rescue when they awake.

“We need to better enable our communities across America to become stakeholders in a participatory planning process which elevates their knowledge and thinking about comprehensive planning for new and dynamic learning environments of the future. Maybe the learning environments of the future won’t even be schools!”

Anne Taylor
Professor & Director
Institute for Environmental Education, School of Architecture & Planning
The University of New Mexico
2414 Central SE, Albuquerque, NM 87131-1226
(505) 277-5058 fax: (505) 277-1199
aetaylor@unm.edu

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April 6th, 2006
 

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