DesignShare Logo

Search

Our Current Featured Education Group:
Directory Case Studies Articles Awards Program Language of School Design
Membership E-Newsletter Events About Contact Home
The L-Shaped Classroom
 
Pages: 1 2 3 4

Conclusion
While this exploration into the question of the L-Shape Classroom as a design pattern has not been an exhaustive study, this article highlights aspects of the ‘Fat L’ and describes examples of variations on the L-Shape as a design pattern. The ‘Fat L’ proposed by Dyck reflects an understanding that the learning environment not only affords multiple activity settings, but also is an integrated, flexible and variable environment. Furthermore, each leg of the ‘Fat L’ maybe used to create activity settings for individual, one-to-one, small group, and large group activities. The ‘Fat L’ layout evolved from an understanding that the classroom should provide individuals with places where they have the opportunity to learn from their engagements in the physical environment.

While the ‘Fat L’ has not been integrated within The Crow Island School, The Montessori School in Delft, and the Newark East Side High School, and while each is unique, the design patterns have qualities that are similar. The settings were designed to be flexible and variable and afford the opportunity to create various activity settings. Another aspect incorporated was that each was designed with a classroom leg and a smaller leg attached to it. The classroom leg was intended to afford opportunities for individual, one-to-one, small group activities, and large group activities, whereas the smaller leg was intended for individual, one-to-one or small group activities.

While there are similarities between them, they differ in how the activity settings are integrated. While the Montessori School Delft allows for peripheral participation into the narrower leg of the ‘L’, like the Crow Island School, the physical design is treated as a separate activity setting. However, as separate settings, they afford individuals the opportunity to be engaged in activities with fewer distractions from the overall classroom environment. Though the Crow Island School and the Montessori School in Delft use the narrower leg of the ‘L’ to create distinct activity settings, Newark East Side High School provides an alcove area. Since this leg is squatter and is not separated from the overall classroom space by a physical barrier, the overall space may not only be understood as interconnected, but also affords individuals greater flexibility and variability in how the activity settings may be arranged.

fatl-9In addition, the L-Shaped Classroom for Newark East Side High School has not only been designed as a behavior setting, but also as a large group meeting space. With the introduction of a folding partition, two classes may come together for large group activities. The idea of integration is treated differently in the Montessori School in Delft. In this learning environment the areas outside the classrooms, because of the L-Shape and the manner in which they have been arranged, afford places for students to work. The areas closest to the classrooms were intended for individual and one-to-one activities, whereas the centralized spaces were conceived for small group and large group activities as well as where classes might come together.

Other examples of where the L-shaped pattern has been integrated with circulation spaces that provide individuals with places to extend learning outside the classroom are the De Evenaar School and the Apollo Schools in Amsterdam by Hertzberger (1991 & 1986), the Mills Road Elementary School Jamestown, North Carolina by the Adams Group Inc. and Sanoff [Jamestown - Adams], and the Winston-Salem Montessori School by TAP (See Fig. 9 ). These schools integrate the circulation spaces as learning paths which:

” …provide additional space in front of the classrooms to display student work… allowing for a variety of activities…” (Lippman, 2003, September)

Adaptations of the L-Shaped Classroom
This article has described the concept of the ‘Fat L’ Classroom as well as evaluated variations on the ‘Fat L’ as a behavior setting that affords multiple activity settings. When the activity settings are organized as flexible, integrated, and variable, the physical environment affords individuals the opportunity to become engaged in activities so that they may appropriate knowledge for themselves. While the ‘Fat L’ may be understood as the ideal, variations as indicated, as well as adaptations may be considered. The adaptations of the ‘Fat L’ may result from the site conditions. These conditions may result from the constraints for a renovation, an addition to an existing school, as well as the lot size for a new school.

Advanced Learning Environment Solution

fatl-11
fatl-10

Examples of these adaptations are projects by Fielding/Nair International, LLC:

The Advanced Learning
Environment Solution,
Jacksonville, Florida (Fig. 10)

GOA International
School (Fig. 11)


While these adaptations may not be viewed as L-Shaped Classrooms, each layout incorporates qualities similar to the L-Shape that afford learning.

Considerations for L-Shaped Classroom as a Design Pattern
Even though the L-shaped Classroom is a viable plan and attempts to promote a theoretical framework in the design of learning environments, there are concerns about this layout that relate to the teacher’s control of the environment. When the learning environment is understood as teacher-directed and where information is distributed unidirectionally, the outside corner where the L-Shape is formed may be thought to hamper the view the teacher may have over the classroom.

Having worked in school environments that are child-centered where learning occurs through full participation in activities, and where the teacher’s role is as a facilitator guiding students’ participation in the tasks at hand, I do not believe this concern to be valid. In child-centered environment, the culture of the setting is one in which activities are structured by the teacher and students work collaboratively solving the problems. In this setting the teacher is never in one place, but rather is moving about the setting always in view of what is occurring.

Another concern is with the creation of activity settings outside of the classroom. These activity settings take on the form of niches, hubs, alcoves, and nodes and are integrated onto the overall environment to support the extension of learning from the classroom into the circulation spaces (Lippman, 2003, September). From conversations with a few teachers and principals, these spaces outside the classrooms are perceived as places where children can hide and be disruptive to the learning that is occurring in the classrooms. However, based on research (Lippman, 1993; Rivlin & Wolfe), this concern may not be valid. When these spaces are understood as places for connecting the learning activities, then they may be perceived as an extension of the classroom environment. Additionally, with these features learning may be understood as the flowing of activity throughout the school setting rather than as a series of spaces for separating and containing activities.

As described, this pattern is not arbitrary, and no matter what manifestation the L-shape Classroom takes, it is a learning environment that may be understood as a flexible, variable, and integrated setting. In addition, the design seems to support the diverse modalities in which people acquire knowledge. While the notion of the L-Shaped Classroom as a design pattern is grounded in concepts from educational and developmental theories, there are considerations that should be examined more completely through research design such as Post Occupancy Evaluations.

Post Occupancy Evaluations (POE) offer diagnostic and prognostic research, which focuses on the needs and interests of the building occupants (Preiser, 1988). Furthermore, this approach can provide researchers with the means to evaluate environmental aesthetics, students’ participation in activities, and their spatial behavior (Winkel, 1993). The POE can contribute to the design of the ‘Fat L’, variations on the L-Shaped Classroom, and adaptations of the L-Shaped Classroom in the following ways:

  1. Consider the different manifestations of how the L-Shape Classroom has been integrated in the overall school environment;
  2. Identify the similarities and difference between these separate designs;
  3. Examine the L-Shaped Classroom in relationship to conventional classrooms;
  4. Examine how the layouts afford behavior for elementary, middle school and high school students;
  5. Investigate how activity settings become organized and re-organized for the elementary, middle school or high schools;
  6. Study students and teachers experiences in the space;
  7. Examine how the different variations of the L-Shape afford peripheral, guided, and full participation in the acquisition of knowledge;
  8. Understanding what aspects of the L-Shaped Classroom might afford or constrain teacher mobility;
  9. Examine what aspects of the L-Shaped Classroom might afford or constrain students’ ability to appropriate knowledge for themselves;
  10. Study how activity settings outside the classroom afford or constrain behavior in the corridor spaces.

Building on the knowledge that can be discovered and uncovered from POES, much can be learned about the L-Shaped Classroom. More importantly, this type of research can establish the groundwork and serve as a guide for creating learning environments that are constructed as places where people are encouraged to develop.

See also Results of 2004 DesignShare POE Program by Jeffrey Lackney.

Acknowledgements
I would like to thank the following people: Herman Hertzberger who afforded me the time to interview him regarding his design for the Montessori School in Delft and to discuss school design; Randall Fielding for providing me images and thoughts regarding this article; James A. Dyck for providing me with images for this article and his guidance in thinking about the relationship between pedagogy and the school setting; and my family and MaryAnn Sorenson Allacci for encouraging me to examine concepts pertaining to activity settings, development, and learning environments.

Bibliography
Barker, R.G. (1968). Ecological Psychology: Concepts and methods for studying the environment of human behavior. Stanford University Press.

Design Share Awards 2002. www.Designshare.com/awards/review.asp

Dyck, J. A. (1994, November). The case for the L-shaped classroom: Does the shape of a classroom affect the quality of the learning that goes inside it? In Principle Magazine, pp. 41-45.

Greeno, J. G. (1998, January). The situativity of knowing, learning, and research. American Psychological Association, Inc. Vol. 53, No. 1, 5 - 26.

Hertzberger, H. (1986). Recent Works. Archis (Architecture, Urban Design, and Visual Arts) 12/1986.

Hertzberger, H. (1993). Lesson for students in architecture. Rotterdam, Holland: Uitgeverij 010 Publishers.

Hildebrand, G. (1991). The Wright space: the pattern & meaning in Frank Lloyd Wright’s houses. Seattle, Washington: University of Washington Press.

Keller, C. & Keller, J. D. (1996). In thinking and acting with iron. In s. Chaiklin & J. Lave (Eds.). Understanding practice on activity and context (pp. 125-143). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Kennedy, D. & Morre, G. T. (1998, unpublished manuscript). Transforming the egg-crate school: Remodeling instructional settings for developmentally appropriate child care. School of Architecture and Urban planning University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning. NY: Cambridge University Press.

Lippman, P. C. (2003, September). Advancing Concepts about activity settings within learning environments. CAE Quarterly Newsletter. AIA Committee on Architecture for Education.

Lippman, P. C. (2002, October). Understanding activity settings in relationship to the design of learning environments. CAE Quarterly Newsletter. AIA Committee on Architecture for Education.

Lippman, P. C. (1997, November/December). “It’s a Work in Progress.” Connect Magazine, 11 (2), 12 - 14.

Newtown, D. (11990, April). A marriage of philosophy and facility: Winnetka’s Crow Island School. In Historic Illinois, Vol. 12, No. 6, 2 - 11.

Osmond, H. (1966). Some psychiatric aspects of design. In L. B. Holland (Ed.). Who designs America? (pp. 281-318). New York: Doubleday.

Prieser, W. (1988) Towards a performance-based conceptual framework for stsytematic POES. In D. Lawrence, R. Habe, A. Hacker, and D. Sherrod (Eds.), Proceedings of the 19th Annual Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) Conference. Washington, DC: Environmental Design Research Association, pp. 265-271.

Rivlin, L. G. & Wolfe, M. (1985). Institutional settings in children’s lives. NY: John Wiley & Sons.

Sanoff, H. (1996). Creating environments for young children. National Endowment for the Arts.

Tharp, R. G. & Gallimore, R. (1997). Rousing minds to life: Teaching and learning in context. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Vygotksy, L. S. (1978). Mind in Society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, Ma: Harvard university Press.

Wicker, A. W. (1979). An introduction to ecological psychology. Monterey, California: Brooks/Cole.

Winkel, G. (181) Environmental design evaluation as a change oriented research process. Architecture & Behavior 9(10): 85-97.

Pages: 1 2 3 4

February 27th, 2006
 

DesignShare publications are submitted by designers, university professors, architects, planning consultants, educators, technologists, futurists, and ecologists. Publications include podcasts, detailed case studies, conference proceedings, interviews, original research, editorials, thesis projects, and practical design guidelines.

WANT TO PUBLISH?

User Tools

Membership | Reprint Policies | About | Contact | Home
© DesignShare.com 1998-2016. All rights reserved.