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What They’re Saying …

Comments by Saint Louis University students at the conclusion of the class on school facilities regarding one of the text books used:

  • “I’ll never look at a school the same way again.”
  • “At first I didn’t think you could design a school like that, but now I believe it, and I have the language to express my ideas.”
  • “I did not think our community would ever support schools that looked like that, but now I believe they will. Some of the schools we visited had many of the features discussed in this book, and these were not wealthy communities!”
  • “I wish I had read this before we began the design of our school. I have asked to serve on the Educational Specifications planning group for future projects. I think I now have a real contribution I can make to the district.”
  • “Every teacher should be exposed to this book because it defines effective learning environments.”
  • “This book is fantastic. It should be required in every school administration preparation program. As a school leader, it will help me educate my district staff and my community”

Comments from school board members serving on a district wide master planning task force:

  • “I have served on the Board for a number of years, and I now see that I have made some pretty poor recommendations regarding our school facilities. I won’t make these mistakes again!”
  • “As a school board, we have never really thought of our schools as three dimensional textbooks, but they are.”
  • “To me schools were just bricks and mortar before I was exposed to this way of thinking. I now think of our facilities in a whole new way.”
  • “Reading this book, going through this planning process is something every school board member should experience. Actually, they should be required to experience it.”

(Thanks to Dan Keck, Associate Professor at Saint Louis University, for relaying these comments.)

Wayne Jennings
The Institute for Learning and Teaching, St. Paul, MN.

“Thanks for sending me your new book. After I opened it, I couldn’t stop and savored it in one sitting! It is superb. I’ve been waiting for this design book during five decades of work on transforming education from “child factories” to places of community, dignity, meaning and learning. I was delighted and astonished to find authors who captured the central elements of brain-compatible learning for the physical setting. I say, “Get, devour and apply this straightforward and beautifully illustrated guide to your learning setting.”"

Dr. Walther Hetzer
St. Gilgen International School, Austria

“This is not only a book but a wonderful invitation to think about existing and future schools, and to share ideas. Sensitive to the needs and opportunities inherent in the notion of community and true to their Design Pattern #2, the authors have provided a “Welcoming Entry” to school design. They suggest a common language, refreshingly free of architectural or educational jargon, with underlying “nourishing patterns” and great respect for the changes in educational philosophy, which have brought us from the cells-and-bells model to holistic learning environments supporting creativity and innovation.

The book is beautifully structured and illustrated with examples, as transparent as Design Pattern #3 wishes our schools to be. Both reassuring and stimulating, Prakash Nair & Randall Fielding should be read not only by people planning new schools but by everyone, students included, who wish to make positive changes to their existing place of learning. Campfires, Watering holes and Caves could be created everywhere, and much else besides.”

Eeva Reeder
Curriculum/Instructional Coach
Nationally Recognized Teacher & Project Based Learning Expert, Seattle, WA

“It’s an insanely good book. You also get high marks for the layout — clean, easy to read, compelling photos, helpful diagrams. It’s actually a page-turner — not easy to do outside the fiction genre! You don’t let the grass grow under your feet do you?! I plan to order a copy and know several others who will want one. Go guys, go.”

Joan Ponessa
Director of Research
Education Law Center, New Jersey

“I am very excited about your new book. It will be extremely helpful to me. The most important element in planning is to recognize the need to consider what is a 21st Century school and how their educational program relates now and in the future to the school building. But educators and architects simply do not understand the concept and cannot think spatially.

Educators may appreciate that their programs would be more effective using different teaching techniques but they have trouble relating the concept to the building design. Architects often have no experience designing schools that reflect the newer approaches to teaching. Your book is the tool we need to explain how a good 21st century educational program relates to school building design. I know I will be recommending it frequently.”

Peter Jamieson
Faculty Developer
University of Queensland, Australia

“With this book the authors continue the generous project they first commenced online with Designshare, providing insight and encouragement that will empower students, teachers, parents and educational administrators to actively participate in the creation of more effective learning environments.”

Keith Lightbody
ICT Consultant
Western Australia Department of Education, Perth, WA

“Congratulations on the new book. I have enjoyed reading it on the bus on the way to work - I particularly like the use of sketches and photos to reinforce the message. One thing I was pleased with was consideration of the suitability of particular spaces for multiple intelligences - this is highly relevant but not something that is typically included. I also learned more about lighting from the book. I think it will be really useful in keeping all the interested parties in the school design process talking a common language.”

William Brenner
National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities, Washington, D.C.

“The Language of School Design: Design Patterns for 21st Century Schools provides a fresh and insightful look at how schools can be designed to facilitate children’s learning and, equally important, teachers’ teaching. It’s a delightful book. Read it and you’ll wish you had gone to a school built by its authors.”

Barbara M. Diamond
Vice-president, Communities & School Facilities,
Public Policy, KnowledgeWorks Foundation, Cincinnati, Ohio

“Designing a new school building should be an occasion when all kinds of people – architects, educators, parents, students, and community members – come together to re-create the school. Finally, there is an accessible visual vocabulary around which these important conversations can occur. Thank you, Prakash and Randy!”

Dr. Jeffery Lackney, AIA
Asst. Professor, University of Wisconsin and
Educational Facilities Scientist, Madison, WI

“The authors claim their work is not ‘scientific’. Yet, in the field of educational facility planning and school design where the dry empirical facts uncovering the ‘impact of facilities on learning’ have thus far failed to inspire and convince, this patterns book leaps forward, integrating earth, air, light, temperature, sound, space and symbolism into meaningfully whole patterns that move far beyond ‘best practices’.”

Wei Chuen
Ministry of Education, Singapore

“A highly readable tome which also engages intellectually with its well thought-through concepts. This illustrative book is a must have companion guide for all school planners who want to explore beyond the conventional in terms of the creative use of space. Indeed, everyone else in the educational field will also benefit from a reading.”

Jeff Phillips
Client Services, Research & Development
Western Australia Department of Education

“I think this book will really stand out as a significant work through the way in which the clear connections between educational research and educational facility planning are made. You have listened to the needs of the two most important but sometimes forgotten groups – students and teachers – and taken the challenge to educational facility planners. By showing through case studies that good practice is all around us, you have taken notice of and given notice to some of the world’s great school planning stories.”

Elizabeth A. Hebert, Ph.D.
Principal, Crow Island School
1112 Willow Road, Winnetka, IL

““The Language of School Design” is an outstanding resource for those interested in being a part of the conversations needed to design schools that will stand the test of time. Nair & Fielding think about schools the way educators think about children - each as individual, and requiring unique, thoughtful solutions for diverse needs. The authors demonstrate a generous spirit of collaboration by inviting the reader into a visual conversation that seeks to understand deeper values about the design of schools. Through this publication, I believe they are entirely successful in their stated goal – to serve as a catalyst for creative thinking that benefits schools not yet developed. The writing is accessible; the format is lively, creative, and full of possibilities. Nair and Fielding have created a marvelous structure for an ongoing exchange that inspires us, organizes our thinking, and expands our vision of the possibilities of school design.”

Thomas R. Hoerr, Ph.D.
Head of School, New City School, St. Louis, MO
Author, Becoming a Multiple Intelligences School (2000), ASCD

“I am in awe of your ideas! Really, reading your book made me wish I had become an architect. Your ability to take complex thoughts and present them in a way which changes the paradigm and is understandable to the layman is nothing short of extraordinary. You show conclusively that it is possible to design schools in a way that will lead to increased student learning and improved faculty productivity. Any teacher would want to teach in your schools; any student would want to attend your schools!

I recommend this book for anyone who is involved in making decisions about how schools should be designed and how classrooms can be structured. Whether building a new school, modifying an old building, or simply thinking about how furniture and displays can be most effective, this book is filled with inspirational ideas.”


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The Language of School Design: Design Patterns for 21st Century Schools, by Prakash Nair and Randall Fielding, is a seminal work because it defines a new graphic vocabulary that synthesizes learning research with best practice in school planning and design. But it is more than a book about ideas. It is also a practical tool and a must-have resource for all school stakeholders involved in planning, designing and constructing new and renovated schools and evaluating the educational adequacy of existing school facilities.

Prakash Nair is a partner with Fielding Nair International, an award-winning school planning firm. Nair is widely published and has served as a consultant to governments and professional organizations in 19 states and 10 countries on four continents.

Randall Fielding is a partner with Fielding Nair International and Founder/Editorial Director of, building it into the world’s largest and most prestigious forum for innovative schools. Fielding is recognized as one of the world’s foremost creative and innovative school architects, and is the recipient of numerous design awards.

Design PatternsA pattern describes a problem that occurs over and over again in our environment; and then describes the core of the solution in such a way that you can use the solution a million times over without ever doing it the same way twice.

Explore the rest of the Design Patterns detetailed in Nair and Fielding’s book:

Traditional Classrooms: Cells-and-Bells, Ford Model

Learning Studios

Learning Suite

Small Learning Community

Welcoming Entry

Student Display Space

Home Base and Individual Storage

Science Labs, Art Labs and Life Skills Areas

Art, Music and Performance

Physical Fitness

Casual Eating Areas


Interior and Exterior Vistas

Dispersed Technology

Indoor-Outdoor Connection

Furniture: Soft Seating

Flexible Spaces

Campfire Space

Watering Hole Space

Cave Space

Designing for Multiple Intelligences

Daylight and Solar Energy

Natural Ventilation

Full-Spectrum Lighting

Sustainable Elements and Building as 3-D Textbook

Local Signature

Connected to the Community

Bringing It All Together

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