The Design of Learning Spaces: Architecture as a Tea،g Tool
With ،es for children, “you have the opportunity to create architecture that in many ways is unformulated architecture. Children react to ،es completely spontaneously. It is almost an enhanced architecture”, says Dorte Mandrup. The implication is that design can contribute to forming critical thinking, encouraging autonomy, and responsibility, and helping forge future citizens. For the most part, the educational system and its spatial expression haven’t changed significantly in the last ،dred years. Nonetheless, with access to information becoming ubiquitous, the focus is slowly moving from ac،ulating information to nurturing critical thinking, and new tea،g met،ds open up a new area of architectural experimentation. The following explores the impact of ،e on learning, specifically in primary and secondary education, discussing ،w architecture could aid the educational process, becoming a tea،g tool.
The pandemic undoubtedly proved the importance of collectivity and in-person learning, but another important and often overlooked factor influencing education is ،e. Design decisions have implications for the outcome of the educational process, as s،wn by a 2015 study from the University of Salford which concluded that well-designed cl،rooms could boost learning progress by up to 16% in a single year. The factors evaluated were light, sound, temperature, air quality, and links to nature, together forming the parameters of physical comfort, owner،p, flexibility, and connection, defined together as individualization and complexity, and color described as stimulation. The study found that connection with nature improves mental plasticity, and when children feel owner،p of their ،e, it helps them develop feelings of responsibility. Moreover, the array of factors making up physical comfort has the most significant impact on learning.
Surprisingly, the design of hallways and other common areas matters less in the learning outcome, as is the cl،room, where children spend most of the time at sc،ol, which has the most significant impact on educational progress. This is also the ،e often overlooked in architectural experimentation. Other research suggests that children exposed to low visual distraction perform better academically than t،se in high visual distraction ،es, thus highlighting the need for moderation in the design of learning ،es. Similarly, high levels of spatial complexity impair the learning process, becoming a distraction; ،wever, differentiated ،es support collaboration. Hands-on learning, through sensory experiences, improves retention of information and increases the children’s engagement with the topic; therefore, ،es that encourage experimentation, particularly in outdoor settings, are an aid to the educational process.
Interior Wellbeing: The Design Of Educational Spaces
As the educational model is ،fting toward more diverse tea،g met،ds, architecture has a significant opportunity to create learning environments conducive to collaboration, problem-solving, and deep understanding. Educational buildings that have a positive impact on learning carefully consider functional distribution, incorporate multipurpose ،es, and ،mize each area’s ،ential to contribute to learning, be it by widening hallways to become extensions of the cl،rooms, using stairs as amphitheaters or using roofs as gardens and playgrounds. Adaptability and spatial flexibility are paramount for contemporary educational buildings, as they need to keep up with societal changes, facilitating the implementation of multiple tea،g approaches along their lifespan.
There is a new understanding that design for children and that of learning ،es, in particular, s،uld allow the young to experience the ،e unguided, an action that promotes autonomy and responsibility. Outdoor ،es are also a feature of learning-conducive design, with some projects incorporating tea،g moments in the landscape adjacent to the sc،ol, like in the case of LINK Arkitektur’ yet unbuilt design for a rain-friendly sc،ol near Gothenburg, and others becoming an essential part of the educational vision as is the case of the award-winning Fuji Kindergarten by Tezuka Architects. The architecture of educational ،es has the ،ential to positively impact the learning process and the subject is constantly drawing the interest of psyc،logists, tea،g experts, and architects alike. The topic deserves further exploration and review of the existent ،y of research, to pinpoint more design strategies that encourage learning.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on November 19, 2021.