While the jury is still out on a single solution for the 'future of school design', there certainly is a 'pattern of school design' unfolding. This next 12 days of travel will offer a really nice snapshot of innovation, touching base with some pretty remarkable leaders in the industry in the process.
Thursday, 6.9: Fly to Charlotte, NC to visit with the North American team of the German-based VS Furniture to talk to them about their highly ergonomic school furniture design.
Schools typically invest in furniture that is a) very durable, b) keeps kids in nice little rows, c) is cost-effective, and d) pretty much looks like it did a generation ago. What I particularly appreciate about VS' approach is that they first and foremost accept that kiddos move. And furniture that expands, adapts, adjusts, and moves is...well...logical. The only catch is that there line actually looks innovative, and thus most traditional school districts in America aren't quite ready to take the leap. Well, hoping to help them be better positioned. And help the eventual kiddo clients be better 'positioned' as well.
Friday, 6.9: Return to Dallas, re-pack, and then head back to the airport to fly to Chicago to work with Herman Miller and give a presentation at the well-known annual furniture mecca Neo Con, speaking to a university-focused audience of architects, planners, deans, facilty directors, and manufacturers.
Been interesting to re-think the 'essential questions' these past weeks to re-orient past presentations to fit the future of university design. In theory, kindergarten and colleges should be based on a similar premise of learner-centered programs and designs with only the 'tools' adapting. This holds pretty true, when you strip away the traditional themes and solutions, but still a lot of sacred territory at the university level. Ultimately, the K-12 question should be "Will you engage me?"...and thus the underlying theme at the university level seems to be "Will you be relevant?". I offer this as 2-fold concept. First, will the graduates be 'relevant' when they hit the open market, with diploma in hand? And second, will our young digital kids find the traditional university model to be 'relevant' when they hit the high school graduation moment a generation from now? To that end, we'll run through Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind, using the rising 'conceptual age' (over the fading 'information age') as a provocation, following up with Fielding/Nair's Language of School Design: Design Patterns for 21st Century Schools. We'll then dive into a range of innovative university space case studies here in the US and abroad before asking the audience to co-create some design pattern solutions of their own.
Wednesday, 6.14: Fly to DC to join the American Architectural Foundation as a panel member to speak to 5 superintendents from major urban cities here in the US in their Summer School Design summit.
The experience will touch upon significant school design projects and long-term master plan concepts, allowing the panel to work as a group and in 1-on-1 scenarios with the visiting superintendents. Each of the urban district leaders will present a live case study they are overseeing. In addition, each of the visiting panel members will speak to the larger trends in the field of school design here in the US. I'm honored to have even been included. Would have been honored to have just been allowed to be a fly-on-the-wall, too, but should be a great challenge to help place these specific urban district case studies into a larger pattern of school design trends. From my perspective, my goal is to speak less to specific solutions. Instead, I want to challenge the superintendents to ask different questions at the front end, to try to re-think their original needs within the evolving world of education. The school facilities are tools, and must be response-able in ways we've never before dreamed of in the past. It demands far more than thinking 'green buildings' or "building information modeling' or 'flexibility' or 'life cycle costs' or 'new urbanism' or even 'community learning centers', let alone the blatantly obvious issues of square footage, attendance zones, schedules, bond elections, and maintenance issues. The critical questions demand that we get down to the core of what we mean by 'learning' in the future, seeing the 'facility' as part of a larger community of interwoven facilities that are available 24/7 to a multi-generational audience in real and virtual ways.
One way or another, these next 12 days should offer a stunning range of case studies, experts, and essential questions centered on the unfolding 'future of school design'.