UPDATE: I just added some photos of the UK high school school that has most recently captured my heart/mind. These are learning environments that simply achieve a higher level of designed wonder.
Look at bottom of post.
I often lament the serious lack of aesthetic 'design' thinking that transpires in US-based school architecture projects in comparison to our international comrades who seem to 'get it' the majority of the time they put together innovative learning environments. I'm not saying I don't have colleagues who put out great work. I do. Several of them. But they are rare, while the # of schools build every day in the US is wildly beyond their #'s. And this means design for the most part still looks like the 1950's, or even the 1850's.
As a jury member of the annual DesignShare Awards program this summer, school design projects found outside the US make this papa wish his kiddo could 'do school' overseas and still make it home for dinner here in Texas.
That is until I just started reviewing this US school (see below -- it has to remain 'anonymous' until we publish the winners at summer's end). It looks like a delirious SoHo art gallery married a children's museum/zoo, all the while making sure that infinite daylight and delightful leather furniture choices -- what? with kids!? gulp! (he smiles) -- would give us a space to calmly wait when necessary.
Now, this is a crazy-wonderful re-think of a school entry!
And I would sign Beckett up tomorrow just so he could spend time running back and forth waiting for us to pick him up at the end of a school day if this were the way his school 'met' the community.
But, when it comes to budget choices, great design -- truly inspired design, actually -- is forced to take back seat all too often in US-based schools.
Here we are with a school that has the opportunity to truly capture hearts/minds (and design fans)...
...and yet we toss in old school blue plastic classroom chairs?
And do you wonder why I lament over the way K-12 schools generally are born here stateside? Where the icon of yesterday's school building still reigns supreme in a land of budget-limited community choices.
OK, I get it.
Sometimes we have to make choices, and ultimately the 'education' matters more than the design...
...but I'd like to think that the designers knew more was possible before the FF&E budget took over at the end of the project spec process.
Consider this post less about this specific school (although I do LOVE the entry way and stand by that description/possibility) and more about the symbolic metaphors of what we often choose when the world can offer us so much more.
The rest I'll leave up to you to sort out on your own time.
Images from the UK high school that I adore:
Dining hall image 1:
Dining hall image 2:
Typical classroom or lab: