Great interview with Peter Lippman.
I know him from way back in New York City. A point of clarification. I never said that corridors, etc. are wasted because they are not used for academic purposes. What I said is that these spaces are wasted because they are ancillary to the learning that goes on in school — and by that I mean, ANY type of learning — particularly social and emotional learning. By utilizing hallways along with the adjoining classrooms, many more modes of learning are at the disposal of the teacher than before. These may include things like independent study, team collaboration, research, or just hanging out during breaks in a social way. I have attached two pictures of the Hillel School in Tampa — before and after pictures of the same hallway. So what I’m saying is let’s put these spaces to better use rather than the single-purpose use to store lockers or serve as a circulation spine.
On another matter, I agree with Peter’s four types of architects but he he missed the most important type — the “Radical Architect” or, better still, the “Change Agent” who comes to the table without worrying too much about the “architect” label at all. If the problem with schools is that it has become a bunch of disconnected silos, then going in as the architect will simply trap you in the “facilities” silo. Since school construction expenditures often represent the largest chunk of discretionary money a district will have to spend, it is an excellent opportunity for people to re-imagine the whole education system rather than look at at as a collection of parts. In the latter scenario, the best we can get is incremental change.
For holistic, truly meaningful and sustainable change, the school facility must be seen as an integral piece of a larger puzzle called education. Only by thinking differently about curriculum, pedagogy, scheduling (extremely important), professional development, leadership, technology integration, global connections and full stakeholder participation can we actually effectuate real change. What I’m saying is, who better to bring all these diverse interests together than the architect/planner. After all, the spaces we design are a means to an end — but what is that end? If we simply ask the educators and even listen very well, we’ll hear things like “can you make my classroom bigger — or L-shaped (Peter Lippman did some research on this) — and more storage. Few educators will say, “hey, let’s scrap the whole thing and start afresh because the basic model is broken!” but, in fact, that is often what is needed.
You probably know about Anne Frank Inspire Academy in San Antonio whose construction was just completed but this is the first of what we hope will be at least 100 schools that completely break the mold in favor of a new paradigm of education. I wrote a new chapter for our book about this school (attached) and you can also watch the video here:
Another video that explains what I’m taking about describes the PK Yonge Developmental Research School at the University of Florida that we designed. Sure the teachers are talking about space but note it is the new teaching and learning model enabled by the design they are most excited about:
This school was following a very traditional curriculum and pedagogical model when I first met them. What they ended up getting proves that the new building served as the catalyst to change everything — and that the change was owned by the educators. However we, as the architects, made it possible for them to be brave. In the end, this kind of change is very personal and emotional — and it’s all about people. Unless we capture their imaginations and get them to believe that their school (not school building) can be better, much better, we will continue to tinker on the margins as architects or, worse, we will design great “looking” schools in which the old model of education continues to flourish. So the bottom line is that I’d like to go far beyond Peter’s “Responsive Architect” and I believe that, for the most part, we have existed quite successfully beyond the limits imposed by our “architecture” hat.