A school can be considered a “living venue” for learning (Walden, 2015 p.6); a constantly evolving system with a wide range of stakeholders and users. Indeed, any education building is an all-encompassing environment, extending beyond merely a place for curriculum-driven education (Woods, 2018). In fact, buildings delivering education tend to form significant and meaningful ‘places’ and provide a ‘central hub or heart’ of the communities in which they are located. Places for education possess a unique identity, becoming landmarks in the community and as such, can become pivotal beacons of civic architecture.
During the COVID19 pandemic we have seen education buildings close and as such, their distinct community identity has been diluted. Educators have had to undertake teaching and learning in other creative ways, predominantly through virtual resources. While schools that remained open (for children of key workers) have been able to creatively use their space available for more imaginative modes of learning through “doing, making and constructing” (Burke, 2020).
Post-lockdown, it has been necessary to transform education environments to operate safely and with social distancing. It may also be necessary to create ‘pop-up’ learning spaces, utilising community venues and civic spaces. However, it has been necessary to carry out spatial reformatting in a limited timeframe, with people making the best of the space they have available. As such, the focus has been on providing enough space (to ensure social distancing) as opposed to perhaps reconsidering the ways in which students learn or how to reinvigorate the civic identity of the school and other education centres.
Whether we consider schools, colleges, universities and other forms of education centres, for many years, learning has taken place in classroom style setups with students sat at tables and chairs and a main focal point where teaching resources are displayed. School design in particular, is bound by rules and regulations which prevent more experimental solutions. Burke (2020) suggests that there are “powerful mythologies of schooling”* at play which are barriers to making change. Whereas, the pandemic has forced us all to rethink how we do things and allowed opportunities for reconsidering learning space. Perhaps now more than ever, in the rapidly changing current climate it is now time to shake up the rulebook and rethink our learning environments once again.
The project will be a centre for Knowledge Exchange based in Nottingham, UK, which will challenge current learning methodologies and education typologies. You will explore the typology of an education facility and from your research you will develop a proposal for a learning narrative for your project. The aim of your learning narrative is to challenge mythologies of learning whilst offering links and connections with the local community. From this narrative, you will develop your design thesis and architectural brief for an educational building typology.