On Forgetting: Some Similarities between Architecture and Social Media

Architecture and social media share a way of being understood as neutral things – their social production being obscured.


Both architecture and social media provide structures through which people interact and those interactions are encouraged in certain ways. They also share a tendency to be recognised less by the social action which go into making them what they are, but by their identification as things: buildings in one case, platforms in the other. Their social production is often forgotten. Continue reading “On Forgetting: Some Similarities between Architecture and Social Media”

The Changing Vocabulary of Education and its Spaces

A post exploring changes in the words used to talk about education e.g. the shift from “classroom” to “learning space”.

Over time we change the words we use to refer to things – in education just as elsewhere. One way to see how vocabulary shifts, is Google’s Ngram Viewer.

Ngram Viewer shows the percentage share a particular word or phrase gets of all words or phrases published in a particular year in books that are part of Google’s corpus or library of scanned books, 1500-2008. Looking over a number of years, you can get a sense of that word’s relative performance – whether it becomes more or less popular (in written, published, Google-scanned texts that is).

If two or more terms are close enough in frequency, they can be mapped on the same graph, for example ‘education’ vs ‘learning’:

An image from Ngram Viewer showing relative trends in the words 'education' and 'learning' between 1800 and 2008

Link to this chart in Ngram Viewer

‘Education’ and ‘learning’ are very different kinds of words but Continue reading “The Changing Vocabulary of Education and its Spaces”

Architecture, design and embarrassment

As a student of architecture and education you have all the fun and none of the responsibilities of the professional architect/educator.  In June I was given the opportunity by SCABAL to write a brief for their architectural studio’s open day to design a primary school in a day.

Once I’d written the brief, Continue reading “Architecture, design and embarrassment”

Making Spaces, Forgetting Politics

Walls* are breaks (Vesely, 2013). They break into established categories of meaning and space and make new ones. They do that publicly too, so we could also say that walls have a communicative function to orient attention and shout about what it is they’re doing.

And a school’s walls are especially powerful since they break into space in so many ways. They start by making school school and differentiating it from the outside Continue reading “Making Spaces, Forgetting Politics”

“Zigzag, white, no life”: a Martian’s View of Architecture

Our interactions with Google search results appear to contribute to the fetishization of Architecture as big white ribbed structures. This post explores why.

In a poem by Craig Raine, A Martian Sends a Postcard Home, the alien narrator describes the strange goings-on of humans to friends and family back on Mars. The unlikely language used to describe this foreign world is an effective way to make the world strange again, a tool to look at things differently. Mist, for example, “is when the sky is tired of flight / and rests its soft machine on ground” and a car “is a room with the lock inside – / a key is turned to free the world // for movement”.

Which made me think – what if a Martian did a Google Image search for the word “architecture”? Continue reading ““Zigzag, white, no life”: a Martian’s View of Architecture”

Open Space Good, Closed Space Bad? Problems with Architecture and Language

In which Marie, a 12-year-old student, explains how large, open-plan spaces feel claustrophobic.

The ideological baggage words carry help to shape how we understand school learning spaces.

Because I spend a lot of time in classrooms and open learning spaces and I’m trying to work out what these things mean, I end up thinking a lot about the role of language in communicating and selling architectural and educational ideas.

So it strikes me that in the case of Open Learning Spaces or Flexible Learning Spaces, say, we have already moved beyond mere description. These are value statements – think about what it would mean to talk about Closed Learning Spaces or Inflexible Learning Spaces.

“Open” belongs Continue reading “Open Space Good, Closed Space Bad? Problems with Architecture and Language”