Interview with Herman Hertzberger (2017): architecture as visual and social connection

An Interview with Herman Hertzberger from May 2017 about Architecture’s Role in Providing Visual and Social Connections

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Our second interview with the architect Herman Hertzberger – the first from 2016 is here and covers a broader range of topics. This conversation focuses more explicitly on the roles of architecture and space in helping to establish social connections and provide people with resources to act in space. It also covers looking and the visual’s relation to the social as well as how Hertzberger himself looks and works. The interview took place on May 3rd, 2017. Continue reading “Interview with Herman Hertzberger (2017): architecture as visual and social connection”

What Are We Building Schools For Again?

For OECD and UNICEF, the well-being of UK young people is not good. Is it time to rethink the aim of school architecture?

Earlier this week, the OECD published its findings on student well-being [PDF, 6MB]. When 15-year-olds across the world sat the 2015 PISA reading, writing and science tests, they also responded to a questionnaire that sought to explore their satisfaction with life in general, and, in more specific terms, their self-reported social, cognitive, psychological and physical well-being (as defined by the OECD). [1]

Michael Gove, when Secretary of State for Education, would use PISA results (but only some) as a justification for continued reform. For example: Continue reading “What Are We Building Schools For Again?”

Transitions: Inhabiting Innovative Learning Environments

Transitions: Inhabiting Innovative Learning Environments – Graduate research symposia.

While the provision of innovative learning environments in many countries around the world is an exciting and overdue development, they are also presenting new challenges for teachers.
Continue reading “Transitions: Inhabiting Innovative Learning Environments”

An Interview with Jill Blackmore on space, learning, feminism and the politics of education

Professor Jill Blackmore discusses learning spaces, teachers’ work, feminism and the complexity of education.

Jill Blackmore is Professor of Education and former Director of the Centre for Research in Educational Futures and Innovation at Deakin University, Victoria, Australia.

She has published widely in education and sociology with a longstanding interest in issues of equity, feminism, teachers’ work and classroom practice. Recently she has led teams studying school learning environments leading to an extremely useful literature review, Research into the connection between built learning spaces and student outcomes (PDF, 3MB) as well as the Innovative Learning Environments Research Study (PDF, 1MB) (See also learningspacesportal.edu.au). Jill also advises the OECD on their Learning Environments Evaluation Programme.

This interview crosses a lot of ground – from her recent work exploring teachers’ use of space to her own teaching Continue reading “An Interview with Jill Blackmore on space, learning, feminism and the politics of education”

Flexibility, Time and Learning Spaces

If teachers don’t have time to make flexibility happen, a learning environment isn’t flexible. This post proposes a breakdown into 4 types of flexibility based on the temporal (& other) resources users need.

The flexibility of ‘flexible learning environments’ is a big part of my ongoing PhD research and I find it a thorny, intriguing ‘thing’. Flexibility is problematic in lots of ways and one of them, I think, is time – specifically the timescales over which we mean flexibility to apply.

Without an understanding of timescale, we don’t know:

(1) What type of flexibility is being discussed. Flexible as in I can switch things around now? Flexible as in I can adapt my space for next week’s project on aerodynamics/WWII or whatever? Flexible as in the space can be made larger, added on to, walls can move?

and these questions bear on… Continue reading “Flexibility, Time and Learning Spaces”

Hertzberger’s ‘cupboardness’

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Should schools have cosy, secluded spaces for children? The architect Herman Hertzberger thinks so. His ‘little library,” is one example: a small space beneath a staircase*, furnished with a single, child-scaled chair that offers an inviting, secluded space without prescribing exactly how the space should be used.

In Space and Learning (2008), Hertzberger’s text about spatial opportunities in schools and how they could lead to better education, he writes, “[p]eople and things require nooks and crannies to inhabit in space” and then describes an essential quality of such spaces as “‘cupboardness’, with the kangaroo as our ideal.” Continue reading “Hertzberger’s ‘cupboardness’”

An educational paradox: where beginner readers learn in school

As a collaborative* doctoral research student in the field of architecture and education, I’m often asked to explain what my research is about. I’m always surprised by how much my answer changes according to who I’m talking to, when and where we’re talking and how I’m feeling about what I’m reading and writing at the time.  Far from having a polished elevator pitch, my thoughts about what I’m up to change and develop week by week.

As I’m currently contemplating the writing of my final thesis, I thought I might try and compress my research into a short description here for this blog, offering it in a spirit of exploration and curiosity (mine, as much as yours, I suspect).

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I’m interested in where children learn in schools. There hasn’t been much academic or professional research in the field of education about that, although there are some notable exceptions**. Continue reading “An educational paradox: where beginner readers learn in school”

Architecture and Education seminar: two-footed stories of exploration. May 11th 2016, University of Cambridge

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Over the past three years, an innovative collaborative research partnership, funded by the AHRC has been established between the Faculty of Education at the University of Cambridge and SCABAL architecture studio, London.

The partnership is entitled ‘Creative Discipline: exploring the value of design in building high quality schools supporting excellence in teaching and learning.’

Three doctoral researchers, Emma Dyer, Karolina Szynalska and Tom Bellfield, are currently conducting PhD studies, jointly supervised by Dr Cathy Burke at the Faculty of Education and Dominic Cullinan at SCABAL. Their research questions and subsequent studies have been generated through this bipedular partnership, with one foot in academia and the other foot in practice.

This seminar will share some current research findings, projections Continue reading “Architecture and Education seminar: two-footed stories of exploration. May 11th 2016, University of Cambridge”

Post-Occupancy Evaluation and Schools – an interview with Adrian Leaman

Adrian Leaman on what makes school buildings special, PoE and managing complexity.

Adrian Leaman runs Building Use Studies and leads the educational and dissemination activities of the Usable Buildings Trust, a UK educational charity with the aim of promoting information about buildings in use from technical and human perspectives. He has had a long interest in built space and its organisation and is keen that future design can benefit from lessons learned in existing buildings. Hence our discussion here focuses on post-occupancy evaluation (PoE) and the feedback loops that can lead to better school buildings.


With this site, Emma and I are trying to understand how school architecture and space are lived. With your experience of Post-Occupancy Evaluation (PoE), what would you say make schools special, space-wise? Continue reading “Post-Occupancy Evaluation and Schools – an interview with Adrian Leaman”

Improving access in schools: an interview with Jane Simpson

20150919_130659An Architect and NRAC registered Access Consultant, Jane is the Director of her own company; Jane Simpson Access Ltd. She has over two decades of experience in inclusion and is noted for her knowledge of the educational sector. She provides advice on a broad range of issues, often clarifying complex aspects of the Equality Act 2010, Special Education Needs and Disability Act (SENDA) and other statutory and legislative information. Her work encompasses Continue reading “Improving access in schools: an interview with Jane Simpson”

Schools and School Design in Africa: An Interview with Ola Uduku

Ola Uduku (Edinburgh University) speaks about the historical influence of Western pedagogies and architectural traditions and their local adaptation in school design.

Ola Uduku is Reader in Architecture and Dean International for Africa at Edinburgh University’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (ESALA). Her research specialisms are the history of educational architecture in Africa and contemporary issues related to social infrastructure provision for minority communities in cities in the ‘West’ and ‘South’. She is also involved in research into environmental analysis, and measurement tools and apps for educational and third sector uses. Continue reading “Schools and School Design in Africa: An Interview with Ola Uduku”

The importance of acoustics in learning: an interview with Shane Cryer, Ecophon

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Shane Cryer manages the education sector in the UK and Ireland for Swedish acoustic experts, Ecophon. After a career in the construction industry, having studied building and property surveying, he now concentrates on building acoustics. Working closely with organisations such as The Institute of Acoustics (IOA) and the RIBA, Shane has been promoting the new BB93: Acoustic Design of Schools standard via CPD seminars, conferences and articles in the trade press. Continue reading “The importance of acoustics in learning: an interview with Shane Cryer, Ecophon”

Futures for English School Design

The following is a list of things we learned during the Education Estates conference, held in Manchester on 10-11th November 2015. Continue reading “Futures for English School Design”

Why are people so fixated on area in schools and not on cost?

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I returned home from the Education Estates* conference in Manchester earlier this week with one question lodged firmly in my head: why are people so fixated on area in schools and not on cost?

The question was asked at the very end of the conference in the final session Continue reading “Why are people so fixated on area in schools and not on cost?”

A less modern but more hi-tech primary: more from the DfE’s PSBP

Following yesterday’s cheaper, faster … and better?  post, I must apologise for a lack of thoroughness in my research of the school building and maintenance section of the Gov.UK website.  At the time of writing I had only read one of the DfE’s latest press releases, dated 21st September 2015, about their Priority School’s Building Programme’s new and clearly very modern schools. Continue reading “A less modern but more hi-tech primary: more from the DfE’s PSBP”

PBSP school buildings in the UK: cheaper, faster… better?

A Victorian-era community primary has been rebuilt as a modern replacement primary academy in the West Midlands of England and the DfE puts out a press release to celebrate its opening.

As a promotional puff for a new school, some of the language used initially strikes me as rather odd. Continue reading “PBSP school buildings in the UK: cheaper, faster… better?”

Interview preview: with special school deputy head Pamela Murphy

Pamela Murphy read Geography at the University of Cambridge before working as a University administrator and then training as a primary teacher. She worked in a mainstream school as a class teacher before working in two special schools and she is currently the assistant head teacher of Queen Elizabeth II special school in London. Pupils at the school are aged between 4  19 years and have severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties as well as complex physical and medical needs. This is an extract from an interview with Pamela for A&E. 

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In my third and final year at the first special school where I worked, I had a class of children who were severely autistic with huge sensory needs. We were on the middle corridor and across from us was a big hall and doors that opened out onto it.  So in that middle corridor I had a group of children, all non-verbal, huge sensory issues, all with issues about transition from Year 6 and a classroom that was in no way suitable for these kids that opened directly onto a hall where anyone could be having a PE lesson.   Continue reading “Interview preview: with special school deputy head Pamela Murphy”

AR’s School Awards: will the interiors count? That’s where students spend their 13,585 school hours…

As the Architectural Review’s School Awards close, let’s hope the judges give due emphasis to the design of the interiors since this is where students and teachers spend most of their time. And Architecture as I’ve argued before already pays too much attention to exteriors. But insides count!

Let’s say students are inside for 5.5 hours a day Continue reading “AR’s School Awards: will the interiors count? That’s where students spend their 13,585 school hours…”

What is a class?

I’d never been inside an architect’s office until a couple of years ago but I’d always been curious to know what architects actually did while they were at work.  I suppose I imagined them sharing ideas around a table, talking, drawing, drinking coffee, making models, both real and virtual … that sort of thing.

It only took a couple of visits to an architectural studio for me to realise that my imagination Continue reading “What is a class?”

Wiping the slate clean: one way to declutter a primary school

When I asked Catherine Burke what she would wish for if she could change just one thing in all schools, this is how she replied:

(T)o remove everything from schools including all the clutter and all the paraphernalia and all the technology and all the stuff and then have a really good think about what was necessary to bring back.

And to try and justify bringing everything back. Continue reading “Wiping the slate clean: one way to declutter a primary school”

The phantom cloakroom

When I was considering whether to include my own childhood school as one of a series of research visits to primary schools, I wondered how that might affect the research.  It wasn’t until after I’d made the visit that I remembered Katie Jones & Jon Anderson’s excellent (2009) paper about the methodologies of different research spaces in schools and the fact that Jones was visiting her own (secondary) school for her research project.  However, unlike Jones, a young researcher, Continue reading “The phantom cloakroom”

Interview with Ruth Benn and Rebecca Skelton, teachers at Sparrow Farm Infants & Nursery school, Feltham.

Ruth Benn and Rebecca Skelton teach at Sparrow Farm Infants & Nursery school in Feltham, close to Heathrow Airport. Rebecca began working at the school in September 2013, after completing a PGCE in Primary Education while Ruth joined the school a year later after finishing her BA in Education. They both work in the Year One classrooms in the main building of the school, which dates back to the late 1950s.  In the past year, two building projects have been completed: a new nursery building, detached from the original site; and a small self-contained building known as the ‘eco-hut’ or ‘the nest’, designed for small group or one to one interventions, teaching and assessment.   We talked in Rebecca’s classroom after the pupils had gone home for the day on June 8th 2015.

 

Emma: Can I ask you both about your own early experiences of school buildings?  What was your school like?

 

Rebecca:  I went to two primary schools that were very different. Continue reading “Interview with Ruth Benn and Rebecca Skelton, teachers at Sparrow Farm Infants & Nursery school, Feltham.”

Interview with Georgie Hughes, Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, Tower Hamlets

Georgina (Georgie) Hughes is the Reading Recovery teacher leader for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and also trains teachers in Reading Recovery for other London boroughs.  Georgie is based at the two-form entry Osmani Primary School in Whitechapel, East London, where she is the Inclusion Manager.  Osmani’s intake of children is primarily of Bangladeshi heritage, with seventy per cent eligible for free school meals and where the majority of pupils begin school with limited knowledge of English.  The school is housed in an Edwardian former secondary school building and has a spacious feel, with generous sized classrooms and a large number of support rooms available for one to one and small group tuition.  Georgie graduated from Nottingham Trent University with a degree in European studies before moving to London for her Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) and a Masters in Reading Recovery and Literary Leadership at the Institute of Education. Georgie was my teacher leader when I trained as a Reading Recovery teacher in Tower Hamlets in 2010.

Think back to your first school.  What was it like?

My very first school? Continue reading “Interview with Georgie Hughes, Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, Tower Hamlets”

Interview with Rima Tarar, architecture student

Rima Tarar was born in Paris in the early 1990s, where she attended nursery and primary school.  One year into her secondary education, with very little English, she moved to London and was enrolled in a state secondary school in Hackney.  Rima is currently studying interior architecture at London Metropolitan University and considering a number of career options, including architecture.

Tell me about your first school.

I really remember my nursery school, actually. Continue reading “Interview with Rima Tarar, architecture student”

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”