Interviews

These interviews on school architecture and design include a range of perspectives from teachers, students, philosophers, historians and experts in Post-occupancy Evaluation, acoustics and designing for children with special needs. Each person has a different take on architecture but they all share an interest in exploring how educational spaces are used and might be made better for people.

Judith Baines is a former primary school teacher and Deputy Head. She pioneered progressive teaching methods at Eynsham Primary in Oxfordshire with her husband, George Baines, from the late 1960s until the 1980s.

Ruth Benn and Rebecca Skelton are teachers at the start of their careers. In this interview they reflect on classroom spaces and design and how they learned to adapt their classrooms to the needs of the children and the curriculum.

Gert Biesta An interview with the leading educational theorist about how we frame education and learning, including educational architecture. The design of educational spaces should create discussion around what kind of education we intend, remembering that school is more than official learning, it is a social and democratic space.

Jill Blackmore on learning spaces, helping teachers’ develop professionally, working with the OECD on their Learning Environments Evaluation Programme (LEEP), researching from a critical perspective, feminism and education as a religion.

Catherine Burke An interview with the author of School with reflections on children’s participation in design, on punishment and how to change the material culture of schools.

Tim Byrne’s interview with A&E is about solving problems in the school and the classroom: with space; with time; with technology. He discusses interactive whiteboards and their place in the classroom and suggests that assessment in schools should be abolished.

Shane Cryer is the UK education concept developer for Swedish acoustic experts Ecophon. He wants to promote discussion and research about acoustics in schools, believing that good acoustics can significantly improve well-being, attainment and inclusion.

Dominic Cullinan is one of the partners of the architectural studio SCABAL, responsible for client design advice on a number of London schools, including UCL Academy. Here he remembers the dark days of his schooling and its influence on his architectural designs.

Sarah Cuthill remembers her schools in Buckinghamshire (UK) and Switzerland and talks about her role as a manager of three library spaces in a large school in Bristol.

Suvani Dave, a sixth form pupil in Twickenham, UK, believes that schools of the future will be far brighter and more vibrant for students. She advocates consultancy with students but also respects the experience and skill of the architect.

Suzi Hall An interview about space and social life with the urban ethnographer and architect who coordinates the Super-diverse Streets project based at LSE Cities in London and whose book City, Street and Citizen: the Measure of the Ordinary explores the life of a multicultural street in London.

Hedwig Heinsman remembers her early school where her parents were teachers and she was the only pupil allowed to rollerblade around the school. She discusses working with clients and how architects need to teach design schools before they can create a meaningful participatory design process with adults and with children.

Herman Hertzberger (2016) reflects on the influence of his childhood and schooling on his architecture and his philosophy of education. He also discusses school design today, the architects he most admires and his own legacy. Our 2017 interview with Herman Hertzberger is more specific and focuses on how he sees space as an instrument – something that “incites you to put your own ideas into it” as well as a means for connecting people socially.

Georgie Hughes is a Reading Recovery teacher leader in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. In this interview she talks about the places where children learn to read in schools and about her own experiences of reading.

Lina Iordanaki is an education researcher, specialising in children’s literature. Here she considers the differences between Greek and British schools and describes the materiality of her childhood schools, including the significance of the classroom bin.

Adrian Leaman is an expert in Post-occupancy Evaluation (PoE): how people respond to the buildings they work in and how the buildings themselves perform. This interview focuses on school buildings and design but also touches on some of the problems that can occur when too much attention is given to the ‘wow factor’ of a school rather than thinking about its users’ needs.

Assistant head teacher Irene Lindsay takes a thoughtful, practical approach to the subject of school design. She also reflects on the places where children read in schools and the challenges of space and time in a contemporary primary school.

Nicky Manby An interview with the internationally educated Chair of Governors of a Hackney primary school who raised funds to build an architect-designed reading Lodge in the playground of the school.

Estelle Morris remembers her own school and suggests that school design is very important, but not sufficient, to provide a good education.

Pamela Murphy talks about design for special schools; why architects should think more carefully about ceilings as well as floors and about teachers’ obsession with cupboards.

In this interview with A&E, Bridget Murray talks about her schooling and her own classrooms as a teacher in the 1990s. She offers her thoughts about how to create the ideal classroom.

Anne Prendergast remembers her 1970s school days in a Pugin-designed classroom with a headteacher who believed in discipline and corporal punishment.

Jane Simpson, an architect and specialist in access and inclusion, campaigns for better facilities in special and mainstream schools for all pupils. In this interview she proposes that architects and teachers should talk about functionality, security, well-being, timetabling and the flexibility of spaces.

Jennifer Singer is an architect who has consistently made the choice to collaborate with educators to improve school buildings. Here she describes some of the features of her professional life, including a collaborative design project with education researcher Alison Clark and a book called School Design Together with Pamela Woolner to which she contributed a chapter. Jennifer is currently an education design advisor for the EFA.

Sue Steggles is a Reading Recovery teacher in the London Borough of Newham and in this interview she remembers the spaces in school where she felt happy and those where she felt uncomfortable as a child.

Rima Tarar A student of interior architecture at London Metropolitan University, Rima talks about her early schooling in Paris, the difficult transition to a London secondary school and the importance of a colourful, warm environment for students.

Architect Helen Taylor reflects on the realities of school design before and after the 2010 UK general election and how to make the most of what architects are given in terms of school design today.

Ola Uduku is an architect and researcher focussing on schools and environmental and social infrastructure. She also writes on development and related issues in the global ‘South’ and in this interview speaks about school design in Africa generally and the social provision of education in a number of African countries.

Summer (Ji Yu) Summer is a doctoral student of Education with a specialist knowledge of civil engineering and learning spaces in universities. Here, Summer remembers her first study trip to Scottish primary schools and their contrast with her own early educational settings in China.

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