Edgeless School: Design for Learning

written by:
November 20, 2012

Edgeless School: Design for Learning is an exhibition currently on view at the Center for Architecture. An exploration of how new approaches to learning are being interpreted and facilitated by architects across the United States, Edgeless School showcases nineteen K-12 schools.

Read Full Article
  • 
  Edgeless School: Design for Learning is an exhibition currently on view at the Center for Architecture. An exploration of how new approaches to learning are being interpreted and facilitated by architects across the United States, Edgeless showcases nineteen K-12 schools. One of these schools is the WXY Architecture-designed REED Academy in Northern New Jersey. Photo courtesy the REED Academy.  Courtesy of: © Albert Vecerka/Esto
    Edgeless School: Design for Learning is an exhibition currently on view at the Center for Architecture. An exploration of how new approaches to learning are being interpreted and facilitated by architects across the United States, Edgeless showcases nineteen K-12 schools. One of these schools is the WXY Architecture-designed REED Academy in Northern New Jersey. Photo courtesy the REED Academy.

    Courtesy of: © Albert Vecerka/Esto

  • 
  Today’s students experience their formidable educational years at what may be a pivotal time in history. A rapidly advancing digital world, combined with a changing and challenging economical landscape, has translated into new ideas about learning and teaching. “Everyone, both within the educational community and the public at large, seems to feel we’re at a watershed moment in terms of education,” exhibition curator Thomas Mellin explains. “While this is the Center for Architecture, anyone who has a child in New York City and many who don’t are obsessed with education and schools.” Photo courtesy the Center for Architecture.  Courtesy of: Copyright: Bjorn Wallander
    Today’s students experience their formidable educational years at what may be a pivotal time in history. A rapidly advancing digital world, combined with a changing and challenging economical landscape, has translated into new ideas about learning and teaching. “Everyone, both within the educational community and the public at large, seems to feel we’re at a watershed moment in terms of education,” exhibition curator Thomas Mellin explains. “While this is the Center for Architecture, anyone who has a child in New York City and many who don’t are obsessed with education and schools.” Photo courtesy the Center for Architecture.

    Courtesy of: Copyright: Bjorn Wallander

  • 
  In the Center for Architecture’s double height gallery space, a grid of traditional school desks hang above a new, more flexible interpretation by Steelcase. There are also listening stations where visitors can hear the voices of 21st-century thinkers such as Katie Salen, James Paul Gee, and Howard Gardner, juxtaposed with key 20th century progressive educators whose contributions are listed behind.

Edgeless Schools takes into consideration how best to educate digital natives. “All these kids are growing up knowing they can access at a very young age the information of the world on a hand held device,” Mellin says. “What does that mean in terms of formal education? One thing that is agreed upon is that while no one knows how this will be played out, there is a great emphasis on flexibility, and being able to use spaces in a variety of ways.” Photo courtesy the Center for Architecture.  Courtesy of: Copyright: Bjorn Wallander
    In the Center for Architecture’s double height gallery space, a grid of traditional school desks hang above a new, more flexible interpretation by Steelcase. There are also listening stations where visitors can hear the voices of 21st-century thinkers such as Katie Salen, James Paul Gee, and Howard Gardner, juxtaposed with key 20th century progressive educators whose contributions are listed behind. Edgeless Schools takes into consideration how best to educate digital natives. “All these kids are growing up knowing they can access at a very young age the information of the world on a hand held device,” Mellin says. “What does that mean in terms of formal education? One thing that is agreed upon is that while no one knows how this will be played out, there is a great emphasis on flexibility, and being able to use spaces in a variety of ways.” Photo courtesy the Center for Architecture.

    Courtesy of: Copyright: Bjorn Wallander

  • 
  Part of this flexibility is a redefining of the idea of the classroom and other places where students congregate for learning. At PS 861, the Staten Island school of Civic Leadership, students assemble for class on steps in a more open environment. Building designed by Mitchell/Giurgola Architects. Photo by ©Jeff Goldberg/Esto.  Courtesy of: © Jeff Goldberg/Esto
    Part of this flexibility is a redefining of the idea of the classroom and other places where students congregate for learning. At PS 861, the Staten Island school of Civic Leadership, students assemble for class on steps in a more open environment. Building designed by Mitchell/Giurgola Architects. Photo by ©Jeff Goldberg/Esto.

    Courtesy of: © Jeff Goldberg/Esto

  • 
  Some designs take inspiration from the professional world. The Avenues: World School in New York, a Perkins Eastman design “is a good illustration of a heavy emphasis on technology and is all about connectivity,” Mellins explains. Part of an international network of schools, Avenues: World School is located in a Cass-Gilbert industrial building. Classrooms in this adapted reuse structure “look like some kind of contemporary office” with conference tables. Photo © Bonetti/Kozerski Studio.
    Some designs take inspiration from the professional world. The Avenues: World School in New York, a Perkins Eastman design “is a good illustration of a heavy emphasis on technology and is all about connectivity,” Mellins explains. Part of an international network of schools, Avenues: World School is located in a Cass-Gilbert industrial building. Classrooms in this adapted reuse structure “look like some kind of contemporary office” with conference tables. Photo © Bonetti/Kozerski Studio.
  • 
  NACIArchitecture’s Machias Elementary School in Snohomish, Washington, uses the library as the spine of the school. Photo © Benjamin Benschneider Photography  Courtesy of: © 2011 Benjamin Benschneider All Rights Reserved
    NACIArchitecture’s Machias Elementary School in Snohomish, Washington, uses the library as the spine of the school. Photo © Benjamin Benschneider Photography

    Courtesy of: © 2011 Benjamin Benschneider All Rights Reserved

  • 
  The urban space is an inspiration for how buildings can facilitate interaction. One example is the Frank R. Conwell School Campus in Jersey City, New Jersey, by Gruzen Samton and IBI Group. “Over and over you see that the connection to the street is important, whether it's a collection of buildings or a single building it's conceived of in an urban way,” Mellins says. “This open area becomes like a main street that you can look across and see what's happening.” This allows for both easy planning of events and chance encounters. Photo by James D’Addio.
    The urban space is an inspiration for how buildings can facilitate interaction. One example is the Frank R. Conwell School Campus in Jersey City, New Jersey, by Gruzen Samton and IBI Group. “Over and over you see that the connection to the street is important, whether it's a collection of buildings or a single building it's conceived of in an urban way,” Mellins says. “This open area becomes like a main street that you can look across and see what's happening.” This allows for both easy planning of events and chance encounters. Photo by James D’Addio.
  • 
  REED Academy in Oakland, New Jersey, is a school for children with autism spectrum disorders. Though it is located in a suburban office park, it, too, utilizes the best parts of city life to enhance learning in terms of socialization and positive interaction within the broader society. “It was clear that the idea of the street encounter still resonates even if it’s in a suburban environment,” Claire Weisz, principle of WXY Architecture explains. “Somehow human beings still think as if they are in villages.” Photo by Paul Warchol.  Courtesy of: © 2012 Paul Warchol Photography, Inc.
    REED Academy in Oakland, New Jersey, is a school for children with autism spectrum disorders. Though it is located in a suburban office park, it, too, utilizes the best parts of city life to enhance learning in terms of socialization and positive interaction within the broader society. “It was clear that the idea of the street encounter still resonates even if it’s in a suburban environment,” Claire Weisz, principle of WXY Architecture explains. “Somehow human beings still think as if they are in villages.” Photo by Paul Warchol.

    Courtesy of: © 2012 Paul Warchol Photography, Inc.

  • 
  One unique aspect of REED Academy is that rather than having large hallways with monotonous rows of doors one walks through the school along street-like paths that include a series of alcoves. “The idea is that as you pass through the hallway it becomes a different space,” Weisz says. This helps students at REED slowly become comfortable with moving through a building and with interacting socially. “It could be that a student does a store for a day, or someone puts something special there. We had to do something that didn’t give too many clues, because part of it is teaching the kids the grid of a building,” Weisz further explains. “It’s a place where everyone feels safe and accepted, but also they can learn to cope with more stimulus. It’s this thing where the building is used to build capacity. It made me think: This is not so different than you and I.” Photo ©Albert Vecerka/Esto.
    One unique aspect of REED Academy is that rather than having large hallways with monotonous rows of doors one walks through the school along street-like paths that include a series of alcoves. “The idea is that as you pass through the hallway it becomes a different space,” Weisz says. This helps students at REED slowly become comfortable with moving through a building and with interacting socially. “It could be that a student does a store for a day, or someone puts something special there. We had to do something that didn’t give too many clues, because part of it is teaching the kids the grid of a building,” Weisz further explains. “It’s a place where everyone feels safe and accepted, but also they can learn to cope with more stimulus. It’s this thing where the building is used to build capacity. It made me think: This is not so different than you and I.” Photo ©Albert Vecerka/Esto.
  • 
  The bowstrings of several arches extend beyond the central space, providing ample amounts of natural light. “The central space is a kind of town square,” Mellins says. “And what you learn in a town square, or can learn and observe, is how people interact.”  Courtesy of: © Albert Vecerka/Esto
    The bowstrings of several arches extend beyond the central space, providing ample amounts of natural light. “The central space is a kind of town square,” Mellins says. “And what you learn in a town square, or can learn and observe, is how people interact.”

    Courtesy of: © Albert Vecerka/Esto

  • 
  Many of the schools represented in Edgeless are for students requiring different methods of education, from an emphasis on the arts or teaching those with special needs. The possibilities of learning in new or different ways creates opportunities for new spaces to assist in that learning. 

“All of a sudden your teacher isn’t teaching a classroom of kids. The classroom is just a place that the teacher and student go to periodically during the day when they need to be there,” Weisz explains. “This is a school that’s designed around a way to teach, not a school that was designed because they needed a place to house people.” Photo ©Albert Vecerka/Esto.
    Many of the schools represented in Edgeless are for students requiring different methods of education, from an emphasis on the arts or teaching those with special needs. The possibilities of learning in new or different ways creates opportunities for new spaces to assist in that learning. “All of a sudden your teacher isn’t teaching a classroom of kids. The classroom is just a place that the teacher and student go to periodically during the day when they need to be there,” Weisz explains. “This is a school that’s designed around a way to teach, not a school that was designed because they needed a place to house people.” Photo ©Albert Vecerka/Esto.
  • 
  Part of the concept of Edgeless-ness includes exploring the outside and nature within a city, further expanding what a classroom can be. At the Rogers Marvel designed Stephen Gaynor School in New York, students take advantage of green spaces. Photo ©David Sundberg/Esto.
    Part of the concept of Edgeless-ness includes exploring the outside and nature within a city, further expanding what a classroom can be. At the Rogers Marvel designed Stephen Gaynor School in New York, students take advantage of green spaces. Photo ©David Sundberg/Esto.
  • 
  St. Albans School in Washington, DC, by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is located on a beautiful campus in the shadow of the Olmsted-designed National Cathedral. Facing the challenge of fitting in within this existing, historic space, the architects create paths on the roof and underneath the buildings that “allow for a meandering through the campus” in order to “take on a quality of a pilgrimage in the shadow of the Cathedral,” Mellins says. Photo ©Robert Polidori.
    St. Albans School in Washington, DC, by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is located on a beautiful campus in the shadow of the Olmsted-designed National Cathedral. Facing the challenge of fitting in within this existing, historic space, the architects create paths on the roof and underneath the buildings that “allow for a meandering through the campus” in order to “take on a quality of a pilgrimage in the shadow of the Cathedral,” Mellins says. Photo ©Robert Polidori.
  • 
  Part of being Edgeless is in the way a school fits within a community, especially in an urban environment. The Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Queens, New York, thrives in a bustling area of Astoria. “The school gets so much out of being in that lively neighborhood, and that neighborhood gets more lively because of the presence of the school. There's a symbiosis,” Mellins says. “The most dramatic translation of edgeless-ness is literal transparency. You can see the ballet students at the bar from the street.” School designed by Ennead Architects. Photo by ©Aislinn Weidele/Ennead Architects.
    Part of being Edgeless is in the way a school fits within a community, especially in an urban environment. The Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Queens, New York, thrives in a bustling area of Astoria. “The school gets so much out of being in that lively neighborhood, and that neighborhood gets more lively because of the presence of the school. There's a symbiosis,” Mellins says. “The most dramatic translation of edgeless-ness is literal transparency. You can see the ballet students at the bar from the street.” School designed by Ennead Architects. Photo by ©Aislinn Weidele/Ennead Architects.
  • 
  Schools are often large buildings that sit empty while not in use. New Settlement Community Campus in the Bronx is an example of a community benefiting from an educational facility as physical space. The public school is merged with a community center, and its facilities, including an amphitheater, are open to the public after hours.

New Settlement Community Campus was designed by Dattner Architects in association with Edelman Sultan Knox Wood/Architects. Photo by ©David Sundberg/Esto.  Courtesy of: © 2012 David Sundberg/Esto
    Schools are often large buildings that sit empty while not in use. New Settlement Community Campus in the Bronx is an example of a community benefiting from an educational facility as physical space. The public school is merged with a community center, and its facilities, including an amphitheater, are open to the public after hours. New Settlement Community Campus was designed by Dattner Architects in association with Edelman Sultan Knox Wood/Architects. Photo by ©David Sundberg/Esto.

    Courtesy of: © 2012 David Sundberg/Esto

  • 
  Designed by Peter Gluck and Partners, the East Harlem School in New York City incorporates community while also providing a respite and calm. “There is a solitary component to it, a cluster component,” Mellins explains. “It’s much more shielded from the street. A lot of kids have chaotic environments, not just from cities, but in all sorts of ways. There is a sense of sanctuary.”

The schools in Edgeless provide examples of new ways of thinking about the intersection of education and space, and how our ideas about learning are changing. “It’s no longer about school being in your childhood,” Mellins says. “The goal of education is to create lifelong learners. What you’re learning in school is how to learn.” Photo by ©Erik Freeland.
    Designed by Peter Gluck and Partners, the East Harlem School in New York City incorporates community while also providing a respite and calm. “There is a solitary component to it, a cluster component,” Mellins explains. “It’s much more shielded from the street. A lot of kids have chaotic environments, not just from cities, but in all sorts of ways. There is a sense of sanctuary.” The schools in Edgeless provide examples of new ways of thinking about the intersection of education and space, and how our ideas about learning are changing. “It’s no longer about school being in your childhood,” Mellins says. “The goal of education is to create lifelong learners. What you’re learning in school is how to learn.” Photo by ©Erik Freeland.

@current / @total

Read Full Article

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...