Classroom of the Future
Public, anonymous, architectural competition for classroom space and furniture equipment
Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2020
Instead of one idealized classroom, we proposed a spatial library of evocative objects which serves as a communication tool
between various stakeholders, involved in
a transdisciplinary design process.
We took the statement of the architects Zorc & Blenkuš, the authors of the article From New to Newer School, as a starting point for the competition proposal, which calls for “a reconsideration of a classically designed classroom as the dominant learning space” and, rather than with a single classroom dealt with its gradual dismantling and placement in a wider network of diverse, less formal learning environments. There are, according to pedagogical expert, futurist David Thornburg, at least four of them: 1. campfire, 2. watering hole, 3. cave, and 4. life (Thornburg, 2002). According to Thornburg a contemporary learning environment includes all four forms. So, instead of one idealized classroom, we proposed a matrix of diverse possibilities, which serves as a tool for a conversation between architects, educators, physician, and other stakeholders, who will be involved in the transdisciplinary design process.
FROM INDIVIDUAL TO COMMUNITY AND VICE VERSA
As early as 1970's, Slovene architects Lapuh & Lapuh wrote about the importance of the school for the wider local community. A few years later, in his book A Pattern Language (1977), C. Alexander presented the idea of the ‘city curriculum’, where children gain knowledge from the many life situations they encounter on a network of diverse paths to and from school – the fourth learning environment (life) according to Thornburg.
Taking these ideas into account, the 21st century school should act as a kind of permeable membrane that programmatically and infrastructurally ‘breathes’ with the community in which it is placed. At the same time, it must be inclusive, placing pupil in its centre. They should have the opportunity to cooperate, plan, think, learn, feel good and develop a good measure of curiosity, responsibility, and independence. Since 2015, PISA has been, in addition to other ‘measurable’ literacies, qualitatively assessing the well-being of pedagogical workers and children at school. The well-being of children in school has a direct impact on their results, good relationships with other classmates, teachers and parents, and overall life satisfaction (OECD, 2015). Well-designed architecture can play a vital role in all these respects as it can, encourage well-being with its design.
GRADUAL DISMANTLING OF THE FRONTAL CLASSROOM
According to the German foundation Montag Stiftung Jugend und Gesellchaft, the trend of contemporary learning environments is developing in three spatial concepts: classroom +, clusters and learning landscape. Authors Zorc & Blenkuš point out that contemporary schools most often opt for a combination of all three concepts and rarely for merely one (Zorc & Blenkuš, 2019). Regardless of which spatial concept a particular school chooses (classroom +, clusters, learning landscape or a combination of all three), we believe that a modern educational institution should integrate all four types of learning environments to the greatest extent: campfire, watering place, cave and life. These are completely applicable to all three spatial concepts. It is the only way to establish the relationship between the individual, home base, triad, school, community.
FROM FLEXIBILITY TO POLYVALENCE
“Hertzberger defines spatial flexibility as neutrality, and spatial polyvalency as the capacity to carry multiple meanings, therefore allowing interpretation and appropriation by the inhabitant. Hence, flexibility was often considered ‘the panacea to cure the ills of architecture’, but in fact flexible space cannot at any given moment provide any solution but the most appropriate one. Flexibility therefore represents the sum of all unsuitable solutions of a problem” (McCarter, 2015, p. 496).
Instead of flexible space, Hertzberger calls for an architecture that provides “more hospitable, inviting forms” – ones that have more meaning and inspire new programs and applications. Hertzberger argues: “What we build must represent an ‘offer’ that has the ability to provoke different reactions over and over again to suit specific situations; therefore, space must not merely be neutral and adaptable — and thus nonspecific — but must have that broader efficiency we call polyvalence” (Hertzberger in McCarter, 2015, p. 496).
This mindset encouraged the creation of a wider set - a library of evocative and polyvalent elements for: ‘campfires’ – receptive learning and larger groups (15 to 30 users), for ‘watering holes’ – productive learning and cooperation between peers in small groups (2 to 8 users) and ‘caves’ – reflection and reproductive learning, pair work, rest, retreat (1 to 3 users).
In this way it is possible to strengthen the spatial and programmatic diversity of otherwise mundane school space.
McCarter, R. (2015). Herman Hertzberger. Rotterdam: Nai010.
Montag Stiftung Jugend und Gesellschaft.(2017). Schulen planen und bauen 2.0: grundlagen, prozesse, projekte. Berlin: Jovis Verlag.
Thornburg, D. (2002). THE NEW BASICS, Education and the Future of Work in the Telematic Age. Alexandria: ASCD Association for supervision and curriculum development.
Zorc, M., & Blenkuš, M. (2019). Od nove k najnovejši šoli; Nove paradigme v zasnovah prostorov za učenje na začetku 21. stoletja. V M. Z. Senegačnik, M. Gregorski, M. Zorc, M. Blenkuš, Š. Nardoni Kovač, & D. Zaviršek Hudnik, Pogledi na prostor javnih vrtcev in osnovnih šol (pp. 26-47). Ljubljana: Fakulteta za arhitekturo.
Location: Ljubljana, Slovenia
Project date: 2020
Client: National Education Institute of Slovenia
Authors: SVET VMES, Ltd: Jure Hrovat, MArch; Ana Kreč, MArch; Urh Ručigaj, MArch/AssociateRIBA; Ludmila Jankovichova, MArch; Matic Hlede, student
Award: 1st prize
Related articles and mentions: