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Schools: Interactive Architecture for Learning

By Maria Lorena Lehman — Get more articles like this sent to your email HERE.

Image Credit: © John Vernon | Dreamstime

Schools need more than just flex space. Converting space from one use to another is good, but designers must pay particular attention to how each space influences students as they engage in different learning activities and methods. Did you know that classrooms today must provide a great variety of functions? The following is a quick list of just a few of the main functions classrooms today provide: 

  • quiet reading
  • internet
  • video
  • multi-media
  • shared computer applications
  • personal computer applications
  • discussion groups
  • debates
  • teacher lectures
  • arts and crafts
  • teacher’s areas

Architectural design physiologically, emotionally and behaviorally impacts students in classrooms. Even simple design decisions matter – like what color to paint the walls. In the book Color, Environment and Human Response, one teacher paints the classroom front wall a different color to avoid visual monotony. Thus, it just as important to avoid visual monotony as it is to avoid visual noise and clutter. What is most important; however, is the student’s work — which should always stand out most.

Wouldn’t it be nice if school was like a learning laboratory? Students could play, focus and drill into knowledge in a variety of interactive situations. For example, as laptops gain popularity, desk designs could change. As a result every student would have equal access to taught information; plus, social interactions could double as learning interactions during shared computing applications. 

Interactive architecture allows a classroom to adjust, as student needs change in real-time. As students go from quiet reading to teacher lectures, for example, the classroom can change its lighting, learning technology and furniture configuration. When it is time for quiet reading, classrooms should adjust so it is comfortable for students to read. Similarly, when it is time for a teacher lecture, classrooms should adjust so all students can enjoyably learn as their teacher speaks. This means that at times, classrooms can be a bit theatrical; while at other times; classrooms can be filled with personalized student spaces. The key is to vary and adjust the learning environment to inspire the very activities that help students learn best.

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what members are saying...
Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a multi award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Tech and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. CLICK HERE to learn more.

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