How Corporate Design Keeps Educational Design Relevant

LPA_eSTEM_Interior_20161019_View3_A02_people.jpgThere are many different terms used to describe learning and what method is best for today’s student and how school design supports each modality. However, when we break down each description— personalized, flipped, 21st century, project based, problem based—these teaching methods are simply designed to engage students and maintain an interest in learning. LPA_eSTEM_Interior_20161019_View3_A02_people.jpg

Learning is a lot like working; it varies daily, ranges from individual to collaborative, formal to informal and from hands on to digital.

Let’s take a moment to look at the workplace. In our experience, the design of a corporate environment tends to be an expression of a corporation’s brand and their culture, with the agility to change over time as demands evolve. Additionally, we all work differently; some personalize their desk space, others might be mobile workers, and whether we engage in project teams or work collaboratively to develop product solutions, at some point, we are all in need of a little individual or quiet space.

What is significant here is the variety, the choice and the flexibility. Corporate environments incorporate a landscape of settings designed to support the culture of the organization; so much so, that the design becomes a unique expression, influencing how occupants utilize and behave in the space.

When we approach educational design through the lens of our corporate practice, we can use these examples as models to inform and create purposeful educational environments beyond the traditional classroom-lined hallways.  

The following corporate patterns are strategic ideas shaping our educational design perspective:

Evidence of Collaboration        

Schools should be curated with students and with student work. Imagine a creative office, project information is displayed throughout and spaces stimulate interaction and a collision of disciplines and ideas. To achieve robust skills in critical thinking, school facilities must support a culture of learning throughout the campus.

Reinvent Efficiency

Learning happens everywhere. So how might every space be considered a primary learning environment? Some of our most memorable learning experiences do not occur within the four walls of a classroom. Just like some of our most creative work doesn’t occur in the conference room. For instance, think efficiently about the circulation and the outdoors to double as spaces for self-directed learning, problem solving or social interactions that reimagine their original intent.

Embrace a Temporary Spirit     

It is what it is, until it isn’t. We’re often challenged within educational design to make decisions that will impact the future for the next 50-plus years. How might we consider embracing a spirit of temporary solutions that allow for future flexibility? Plan for movable furniture in lieu of built-ins, wireless technology instead of tethered, and more strategically, think about this concept at the level of integrated design: talk about the placement of structure and utilities and how demising walls can be void of any obstacles that prevent adjustments to the layout five to 15 years from now.

Kate Mraw is an Associate at LPA Inc. Her design for K-12 schools encourages collaboration, experimentation, and innovation. Mraw is a LEED Accredited Professional and received her Bachelor of Science in Interior Design from the University of Texas, Austin School of Architecture. A version of this article was included in LPA Studies: San Antonio Projects. 

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