Featured image: St Clare’s Primary School. Scott Burrows Photographer (@scottburrowsphotographer) VIEW PROJECT

Using Building Design to Maximise the Potential of Learning Spaces

​Classrooms are people-centric, social spaces for learning, meeting, exploring and thinking. The design scope of learning spaces has evolved over time, and now in 2019, it is much different than what it used to be. No longer do classrooms need to be designed following the “sage and stage” model with a platform for teachers at the front of the room and all chairs facing that way. As modern architects, we ensure we reflect on the past to create spaces rooted in their history, while staying up to date on new research and changing trends when it comes to architectural design. This allows us to design educational spaces that reflect the spatial requirements of current pedagogy whilst also being mindful that in the future, the built environment may need to be converted, scaled or modified to suit.

Flexibility of Space

Collaborative classrooms with a diversity in seating arrangements have been shown to help students break out of ruts, stay focused and gain fresh perspective. In a similar sense to effective coworking office spaces, having different “zones” and flexible seating helps students to work collaboratively and more productively. Compared to 30+ years ago, there is now more in-depth research on individual students’ learning styles and creating spaces to enhance this. As future-forward architects, we use these insights to develop learning spaces to be open and fluid. This ensures there is a variety of ways furniture can (and should) have the ability to be shifted around to create learning zones to suit students’ needs.

Spaces that Nurture

Studies have found that enclosed spaces increase cortisol, the stress hormone, which makes them detrimental to learning. Rooms with high ceilings stimulate “visuospatial exploration” which means these spaces make people more attentive and focused.

Emotional connections and attentiveness are crucial for a positive learning experience. Incorporating open plan learning spaces and high ceilings into the architectural design of schools can encourage these fundamental learning responses amongst students.

Educational spaces are not limited to the classroom, spaces outside and adjacent to the formal teaching space are important to the delivery of good educational environments. Creating a connection to outdoor break-out spaces and learning areas, space for the individual and outdoor collaborative learning areas increase opportunity for learning arrangements.

Awareness of Environment

We’ve completed numerous architectural projects for schools across Brisbane, and natural lighting where possible is always a high priority.

Studies have found that students who learned in classrooms with more natural light, achieved higher grades than those from the same area that did not. As well as this, low levels of light affect students’ ability to regulate their body’s natural sleep cycle, making them more likely to feel sleepy in class. Designing classrooms to leverage natural light or use artificial lighting that mimics natural sunlight can improve students’ school attendance rates, achievement levels and overall health.

Just like adults, if primary school-aged children are distracted by a glare from the window, inadequate lighting or uncomfortable acoustics, they’re focused on the distraction rather than their learning. Distractions can be stressful, and when our kids are stressed, they’re not learning as well as they could be. Proactive thinking from the architecture team during the design phase can eliminate these small stresses that make the biggest difference in the long run.

When designing any space, we know it is essential to do our research, listen to our client, and think proactively about what the end-user will practically use this space for. This is especially important when designing learning spaces for students — our future generation. We use this approach to guide our design decisions from start to finish, mindfully creating modern, practical spaces that can be evolved to suit in the future.

Featured image: St Ita’s Primary School. Scott Burrows Photographer (@scottburrowsphotographer) VIEW PROJECT

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