Building Great K-12 Schools in Economically Challenging Times
In these tough times making good school design decisions has never been more difficult or more important. To find out how some of the nation’s top architects and administrators are coping with these challenges attend Architectural Record’s Schools of the 21st Century Symposium. It will be held Friday, April 9th, at the Hyatt McCormick Place in Chicago, the day before the NSBA Conference. The event is free of charge and is being presented with the support of McGraw-Hill Education and the American Architectural Foundation.

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Now Hear This
Architects and educators interpret design ideas submitted by students across the U.S.
By Charles Linn, FAIA

When conversations turn to what schools should be like, ironically the unfiltered, uncensored voice of the student often goes unheard. In fact, says Ron Bogle, president and CEO of the American Architectural Foundation (AAF), “In the history of our nation, there has never been any serious research into what kids themselves say they really want in their schools.”

The gathering of the raw material that could fuel that research was part of the purpose of last year’s “Redesign Your School” competition sponsored by the AAF and Target. Five thousand students registered for the competition, and 250 entries were completed. Bogle says, “We quickly realized that although many of the students were not sophisticated in the way that they expressed their ideas graphically, the written essays they submitted were quite rich in ideas.” Story Bellows, the director of research for the architecture firm OWP/P, has been studying the entries for the AAF. She said at a recent AAF conference, “Some unexpected themes popped out. Some of these were: connection to the outdoors; safety and security; the shape of a learning unit; feelings and emotions. These things were not inherent in the entry materials they were given.”

Here are some others. Students want their school’s spaces to be connected to the outdoors and the community. They want them to be refuges of emotional safety and security. They’d like alternative kinds of learning spaces that take advantage of multimedia offerings and accommodate many different learning styles. And, they want their schools to provide fun places for relaxation and socializing.

“One of the objectives of looking at the entries is to find ways of reinterpreting them into more practical, more direct useful ideas, that could be built in communities today,” says Bogle. And to do that, last September the AAF convened a gathering of architects, architecture students, and educators. The groups worked for 24 hours to conceptualize new kinds of environments for schools. On the following pages you will see some of the ideas they came up with.


Connection to the Outdoors


Nontraditional Schools


Spaces for Social Learning


Physical and Emotional Comfort