Saturday, 22 May 2010


There is something quite shocking to European eyes about a sign like
this on a school entrance.

I tell my US pals that the Right to Bare Arms was about wearing T
shirts and it had all been a terrible mistake caused by poor spelling...

Friday, 21 May 2010

Su Valley High School, Alaska

Su Valley High School is an award winning, very green school, with a large open reception, library, social space at its heart. With materials needing to be shipped a long way to build up here, costs can be high, and transport energy significant. Local materials are featured thus for cultural and economic reasons. Keeping library shelving and other features below (children's) shoulder height leaves an eye line that is very typical of the new multifaceted spaces appearing everywhere. They bring a real sense of "us-ness", of community and of place. Here is a wider view of it too.

This glass wall, slightly obscured, is lit by LED lights in colours that reflect the northern lights which occur all year round up in these Northern latitudes and I love that local signature.

Sunday, 16 May 2010


I am just loving touring the architecture of Chicago - which is like walking through the pages of an student architectural textbook - art deco through to post-modern. And everything you need to know about structure thrown in.

Like many cities, the rediscovery of the river as a focus, a social conduit and a narrative has transformed the shape and flow of the place over time and now new buildings (like this one) are appearing that are sympathetic to - and indeed that add to - those functions: curving, mirroring, colouring.

I'm a great fan of water features in learning designs too - and there is much good research about their impact on calm as well as on air quality.

Anyway... how many styles can you identity in this image?

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Are you sitting comfortably?

I had a very enjoyable visit to RM's demonstration room in Oxford - filled with ideas and solutions around ICT in learning and so well put together.

I first saw these mobile "stacked" seating blocks at the thoughtful - and thought provoking - New Line Academy in Kent (see them again here) and again just the other day in the indefatigable Kate Holland's newly opened Imagine Centre in Essex (see elsewhere in this phone blog). But seeing these two blocks here, set at a jaunty angle to each other, I'm reminded of how tiny details really matter...

..ask any comedian and they will tell you they hate to perform in 1970s theatres - with all the seats in a straight row, and "lean-back-comfy" too. The problem with those theatres is that without turning in your seat you don't see the faces of other, are unsure of when to laugh, are socially quite isolated. Performances fall flat. Classrooms today are suddenly (finally!) embracing mutuality, collegiality, collaboration and teachers understand that eye contact is really important. New Line knew that when the built their curved seating (they called them their Bananas!) - students could see each other because of the curve. But many copies of New Line's work seem to completely miss the importance of that curve and the impact of height. The copies of New Line's idea seem good, but the devil as they say is in the detail.

In learning every little detail really matters - and that goes for our furniture too.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Oakmead College of Technology Transition School

Oakmead College of Technology is lovely - and led by an exceptional exec Head Dr Annetta Minard. Like many others they are worried about the huge number of children who potentially go backwards as they change phase in school - for example between primary and secondary. As Oakmead reaches out to form a proper alliance with their two primary feed schools, they are also introducing a schools-within-schools model and the first of these is a very interesting Transition School to properly blur that phase break - the new school is seen here (i was lucky to visit for the opening).

The school is staffed by primary specialists (and Dr Minard speaks of how much the secondary folk have learned from working with them). This big multifaceted agile space is roughly equivalent to six classrooms. As you see it is no vast barn; it has nook and corners - open aspect, but easily used for a host of learning approaches. See also this image.

There will be very little furniture for a term -as the children determine just what is needed and where - indeed the constant in the rather playful and enjoyable opening was the students' own voices. Much was made of the much older children's pleasure at helping younger children - reading, mentoring, being great role models, and more.

Note in passing the floods of natural light, plenty of sockets and connexions, and the way the pillars help break up, but without closing in, the space.... fab.