Education Architecture. Methodology for modern schools design
The architecture studio ATRIUM, in collaboration with the leading professional publication "Project Russia," has presented a research book on designing modern educational spaces. This 278-page publication is not just a set of guidelines or step-by-step instructions; the aim of the research is to explain how and why the effectiveness of learning in schools depends on their physical characteristics and how it is possible to improve the properties of newly created educational spaces.
Over almost 30 years of work, the architectural studio ATRIUM has accumulated more than 20 projects in the field of educational environments, each of which is innovative in its own way. In 2007, an orphanage was built in Kozhukhovo, where the concept of "school as a city" was first implemented in Russia, which largely determined and implemented new approaches to creating modern educational spaces. Recent projects include the "Letovo" school, developed in collaboration with the Dutch firm Atelier PRO, educational centers Quantum and T-EACH in Astana, a youth center and the Park of Future Generations in Yakutsk, and many others. In the process of creating all these projects, a certain methodology of design was developed, the application of which, according to the architects, will help create a new quality educational environment in schools throughout Russia and beyond.
Thus, the study «Education Architecture" on one hand, accumulates a multitude of existing theoretical research in this field, both international and Russian. On the other hand, it summarizes years of practical experience in designing educational architecture from one of the leading Russian bureaus. Finally, thanks to the participation of a large pool of experts - from educators, psychologists, and civil servants to builders, developers, and technology manufacturers - it takes into account all other current aspects of domestic realities.
The book consists of several chapters. In the "Background" section, the relationship between the quality of the educational environment and the quality of education itself is traced, the basic principles of what a modern educational environment should be like are formulated, as well as key issues that hinder the widespread implementation of these principles in Russia.
"Designing Educational Environment Strategy" with a detailed analysis of key projects by ATRIUM studio - is the formulation of the main characteristics that modern school spaces should possess.
Visual openness and transparency, filled with light, a sense of overall spaciousness, internal visual and spatial complexity, diversity of movement scenarios, vertical space development, variety of spaces of different typologies and scales, diversity of materials and information density, connection to the surrounding landscape - these and many other principles create, from the architects' point of view, an environment where you feel comfortable and where you want to be. Such an environment provokes a different model of behavior, and through this, it shapes a different type of personality.
All of the design solutions presented in the study have been tested in practice. To scale them up, a spatial constructor was developed, which consists of elements that make up a clear prototype of the future educational center. In the chapters "Functional-Spatial Solutions" and "Territory and Improvement," all elements are distributed among four basic blocks: "Art," "Sports," "Science," and "Public Spaces/Recreation." For each element, a detailed description of optimal modifications is proposed, which achieve not just the sum of functions, but also synergize to create new quality. For example, instead of simply increasing the number of computer classrooms, some of them can be placed next to the library, separated by sliding partitions, creating a space that can be transformed into an urban media center with coworking if necessary.
The chapter "Materials and Technologies," in turn, provides detailed recommendations for implementing design solutions, including the selection of building life support systems, as well as the characteristics of individual materials and furniture items.
In the chapter "School and City," it is argued that modern schools can and should become a key element of the district's social and cultural infrastructure. Instead of being an enclosed "white spot," disconnected from the urban fabric, the school can open access to all of its services, ranging from the courtyard with sports grounds and exhibition areas to the auditorium and medical center.
This approach is a classic example of a win-win strategy: by improving the quality of life in the area, it benefits both the developer and the government customer. The first confirmations of this can already be seen in Russia today.
Regarding thoughts about the future and what is yet to become the norm, the last three chapters are dedicated to them. "New Formats of Learning and Interaction" offers methods of integrating immersive AR/VR technologies necessary for hybrid and remote learning. They significantly expand educational (and not only) opportunities of any physical space.
The next chapter analyses approaches to creating an educational environment from the perspective of "Sustainable Development." Because the only way to make sustainable architecture the norm is to start developing environmental thinking in children now. This involves not only providing tangible examples of integrating sustainable technologies into school buildings but also fostering a caring attitude towards nature and teaching careful interaction with it.
Finally, the chapter "Towards a hospitable school" examines issues of inclusive education in the broadest sense. Making a school truly hospitable, open, and accessible is still a question for the future, and it is hoped that this work and its wide distribution among all participants in the process of creating an educational environment will contribute to its qualitative improvement and thus to the quality of children's lives in Russia and beyond.