As the culture outside our schools change, are our buildings changing to reflect the “outside” world?
Mitchell Joel’s interesting Six Pixels of Separation blog comments on a fascinating article in the Economist, “The New Oases,” about how people now are much more nomadic in their use of spaces. (I found Joel’s blog via Garr Reynold’s excellent Presentation Zen blog).
Wi-fi, mobility, and portability allow people to connect wherever they go, and so people gravitate to both indoor and outdoor spaces where they can conveniently “connect” or gather.
As the architect professor William Mitchell points out:
“The fact that people are no longer tied to specific places for functions such as studying or learning, says Mr Mitchell, means that there is ‘a huge drop in demand for traditional, private, enclosed spaces’ such as offices or classrooms, and simultaneously ‘a huge rise in demand for semi-public spaces that can be informally appropriated to ad-hoc workspaces’. . . . The new architecture, says Mr Mitchell, will ‘make spaces intentionally multifunctional.’
These seem very significant things to be thinking about as we continue to design new libraries and school buildings. Are they flexible? Are spaces multi-purpose? Are there ad-hoc gathering areas? Separate nooks for individual laptop work? Wi-fi and open networks? How are nearby outdoor spaces used?
School libraries can function as these sort of information commons in schools–providing this sort of flexibility and multi-purposing.
But eventually this sort of design should filter throughout the school–with comfortable learning nooks for students to gather, as the article describes at the new Gehry designed student building at MIT whose “student street”
” is dotted with nooks and crannies. Cafés and lounges are interspersed with work desks and whiteboards, and there is free Wi-Fi everywhere. Students, teachers and visitors are cramming for exams, flirting, napping, instant-messaging, researching, reading and discussing.”
Sometimes it seems that school building designs are impervious to the changes in the culture outside the building. But as Mitch Joel points out,
“We have all become Digital Nomads. Able to work wherever we’re feeling most inspired (as long as there is wi-fi). I wonder how the masses will deal with this?”
What I wonder is how schools will deal with this?