Page C1.1 . 17 November 2004                     
ArchitectureWeek - Culture Department
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Schools Our Kids Would Build

by Catherine Burke and Ian Grosvenor

In 1967, and again in 2001, British schoolchildren were invited to submit their ideas to a competition "The School I'd Like." In their drawings and poems, they expressed the desire for schools that are attractive, safe, flexible, relevant, and respectful. This review of the archived results suggests that architects could benefit from understanding these children's visions. Editor

A beautiful, comfortable, safe, and inclusive environment has, throughout the history of school architecture, typically been compromised by more pressing concerns, usually associated with cost and discipline.

In the late 1960s, it was estimated that nearly three-quarters of a million primary school children in England were being educated in schools of which the main buildings were built before 1875. Standards were poor in general, but there were particular problems, such as in the 65 percent of schools whose toilets were located in school playgrounds.

The new buildings erected in the 1960s and 1970s were needed to accommodate the swelling numbers on the school roll. Architects often used prefabricated assembly systems to help reduce costs, and most new schools tended to resemble factories in their construction and style. Design aesthetics and comfort were usually given less importance than economy.

Open-plan arrangements reflecting child-centered pedagogy were criticized during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Educational policy under successive conservative governments emphasized the importance of traditional methods of instruction and whole-class teaching rather than group collaboration and teacher facilitation.

There is some disquiet among the teaching profession about the standards and quality of buildings that have recently emerged and concern that the design of schools today will rapidly become outdated as the organization of learning changes in the future.   >>>

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This article is excerpted from The School I'd Like by Catherine Burke and Ian Grosvenor, with permission of the publisher, RoutledgeFalmer.



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Rounded shapes are common elements of the architectural visions of children who participated in "The School I'd Like" competition.
Image: Anonymous

ArchWeek Image

Site plan of the school one child would like.
Image: Rowan, age 12, Hope Valley


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