Creating Positive Space, Enabling Positive Behavior

Erin Jennings, Associate Partner at KrM Architecture, with a concentration on the design of learning spaces and places K-12 Schools, Higher Education and Libraries gives us her perspective on how education design can and does impact positive learning experience and behavior.

In a day and age where we have access to information quicker than ever before, the demands our society has encountered continue to have an impact on the youth. Historically, school buildings were design-articulated in a way that created efficiency in planning, layout, and maximizing square footage. This mindset framed school buildings on the premise of double-loaded corridors, 900 square-foot classrooms with the same instructional set up, and the same stereotypical-common spaces (i.e. the prescribed media
center, cafeteria, SGI/LGI, etc.). For a long time, school districts gravitated to the idea of the prototype building to keep initial construction costs down and to stretch the design services dollar.
Anthony Gilbert © Gaffer Photography / Design by Leo A Daly
Anthony Gilbert © Gaffer Photography / Design by Leo A Daly
What we ended up with, were cookie cutter, ordinary school buildings that mimicked the aesthetic of institutional facilities. No dynamic space for creating, collaborating, or encouraging. Minimal, if any, access to natural daylight. Confined space and furniture configurations that did not promote a sense of place or ownership by the students. No unique play with color, light, texture, or innovation.

Yet we want our students, our youth, to behave and perform in a certain positive way. We want them to become the best contributing members of society. We want to set them up on a path of great success. We want to reduce the amount of diagnosed depression and anxiety disorders. We want to create safe, inclusive places with a sense of ownership, where students can be who they are meant to be. We want to reduce the negative environmental impacts associated with and contributing to mental illness…

…then why not start with what we can control? Great school facility design does not have to equate to costing more money. Great design that goes outside the box, thinking differently and innovatively is responsible practice to protect people, invest in our youth, and restore a better world.