The American Institute of Architects announces the Education Honor Awards to recognize the achievement of individuals who serve the profession as outstanding teachers. The awards celebrate excellence in architecture education as demonstrated in classroom, studio, and/or community work, or in courses offered in various educational settings. All courses, initiatives, or programs completed within the last five years and that have not previously received an AIA Education Honor Award are eligible for consideration.
“Through a charrette, an
Stephen D. Luoni, Assoc. AIA, UACDC Director, Professor
Jeffrey E. Huber, UACDC Project Director, Adjunct Asst. Professor
Larry Scarpa, FAIA, Spring 2009 Fay Jones Visiting Professor
University of Arkansas Community Design Center (UACDC)
This elective course for 4th and 5th year architecture undergraduates was conducted during the Spring of 2009 and focused on the reimagining of traditional school design for the 21st Century. Similar to hospitals, correctional facilities, and factories, traditional school design reflects normative institutional organizations focused on disciplining subjects, whether they were patients, workers, or students. Floor plans of these institutional types were essentially all the same―a regiment of cells arranged for efficient management. The studio’s challenge was to study organizational concepts of human agency in 21st Century learning through development of master plans and small learning communities. Developing a Learning Environment Matrix, students researched design patterns within secondary school campus planning precedents. Then, in establishing principles and proposing new design ideas, the students helped Fayetteville Public Schools (FPS) district embark on its master-planning process for a new Fayetteville High School that reflects the new education paradigms, including new place-making strides, sociability, sustainability and connection to surrounding community context. The outcome has included plans that are less containerized and more prudent when it comes to facilities layout, funding, and relation to curricula. The studio was conducted with a chaired visiting professor and the school's community design center. Architecture students received a five-year professional bachelor degree from the school, and some students continued their participation in a summer professional elective to produce the final public exhibit.
In the first phase of the course, students analyzed recent 21st Century school designs based on their formal organizations and design patterns. The objective was to understand the roles of key programmatic components in effective secondary school design. Among the systems of analysis produced by the students in these studios, two valuable forms of analysis were Building Activity Diagrams (to study the frameworks of learning, connecting interior/exterior, public/private, architectural/landscape, and campus/neighborhood through programmatic narratives) and a system for studying patterns of classroom arrangement (explored pod configurations, social systems, circulation systems, building typologies, construction methodologies, and sustainable systems). From the precedent studies and research into topic literature, a set of learning principles were established that guided students in their next phase of the course: building master plans and small learning community designs for the Fayetteville High School.
Students developed proposals for the 40-acre campus informed by the five principles developed in their precedent analyses. The students set out to reinvision the Fayetteville High School campus—one that was developed incrementally, resulting in little connectivity/reciprocity between the various facilities— into a more integrated asset with more of a place-making presence within the neighborhood. The first principle followed was “Conduct and open and collaborative planning process,” and students participated in three public charrettes, seeking out and engaging the public for input while providing a framework of principles for feasible master planning to the responsible parties. The second principle was “Integrate new patterns of design, favoring flexibility, openness, and greater social exchange” and students built from this idea, along with visits to more recently developed schools in Los Angeles, to explore planning opportunities in public spaces (student plazas as interior learning streets, new dining spaces, outdoor classroom landscapes, etc.) that promote sociability and other connective functions. The third principle, “Incorporate principles of sustainability and well being,” inspired students to reach new heights in their designs with aspects like stormwater treatments systems and green parking lots. Principle Four was “socially reconnect to the larger community,” a very important goal for the school’s role in its context, and students explored options of parks, trails and performance centers, among others, to make the schools less fortressed-off from its neighborhood, hopefully securing continued public support for school investments. The final principle followed in this stage of the course was “Design for adaptability and changing needs,” and students took extra care that their new designs were prudent, not only in rethinking the sprawled layout of the campus but in using new environmental technologies that create capital and operating cost savings.
Students provided FPS with these alternative proposals via a student-designed exhibit at the city’s public library. The proposals have assisted the district and its design team in preparing a master plan. Notably, the proposals created in this studio have also spurred a much-needed rise in the discussion of this important topic of rethinking school design for the 21st Century.