Design concept

The design concept is a synthesis of the Design Down parameters, the site, the landscape and the historic precedents. Three ‘use variations’ are embraced by the design concept in order for the school to start with what its users are familiar with and then ‘grow’ into the more innovative learning systems. The three variations are on a continuum from the ‘traditional classroom’ to the more personalized ‘students at their own workstations in small groups’ to a future-focused ‘learner – and teacher-determined’ environment. Corresponding space-defining elements include non-permanent walls (traditional variation), landscaped partitions (team-based variation) or what the learners develop (learner-determined variation).

To accommodate these variations only an armature for learning is built. This is organized into two components: the fixed, service zones (shaded in Figure 3.8) and the flexible, served space.

• The service zones include all the structure, pipes, ducts, and conduit. The zone’s space supports utilitarian needs.

• The served space is flexible for numerous use configurations. Flexible walls can be placed as desired.

The service space elements are located in defined zones that are mostly enclosed. All serviced spaces have ready access to all utilities. How the space is used is up to the users (Figure 3.9).

Variation one

A traditional classroom layout can be achieved by filling in the wall zones. In our arrangement, four classroom areas for 20 students each can be readily

Design concept

provided. There is also a common activity space, a small group room, and a teachers’ planning room. Although partitions between the classrooms and the activity centre are not shown (owner’s choice), they can be added to the base plan illustrated (Figure 3.10).

Variation two

A cooperative, individual workstation layout. In Figure 3.11, four team areas for 20 students each are shown. Each student has their own workstation. The common space functions for large group instruction. The work zone is for

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Подпись: Area Design concept Design concept Design concept
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Подпись: Classroom
Подпись: Teachers
Подпись: Small Group
Подпись: iervice Zone
Подпись: Team

Design conceptDesign conceptproject work. As in the traditional layout there is a small group room and a teachers’ planning room. Although partitions between the team areas and the activity centre are not shown (owner’s choice), they can be added (Figure 3.11).

Variation three

A creative, user-determined layout. This is based on the belief that what is best for the learner is best determined by the students and their teachers. This layout emphasizes that the freedom and

Подпись: Figure 3.13 Roof view showing the 'forum' at the heart of the plan.
Design concept


Подпись: Figure 3.12 Creative layout.
Подпись: aries
Design concept
Подпись: Social Learning

Design conceptcreativity of the users is enhanced (not restricted) by the built environment. Multiple student groups around multiple learning tasks are possible at a moment’s notice. Although partitions between

areas are not shown (owner’s choice), they can be added. The curved, broken black line indicates a flexible, movable space divider as an option to fixed partitions (Figure 3.12).

Freedom and creativity

The key element in this physical environment design is the ability of the children and teachers to create their own learning environments rather than having everything predetermined for them, as is the case when schools are over-designed. Predetermining nearly every aspect of children’s interaction with their environment limits the range of possible learning experiences, minimizing the development of creativity. The approach to the design of Ingunnarskoli has intentional ambiguities to provide a space that enriches creativity by allowing children the freedom to create their own environments.


For education to be meaningful it needs to be relevant. The primary issues today revolve around cultures and ecologies. Approaches to learning, like a ‘Critical Pedagogy of Place’, draw upon components such as politics, society, environment, economy, etc. These disciplines and their relationships are analysed and then synthesized. It is a process of taking apart and putting back together. This requires creativity. Learning itself is not a passive mode of behaviour; rather it is an active, creative action.

Learning environments should mirror the learning they are to support. The dominant approach to twentieth-century learning followed the era’s focus on mass production; school facilities were even called the ‘school plant’. Today’s issues require creative engagement. This can be reflected in building learning environments that invite learner participation and belong to the community. This happens when the environment is not a ‘solution’, but a setting that needs the learner to establish the full situation.

The ideas presented here are not intended to totally replace the existing system. Rather, like the electromagnetic spectrum, the idea is to reach out into those realms that have not been visible. Based on today’s knowledge about learning, the intent is to expand the possibilities.


This chapter is an assimilation of numerous books, articles, and works of others. The following are the key references that include additional references to be pursued.

Gruenewald, D. A., The Best of Both Worlds: A Critical Pedagogy of Place. Educational Researcher, Volume 32, Number 4, May 2003. Further references: Bowers, Freire, Orr and Soja. Hill, J. (2003). Actions of Architecture. Routledge: London.

Further references: Barthes, Benjamin, Forty,

Foucault, Tschumi.

Jilk, B. and Copa, G. (1997). The Design Down Process. Council of Educational Facility Planners International Issue, Trak Number Six: Phoenix. Sarkis, H. (2001). Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital. Harvard Design School/Prestel: Munich,

London, New York.

Further references: Hughes, Sennett, Smithson, van Eyck.

Bruce Jilk has been working on the design of learning environments since his first school project in 1961. Currently, he consults internationally on the design of learning settings for all ages. In the last decade he participated in three US Department of Education funded research projects centred on secondary and tertiary learners. This research has been implemented through projects in over thirty countries. In 2002 Bruce chaired the American Institute of Architects’ Committee on Architecture for Education. He is currently the US delegate to the Union of International Architects. He has written for numerous publications and has made hundreds of presentations focused on innovation in learning environments.

Updated: September 28, 2015 — 2:07 pm