Place making and change in learning environments

Bruce A Jilk

Editor’s introduction

Mass education originally mirrored society’s view that its main role was to control and discipline children in order to create pliant citizens who would fit into the new industrialized world; in short, education was to create factory fodder for mass production. Arguably, the physical form of most school buildings has barely changed since mass education was first established in its basic form at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Here, the author posits a radical view on this antiquated system. In a post-industrial world, an educational straight-jacket is no longer an appropriate model, since by its very nature it tends to diminish the prevalent cultural tendency within society, that of individualism. The effects of this approach to education create disaffected students who are more chaotic and less disciplined, partly as a result of the educational conformity they are forced to endure.

Individualism can inevitably be read on two levels; firstly, a somewhat negative ‘do whatever you like’ attitude, which flies in the face of the obvious need for discipline and self-control within society as a whole. We all recognize that personal creativity can only develop within the disciplined learner. However, it is clear that for many students who are disciplined, the standard educational format within most state-sponsored education systems excludes the possibility for that individual to grow and develop in their own way. Everything is far too confined and limited. As a consequence, education becomes stultified and boring.

However, it is possible to design environments which expand the possibilities for learning, and the author develops his argument along these lines. He illustrates his polemic with a case study, which is conceived along radically inclusive lines. The Ingunnarskoli in Reykjavik adopts a ‘bottom up’ approach (as opposed to a top down approach) where the priorities are established by the community, rather than a pre-determined set of standardized educational guidelines such as the Area Guidelines for Schools.