The tasks that the students introduced to the pupils were unlike those undertaken at the other schools studied. Exercises were mostly carried out together as a group, often in the hall on a large scale. The work produced was a collective expression of the pupils’ ideas rather than a series of individual pieces.
For the first session the students presented a scale model of the school and asked the pupils what
they would like to change. Later, both pupils and students overlaid sketches of their proposals on plans or photographs of the school for general discussion. Pupils were also asked to write down their proposals for improvement.
The following week pupils jointly produced a large map collaged from coloured paper and drew on it their route to school, method of transportation, the entrance used, and their favourite place within the school. Pupils were also asked to associate words of their choice such as ‘smelly’, ‘noisy’ or ‘fun’ to enlarged photographs of spaces which were of particular interest to the students. In subsequent sessions pupils built large- scale mock-ups of their ideas using cardboard boxes (to make walls, entrances, corridors), or – as a variant of Frost’s modelling system (sic.) – with bamboo sticks and elastic bands (to erect a framed enclosure) in real space.
Whilst some of the later exercises were designed to explore the pupils’ own spatial experience, most were intended to elicit their response to the architecture students’ proposals. Unlike work in the other three schools there were no drawn proposals from the pupils themselves.
The exercises confirmed that entry to and movement around the school was problematic; halls were too small and hall-based activities, such as dining or physical education, interfered with classroom activities. Whilst pupils had difficulty separating the qualities of spaces themselves from the activities carried out within them, the favourite place in the school was undoubtedly the playground. Enjoyment of this space would be enhanced even further if food and improved play equipment were provided.
In the last session the students organized a discussion with the pupils of some simple proposals based on the ideas which had emerged from the previous sessions. The students used the original cardboard model of the school, enlarged to include the whole urban block containing the grounds of the school, to illustrate proposals for a larger hall, a lift, shelter and a cafe.
All the children liked the idea of a bigger hall but were unsure about what to do with the old one. In response to the problem of moving large numbers of children around in lifts, pupils suggested that each class on the upper floor should have its own lift. They were concerned however that this would not be allowed because of the perceived mismatch of an array of modern lifts superimposed on a listed facade. A shelter should be provided at the main entrance which should be top lit, inward looking and contain lots of chairs, allowing parents to chat to each other whilst they attended to their children’s arrival and departure from school. A number of locations were proposed for a cafe or tuck shop as it needed to be immediately accessible at all times except during classes.
The excitement and inventiveness of the children during this last exercise was particularly notable. They responded with easy and frank approval or derision to each other’s ideas that ranged from the practical to the fanciful. Nevertheless, in the students’ view they were all capable of providing the basis for a valid design proposal.