Learning Lab

The future of education must put students first. It must foster collaboration, spur curiosity, inspire creativity, and generate new connectivity. The architecture of the school of the future must therefore be non-hierarchical, open, porous, collective, inspiring, and flexible. We propose a Learning Laboratory at three scales; 1) The Classroom Cluster, 2) The Knowledge Neighborhood, and 3) The Connected Campus.

We start with the classroom. We start with the circle. Non-hierarchical community naturally forms in a circle. It’s a geometry that gently contains, that collects and unites, that invites its inhabitants to engage with one another equally. It’s a form that is as old as time, one that prompts us to gather around, to discuss, to hold hands, to dance. With a circle, there is no front or back of the classroom; participation is allowed and encouraged throughout the space. Students and teachers can equally occupy any location. All voices are empowered.

For every two indoor classrooms (or Learning Studio), we propose one contained outdoor classroom located directly adjacent, and one larger collective outdoor classroom located at the center of the school campus. Moveable glass partition walls, curtains, and consolidated storage walls allow for an almost endless number of configurations within the Classroom Cluster. The three classroom spaces can be used individually, combined in groups of two (indoor/outdoor or two indoor classes combined), or opened into one larger continuous space. The Classroom Cluster features simple natural materials, ample daylight, and transparency to both the rest of the school and the exterior landscape.

At the next scale of both community and learning, we propose a Knowledge Neighborhood where three Classroom Clusters gather around one large circular Innovation Lab. This space functions as both an independent learning laboratory, able to be separated off from the surrounding spaces by moveable acoustic curtains, and as the open center of a new neighbourhood collective. Three Classroom Clusters representing three years of students are drawn together around the shared infrastructural hub of the Innovation Lab – a common resource for making, playing, and performing.

The Innovation Lab is open, flexible, and flooded with indirect natural light from a large overhead skylight. A grid of connection points recessed within the floor provides access to electricity, data, water, and pressurized air. Mobile lab or workshop benches can be wheeled into the space and plugged-in to create a wood shop, media lab, invention hub, or painting studio. The space can also be cleared out and the surrounding glass walls of the Collaboration Spaces and Classroom Clusters can be opened to create a large central space for special events, dances, science fairs, or an interior playground.

At the largest scale of the school community, we propose a Connected Campus that exhibits all the organizational ideals of the smaller scales of learning. Three (or more) Knowledge Neighborhoods are organized around a large central outdoor green space. This Campus Commons is a shared space for students from across the entire school to come together and play, read, explore, or have an outdoor class.

There are no corridors in our proposed campus; all circulation spaces are also spaces to slow down, sit, explore, play, and learn. The outer surfaces of the storage walls that are arrayed across the project all contain objects for learning – books, balls, telescopes, gardening tools, kites, maps, etc. In this way the entire school becomes a classroom. Inside and outside is inverted. The boundary between the space for learning and the space for play is blurred. All members of the community – from kindergarteners to teachers – are part of the same space, the same interconnected campus of learning.

Common programs such as the Admin Offices, the Auditorium, and the Extracurricular spaces are free to
be designed to suit their unique programmatic needs. These common ammenities would be plugged-in to the central Campus Commons. Although we show a triangle arrangement of the Campus, the fractal nature of the organization is inherently flexible and could be re-arranged to fit a variety of possible site constraints.

Program: Kindergarten – 12th Grade School
6,000 sq.m.
Lafayette, Louisiana, USA

Design Team: Ryan Neiheiser, Xristina Argyros, Bolurin Adedipe, Nikolas von Schwabe, Danae Haratsis, Eleni Vagianou