Staff Picks: The School Building, Philosophy & Design

Staff Picks: The School Building, Philosophy & Design

Reposted from Learning at the Library.

Written by Kalliopi Mathios.

[caption id="attachment_30247" align="alignright" width="225"]June 2018 Staff picks June 2018 staff picks[/caption] School design is a modern problem; modern in the sense that it originally developed in response to the industrial revolution, and the complexities of industrial society.  An ever-increasing number of students and compulsory education shifted school design from humble, one-room schoolhouses created by locals to structures and curricular practices more fitting for transition to the factory assembly line. Later designs focused on educating the whole child, with special attention to playspaces and collaborative learning. Stark differences between urban, suburban, and rural approaches to school building represent the local community and its beliefs, available funding, and population. The Bauhaus, originally located in Weimar, Germany and later Berlin, directly responded to industrial pressures by steering arts education towards craftsmanship and materials, and away from the ornate Victorian modes of the past and newer, mass-produced objects of industry. Not only did Bauhaus explore curricula and methods, but it also explored how the school building and its philosophy impacted the learning environment. This approach to school planning seemed to steer away from looking at education as a problem to solve, and fully embodied the philosophy that schools should focus on tried and true practices of small group instruction, attention to detail, and a more individualized practice. Magdalena Droste’s mammoth Bauhaus covers the school’s history, art, architecture, staff, and politics from 1919-1933. This gorgeous, bright red over-sized volume is a wonderful title to pour over while admiring the designs of Josef Albers, the architecture of Mies van der Rohe, and the art classes and strategies of Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky. [caption id="attachment_30255" align="alignleft" width="250"]teachers college staircase detail Staircase detail with TC monogram[/caption] Many of the books in this collection explore what happened after Bauhaus: how were their philosophies enacted by others? Did their arts education philosophies translate into mainstream education, or the K-12 education sphere?  Modernist concepts born at Bauhaus seem to have infiltrated schools across Europe, and Alfred Roth’s The New Schoolhouse is an excellent book for exploring how 1950s European school design influenced school planning across Western society. Post-war optimism combined with the need to meet the demand of a growing population meant creating schools with care and attention to communities while maintaining an economic balance. Because it was more affordable, an acceptance of industrial production dominated the mindset of the time, with less attention to fine craftsmanship. Roth writes, “School building today must take into consideration those methods which have become indispensable for the similarly situated housing problem, namely an effective technical programming through the use of industrially produced elements and through particularly economical building methods,” he goes on to warn, however, that it is the responsibility of the architect to “avoid that rigidity and monotony which could endanger the living sense of school buildings”.  Mass-produced building seemingly became the standard in order to meet the demand to build more schools quickly and efficiently. Escaping from the confines of the school building, titles in this collection also explore the development of playgrounds and outdoor spaces. Play remains a critical part of early literacy development and a natural vehicle for learning. Books on the importance of playgrounds and open spaces began appearing in the early 1960s with titles like Child’s Play: A Creative Approach To Playspaces For Today’s Children (1965) and Creative Playgrounds and Recreation Centers (1968). They remind us, as Alfred Ledermann and Alfred Trachsel do in their opening quote from Johan Huizinga in Creative Playgrounds and Recreation Centers, that “All nations play and they play remarkably alike.” Later titles like Kenniston W. Lord Jr.’s 1977 The Design of The Industrial Classroom, do not shy away from the notion that the classroom should be designed to be free from distraction and planned to facilitate effective instruction, with five chapters dedicated to building, planning, material, and furniture selection. In the editor’s introduction, Robert B. Ware notes that the book was written because both author and editor believed that “the classroom is an extension of the instructor”. This may explain the inclusion of classroom bulletin boards, and classroom management techniques for everyday procedures like coat hanging. The titles in this collection tend to focus more on the design and construction of physical spaces for learning rather than the philosophies and communities that built them; however, one cannot fully consider one without the other. How do technological advancements of our time impact school planning and design, from both a construction standpoint as well as a philosophical one? Does the school building have a place in 21st century learning environments, or will offerings of online education programs make classrooms and school buildings optional, or less prominent? Perhaps by looking back at the past, we can imagine what may happen to school buildings in the future. To check out these books, please visit the 2nd floor reading room and your friendly library services associate with the book you would like to borrow: Design and Craft in Education by Francis Zanker The Nursery Schools by Le Corbusier Bauhaus, 1919-1933 by Magdalena Droste The New Schoolhouse by Alfred Roth Transformation of the Schoolhouse by Educational Facilities Laboratories Designs for Education 1963 by Educational Facilities Laboratories The Things of Education by Educational Facilities Laboratories Schoolhouses For Big Cities by William W. Chase Open Space Schools by American Association of School Administrators The Design Of The Industrial Classroom by Kenningston W. Lord Jr. Child's Play: A Creative Approach To Playspaces For Today's Children by David Aaron with Bonnie P. Winawer Creative Playgrounds and Recreation Centers by Alfred Ledeermann and Alfred Trachsel Abstracts: Buildings for Education by Asian Regional Institute for School Building Research School Architecture by Henry Barnard Visual Comfort and Efficiency in School Buildings by Edmund H. Crane Preconstruction Planning For Educational Facilities by Dr. Wallace H. Strevell Planning Flexible Learning Places by Stanton Leggett, C. William Brubaker, Aaron Cohodes, Arthur S. Shapiro Onondaga Community College Master Development Plan by Clark, Clark, Millis, & Gilson, Duryea & Wilhelmi Designing Learning Environments by Phillip J. Sleeman and D.M. Rockwell  

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