21st Century Schools

arch record cover jan 2014

“Architecture, when done well, can improve lives. And perhaps no building typology better exemplifies this transformative power than schools — the place where young minds are nurtured, where future leaders are reared.” –Jenna M. McKnight

Architectural Record’s January edition features a topic near to our hearts: Schools. Here are some our thoughts about designing inspiring, innovative and effective learning environments…

What should schools be in the 21st century?

We envision schools with a greater focus on project-based learning, which allow children to explore in an open-ended way at younger ages, and teach critical thinking as children get older. 21st century schools should be places in which students can explore the big issues they face, such as climate change, and consider how best to address them.  Such an approach needs to be reflected in the physical environment in which students learn.  Not all learning happens best in a traditional classroom.


21st century learning environments for K-12 should include:

  • Science/Technology/Engineering/Math laboratories, where students can work on projects over the course of days and weeks
  • Flexible, multiply usable classrooms with lots of technology support, to be efficient with space and allow for activities we cannot envision today
  • Informal gathering, social and exhibit spaces of different sizes to build the community of learners socially as well as academically
  • Break out spaces adjacent to classrooms for project based, empirical learning across subjects
  • Access to research resources in all learning spaces
  • Spaces full of natural daylight and sufficient ventilation to enhance students’ and teachers’ performance
  • Integration of indoor and outdoor spaces; schools should use the whole campus for learning, integrating urban and/or natural features into the curriculum, for the arts, sciences, and social studies


Have something to add? Let us know!

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