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Teaching Ourselves a Lesson In Design

Teaching Ourselves a Lesson In Design
By Lucy Bullivant -

It seems so overdue as to be a surreal occurrence, but the UK government has finally committed to spending £5.2 billion (7.63 billion euro) on refurbishing and building schools in the first major investment for three decades. The wonderful thing is that changes to the party in power are not likely to affect that. The Conservative party now invites Rafael Vinoly to its social events, and you be sure that culture is not going to be neglected, even if it is constantly squeezed. Architecture is now recognised in the UK as such a potent language to promote a fresh self-identity, it is hard to remember that it was not very long ago when the opposite seemed true.
Probably you can still remember the first time you smoked that illicit cigarette with your mates at school behind the damp bicycle sheds before running back to lessons via a long and depressing corridor in a cramped room with uncomfortable desks and chairs, and unbelievably no trace of user-friendly task lighting. But you surely are aware that secondary schools have long been stuck in an anachronistic institutional form closer to the nineteenth century factory. Now that model has reached breaking point, and to survive on any level inner city schools need to demonstrate a contemporary identity through investment in infrastructure. Traditional classroom design does not suit modern teaching with its varied, informal patterns of learning and extensive use of new technologies. Multicultural groups of pupils with a variety of interests deserve generous spatial facilities, not a forbidding atmosphere more like a jail.
Some would say that the fact that the legacy of old building stock is still in everyday use actively blocks learning. That innovative design makes all the difference to motivation, concentration and morale. Some of those people traditionally have been architects, so if a government like Britain’s is finally making a massive injection of funds into rebuilding or renewing all of Britain’s...

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