Blog: Writing on the Wall – Jonathan McQuillan, Anderson Bell + Christie

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The Education Buildings Scotland Conference seeks to bring together different sectors across the learning estate to celebrate what works in re-thinking spaces for learning. It allows them to share insights on what’s possible to support improvement. A&DS has invited a number of design professionals to share their ideas. The focus of the blogs is on the voice of young people. In this blog Jonathan McQuillan, from Anderson Bell + Christie, looks at how design can support a learners’ journey. 

At Anderson Bell Christie we are interested in how the principles of co-location can help previously disparate parts of the education establishments to come together as a whole.  There are opportunities to really think about how best to connect people and places by blending and sensitively handling the transitions that our young learners move through in their educational journey.

We have identified key opportunities at the transitions between nursery and P1 then again between P7 and S1.  Looking further along the educational journey we also need to consider how learners’ transition out of the campus from S6 into the workplace or higher education.

We have used our live projects to look at the detail of interactions between nursery and P1.  This age group can be tricky to engage with to achieve meaningful outcomes.  For our current projects we were able to draw on the skills and experience of nursery staff to create floor books with the children to record their aspirations for their ideal building.

Floor Books

These then became a source of inspiration for a series of workshops, led by ABC in partnership with Architecture and Design Scotland, with the learner as the central focus.  These sessions included early years practitioners, estates staff, interior designers, parents, school staff, headteachers, contractors and architects.   This process has helped define our strategic approach to this transition, which in turn calls into question the spatial organisation of existing school estates.

When considering transitions toward the end of secondary education it is interesting to ask how connections are forged between the school and the community, industry and academia.  Choosing what to do for the rest of your life is a daunting prospect.  So how do we improve that experience?

Maximising the potential of digital technologies and connected software is reshaping the design of spaces and is creating opportunity for synergy between aspects of the curriculum.  The spatial implications of this are more open plan, collaborative learning environments.   With the provision of these types of spaces, how then do we best lever the opportunities they provide and generate synergies with external organisations?

Workshop with A&DS

Workshops with Architecture and Design Scotland

It is worth considering the facilities for Construction Scotland Innovation Centre, designed by ABC.  The building has spaces for teaching and often invites in school groups, to allow learners to engage with innovative off-site manufacturing and rapid prototyping techniques.  It is also equipped with cutting edge software and virtual reality technology that allow CSIC to removes the barriers of physical location and reach outwards.

We feel that innovative organisations, including universities and business, will in the future be able to use their technology to have a virtual presence within a schools collaborative learning environment.  The key to successful interaction here is understanding what would be attractive and beneficial for learners.  There are fundamental ethical questions to be addressed about the nature of these interactions and how to develop an appropriate framework for interaction.  We should stimulate debate and listen to our young people’s views.  We would like to promote discussions led by young people, with the input of experts.  It is only through this that we can ensure the opportunities afforded by connectivity have a positive impact on transitions and the educational journey.


Jonathan McQuillan, Associate, Anderson Bell + Christie.


Find out more about the Education Buildings Scotland Conference here. 

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