Blog: Don’t just do more with what you have…. do better – Gillian Lockyer, Studio 42

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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 Gillian Lockyer, Director of Studio 42 Design, writes about participation and seeing spaces through the eyes of the user. 

With constant pressure on educational budgets and spending on existing buildings frequently limited to basic maintenance only; schools are being asked to deliver an ever evolving curriculum within existing (often dated) facilities. Space is at a premium and with an increased expectation that schools will be able to provide a wider range of learning and teaching settings by simply improving the utilisation of existing shared spaces. Within this challenge there is an opportunity to not just do more with what you have – but do better. Through engaging with pupils, teachers and support staff there is the potential to explore, adapt, test and improve existing spaces and develop new settings that are more effective and responsive to the educational, social and emotional needs of the users.

Participation and Visioning

Focusing participation and visioning workshops around teachers and pupils, provides an opportunity to assess the effectiveness of existing spaces through the eyes of the users, and develop a vision and aspiration of how settings might be in the future. A strategic spatial analysis of school buildings and grounds can highlight where these new settings might be developed within shared areas, concentrated around activities and needs. Linking activities and locations can also challenge ingrained perceptions of what a space can be used for: a corridor, a gym, a canteen, a classroom.

Testing proposed settings through in-situ interactive pupil workshops, enables pupils to physically explore existing spaces and test new interventions using simple low cost materials that fuel imagination and can be used to create a range of fleeting installations in rapid succession. Different sized stackable cardboard boxes, cardboard sheets, stools, cushions, rugs and blankets can enable pupils to consider key themes such as collaboration or performance, experiencing and imaging what it might be like to learn in different environments, and express what type of settings they respond to.

Small Scale, Low Cost Intervention

Creating new settings does not always require substantial capital investment; small scale, low cost interventions such as investing in multifunctional furniture and the right storage, can unlock existing spaces enabling them to be used as different settings in a variety of ways. The fundamental change is in altering the perception of how a space might be used.

Inside their own classrooms teachers have the flexibility to be creative with space. To enable them to be equally creative in shared areas and utilise more of the school buildings and grounds, school wide protocols and permissions are required. Engaging both staff and pupils in the process of creating new shared spaces can also support in the development of new behaviours around how these locations might be used.

Empowering pupils to identify environments and settings respond to their needs has the potential to both inform and transform the development of new effective shared learning & teaching spaces. Broadening this into a continual dialogue, where ideas are regularly discussed, explored and tested at low cost, can enable gradual improvement of existing schools over the longer term, ensuring that pupils remain engaged in the development of the spaces they inhabit.

Gillian Lockyer, Studio 42 Ltd.

Image: Testing, testing, 1…2…3

Find our more about the Education Buildings Scotland Conference here.

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