Söylev / Schools with Future Value

Schools with Future Value

Author: Yağız Söylev, Teacher and Researcher, TU Delft

Supervisor: Bart Reuser, Founding Partner, NEXT Architects

Research stage: initial stage of a funded research-by-design project, pre-doctoral

Category: Extended abstract

Schools with Future Value investigates the school buildings as public buildings and expands the definition of their value with architectural and social aspects beyond their education function. Schools are increasingly becoming social catalysts in the Dutch context, providing a meeting ground for students, parents, and neighborhood inhabitants.1 Despite their significance on society, the school buildings are among the most cost and space-efficient buildings, resulting in poor quality and minimum possible spaces optimized only for the purpose. The uncertainty of the future use of these buildings adds to the further diminishing of the ambition in design and development processes. The project aims to conduct a typological analysis of the school buildings' social, spatial conditions and pedagogical aspects; and finally, propose new school typologies and generic spatial strategies that resist the limitations of current design trends and financial models while offering design possibilities for future adaptation.

The current demand is to design more sustainable, even completely circular schools while minimizing the costs. This creates a great gap between wish and reality, and the ambitions are reconsidered and confronted from multiple sides. However, the discussion mainly revolves around new materials, building technologies, and energy requirements. What is left unconsidered becomes the school typologies and spatial design in addressing the issues of education, building performance, and sustainability. Dr. Bouman, an example of the Groningen type of school, shows how the issues of hygiene2 were solved spatially in the ‘50s, through individualized access to classrooms, their connection to outside space, and spatial qualities to maximize the natural light and ventilation, such as the high ceiling and skylights.3 This DDr project aims to reintroduce the abandoned spatial qualities to the debate and make a case for the importance of design thinking alongside the transdisciplinary approach for the education buildings.

The places of learning are spatial manifestations of social and pedagogical ideals. Thus, it is crucial to understand the motives behind their change to reflect on the design task itself. The corridors have been one of the key elements of school organization. Initially, the equal-sized classrooms were clustered around and accessed through linear corridors. Later, in the school designs of Herman Hertzberger, the importance of the in-between spaces gains importance, leading to the idea of design clusters where circulation areas can be used for multiple purposes. What followed was the dissolution of the classroom, either through split levels or acoustical zones as learning plazas that allow for bigger groups and diverse educational activities, such as in ‘t Karregat school as designed in 1973.4 5 Most recently, expanding the educational activities to the neighborhood inhabitants and introducing more outside spaces in education emerges the idea of a learning landscape. The concept of the learning landscape, specifically street in the scope of this project, is key to addressing the social value of the schools as an integral part of their architecture and offers a model for flexible and adaptive design layouts. The broad schools in the Netherlands incorporate community facilities, such as sports halls, language classes, in school buildings with a decentralized organization of spaces. Different programs are clustered in the building depending on their relationship to the surrounding with their own entrances. This compartmentalization opens the possibilities for partial use of the building, thus privacy for education and even partial transformation or leasing for different purposes.

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Research Questions

  • How can the design of school buildings and their role in the community benefit the durability of the building in the city?
  • How can building performance and sustainability be improved through rethinking school typologies?
  • Which spatial strategies and guidelines should be equipped to design schools that can offer future value and possibilities while resisting the trend of cost-efficient, highly specific education buildings?

Schools with Future Value is a collaboration between myself as the researcher, NEXT Architects as the supervising design firm who put forward the idea of the schools with future value, and WSP as an engineering and consultancy firm. The research-by-design project is made possible by Creative Industries Funds NL under the Building Talent grant program. The project consists of three phases. The first phase includes a typological analysis of the spatial and pedagogical aspects of school projects. Moreover, the conditions of visibility, lighting, and acoustic and their implications on education will be analyzed. The research will be supported by a survey on Dutch schools and literature research.

The second and third phases will be conducted in parallel and make use of the feedback loops between research and design. The iterative design exercises will provide reflections on the research process and influence the research inputs, whilst, the research findings will offer tools and guidelines for the design phase. The research embraces the participatory and interdisciplinary design process of the schools. Several Interviews will be conducted with the collaborating architects, NEXT Architects, WSP engineers, and the contract advisor HEVO. These interviews will not only help gain insight into the specific design necessities, including building systems, particular dimensions, and technical aspects, but also into the contractual and financial dynamics in school developments.

During the design phase, generic school types, spatial concepts, strategies, and guidelines will be developed to show potential future scenarios for schools and reconsider their social status in the urban fabric. The concept of a learning landscape and street is taken as a starting point for the design exercise. The street will be studied for its potential of urban connection, flexibility through multiple entrances and articulated facades, nature inclusivity, and the blending of indoor and outdoor space. Visibility and acoustic conditions, and specific dimensions of education building case studies are critical inputs for the design assignment that will require iterations of research and design. The proposals are envisioned as public buildings that foster social cohesion and sustain their architectural and urban values by resisting the trend of cost-efficient, highly specific education buildings.

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  1. Broekhuizen, Dolf: De Basisschool als Sociale Omgeving. Ruimte Maken Voor Ontmoeting, https://adviezen.raadrvs.nl/ruimte-maken-voor-ontmoeting/plekken/ from March 7, 2022.
  2. Forty, Adrian (2000): Objects of Desire, Thames & Hudson, London, pp.159-160.
  3. Broekhuizen, Dolf/ Verstegen, Ton (2008): Contemporary Dutch School Architecture: A Tradition of Change, NAi Publishers/Staro, Rotterdam, pp. 32-35.
  4. Müller, Thomas (2014): »From Classroom to Learning Landscape«, in: Meuser, Natascha (Ed.), Construction and Design Manual: School Buildings, DOM Publishers, Berlin, pp.33-55.
  5. Komossa, Susanne (2011): »Oude Scholen - Nieuwe Scholen«, in: van Dam, Sien, et al. (Ed.), De Transformatie van het Schoolsgebouw, Thoth Publishers, Bussum, pp. 14-19.