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We shape our environments and then they shape us.

We shape our environments and then they shape us.

This is especially true of schools; the influence the architecture of school buildings has on developing minds is surely incalculable.
What should a school fit for 21st century teaching purposes actually be like? We need to be skeptical of the most popular type of current thinking which seems obsessed by creating schools which may seem like fun filled places to be, but which may create a generation of glazed morons with no more discipline than you need to change channels.
The government seems to want schools to look like big shops with big graphics and big bright colours. They seem frightened by tradition, frightened of the idea that pupils should even be a little intimidated by school. Although we advocate the creation of innovative, stimulating learning environments, we should also not be afraid of ethics and tradition. We remain in favour of the benign supportive institution. Institutions can still provide a secure and focused learning environment and also the little piece of grit in the oyster, which helps to cultivate the pearl!
We are extremely skeptical of the current obsession with superficial glitz and infantile shape-making which infects a great deal of new school architecture. We are more concerned with thinking about the plan and its organizing and driving elements of access enabled circulation. Of course, we are interested in the principal spaces where the main teaching activities take place, but we are also very interested with the spaces in between the destination venues; assembly hall, teaching rooms, gymnasium and head master’s study, etc. The in between spaces must also be places. Places for social exchange and circulatory interchange. They are the connective muscles and tendons which link and catalyse the vital organs of destination teaching and learning zones. Overall we are interested in the way institutional architecture affects mood and morals, much as Le Corbusier admired the Cistercian Abbey at Le Thoronet and which helped Gilliespie, Kidd and Coia produce St Peter’s Seminary at Cardross or Robinson College Cambridge.
We are interested in producing legible, functional and sustainable architectural forms, based on cost effective, energy efficient environmental engineering. We are preoccupied with producing strongly contextual solutions in an unapologetically contemporary idiom. Our buildings need to be designed, constructed and finished in a manner which combines the use of craftsmanship as well as benefiting from modern construction methods. We always try to incorporate the use of natural, indigenous, high quality materials and use as much natural light and ventilation as possible. We adhere to the principles of Universal Design and always endevour to incorporate access enabled and inclusive architectural solutions.
If we achieve our aims in the design of our learning environments, to stimulate all of the senses and the minds of teachers and pupils alike; then we can say with greater confidence, if we can positively shape our learning environments, then they will positively shape us…

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