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Senses of Place: Phase 3 Every Day’s a School Play, Every Day’s a Fieldtrip

garethhoskinsarchitects


Senses of Place: Phase 3 Every Day’s a School Play, Every Day’s a Fieldtrip

Context / Introduction

How an attitude to the richness of the urban environment makes us wish for a School-Without-School-Buildings

garethhoskinsarchitects


Context / Introduction

Senses of Place: Phase 3 Every Day’s a School Play, Every Day’s a Fieldtrip

SOP Phase 1. Outward Looking For the first phase of the Senses of Place research project (2008), we proposed a collection of interventions in a series of rural settings outwith the case-study school in Orkney. The intention was to establish unique learning environments in each of these settings (hill, forest, field et cetera), but to do so in a way which gently re-orientated the pupils to this very familiar setting in such a way as to force them to look anew at their environment. This aspect of the project, intended to distort a familiar and ordinary place so as to enable its special but overlooked qualities to be seen afresh and its hitherto concealed secrets to be told, seemed to suggest particularly interesting possibilities.

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Context / Introduction

Senses of Place: Phase 3 Every Day’s a School Play, Every Day’s a Fieldtrip

SOP Phase 2. Toolbox: Learning in the City The second phase of SOP enabled us to pursue this idea further. We asked the question “How can we distort the BINOCULARS

students’ perception of their city such that the familiar, ordinary

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and everyday become instructive, enchanting, compelling and inspiring?” In answering this question we hoped to establish a learning environment outwith the walls of a school, but more

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importantly to engender an attitude towards the city which

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enriches the students’ learning techniques and which nurtures in them an invaluable sensitivity to the world around.

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It is our belief that the city itself can be a museum, a library,

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a playground, a laboratory and a classroom if looked at with the appropriate care and imagination. We proposed a toolbox, and demonstrated how the use of some perfectly ordinary

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tools in some perfectly ordinary urban conditions could result

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in extraordinary new perspectives on the city. Specific learning outcomes associated with particular curricular areas can be achieved, and more generally the pupils are equipped with a

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greater critical sensitivity about their environment. In short, we

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encouraged the use of the city as the most exciting, multifarious and stimulating learning environment imaginable.

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garethhoskinsarchitects


Senses of Place: Phase 3 Every Day’s a School Play, Every Day’s a Fieldtrip

Context / Introduction

Schools without School-Buildings The project builds on the previous work with one key understanding: School-the-institution and school-the-building are not, need not, and ought not to be the same thing Indeed, the previous research hinted at the possibility of reestablishing School-the-institution in the libraries, museums and theatres; streets, lanes and squares; shops, halls and 1. School building in urban environment

2 School campus in urban environment

houses of our city. The notion is less contrary to current norms than it may at first seem. The extent to which even the most traditionally operating school feeds on the infrastructure and facilities of the local community is enormous - public transport, playing fields, and community swimming pools are all exploited, and summer fetes, sports days, art exhibitions and open days all represent engagement with the wider community. Schools are of necessity rooted in their towns and cities, and habitually leverage the community’s resources. The question is how far this diffused manifestation of School-the-institution can be pushed. Could we have a School-Without-School-Buildings?

3 Learning environment as public territory, outwith a school building

4. Learning environment supported by borrowed, shared, moveable or ad hoc facilities - but NO SCHOOL BUILDINGS

garethhoskinsarchitects


Context / Introduction

Senses of Place: Phase 3 Every Day’s a School Play, Every Day’s a Fieldtrip

School plays and Fieldtrips School plays and Fieldtrips are good examples, but also useful metaphors, for the way schooling already happens outwith the conventional uses of a school building. School plays transform the school into a local cultural resource, expose the workings of the institution to the public, and distort the atmosphere of the place of learning. Fieldtrips on the other hand relocate the business of learning and teaching about the world-outside into the world-outside itself. School plays and Fieldtrips represent the possibility for school to happen in the town and for the town to be a part of school life, and this research attempts to ask to what extent increased emphasis on this diffused aspect of a school’s manifestation would relieve the requirement to have a school building at all. We aim to ask what school would look like if it relied more explicitly on the town in this way, and if instead of having a dedicated school building it exploits the existing resources of the town, amplifies certain of its conditions, and inserts new fragments of support infrastructure as, when, and where required to offer fantastic and unexpected new opportunities. And crucially, the enrichment of the school experience enriches the whole town too – for in this Whole Town Model, the town literally is the school.

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Opportunities

Senses of Place: Phase 3 Every Day’s a School Play, Every Day’s a Fieldtrip

How an analysis of urban places, spaces and surfaces highlights opportunities for a School-Without-School-Buildings

garethhoskinsarchitects


Opportunities

Senses of Place: Phase 3 Every Day’s a School Play, Every Day’s a Fieldtrip

Opportunities: Under-used Existing Buildings The city is full of under-used spaces - some chronically so, others only temporarily so. • Certain extremely useful public buildings, such as churches, are empty most of the time because of the nature of the activities they were designed to support. • All towns and cities have empty retail and office units. • Cafes, restaurants, and many shops have toilet and washing facilities in quantities designed for peak capacity. • Libraries, sports facilities and galleries are fixed resources which persist through cycles of demand - that is, they are heavily exploited at weekends and outside of office hours, but are typically under-used during the school day.

garethhoskinsarchitects


Opportunities

Senses of Place: Phase 3 Every Day’s a School Play, Every Day’s a Fieldtrip

Opportunities: Under-used Outdoor Spaces The city is full of under-used spaces - some chronically so, others only temporarily so. • Gap sites are, by definition, under-exploited by the market. • On-steet carparking spaces represent a tiny-scale real estate rental market - and their designated use is a reflection of municipal priorities. • Urban courtyards and light wells typically exist as a function of a building’s daylight requirements rather than a requirement for somewhat sheltered, acoustically controlled external space. As such these spaces are spectacularly under-used.

garethhoskinsarchitects


Opportunities

Senses of Place: Phase 3 Every Day’s a School Play, Every Day’s a Fieldtrip

Opportunities: Under-used Surfaces Most of the city’s surfaces could be better exploited. • thousands of square metres of paving • exposed gable ends • hoardings are an example of a useful temporary surface as evidenced by fly-posting.

garethhoskinsarchitects


Opportunities

Senses of Place: Phase 3 Every Day’s a School Play, Every Day’s a Fieldtrip

An (Incomplete) Inventory of Opportunities The diagram opposite represents the beginnings of an inventory of potential host sites for the activities of a SchoolWithout-School-Buildings. Four categories of opportunity are provisionally identified: Under-exploited spaces (internal) Under-exploited spaces (external) Under-exploited surfaces (horizontal) Under-exploited surfaces (vertical)

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Senses of Place: Phase 3 Every Day’s a School Play, Every Day’s a Fieldtrip

Strategy

How a School-Without-School-Buildings is something like a parasite, and something like a benefactor

garethhoskinsarchitects


Strategy

Senses of Place: Phase 3 Every Day’s a School Play, Every Day’s a Fieldtrip

Something Like a Parasite Something Like a Benefactor There are two seemingly contradictory aspects to the emerging character of the School-Without-School-Buildings. The first involves assessing what is already in the urban environment, calculating how it could be useful for the school’s purposes, and exploiting it as efficiently and extensively as possible the school as parasite, in short. The second involves making something new or improving existing conditions, establishing useful resources or equipment as and when they are required, and enriching the town’s portfolio of civic facilities – the school as benefactor. Being a School-Without-School-Buildings may offer benefits for the school (in richness and heterogeneity of experience, and efficiency of capital investment), and benefits for the town or city at the same time (in public realm improvements, visibility and accessibility of lifelong educational opportunities, and general civic amenity).

garethhoskinsarchitects


Strategy

Senses of Place: Phase 3 Every Day’s a School Play, Every Day’s a Fieldtrip

Pop-up ‘Classrooms’ In recent years the phenomenon of ‘pop-up’ amenities has become well established. Bars, restaurants, cinemas, theatres and hotels have all decided to be ‘light on their feet’ and join circuses, music festivals, farmers’ markets and art exhibitions in exploiting the benefits and flexibilities of a somewhat nomadic existence within the city. The environmental requirements of a pop-up classroom are extremely modest. In good weather, somewhere relatively quiet will suffice, if it is too wet some awnings might do, or a temporary and easily transported structure might be erected (or inflated!). A surface on which to project could be useful. Perhaps it would be too cold to stay outdoors, in which case any dry, heated space like an empty shop unit or unused office space could be used.

garethhoskinsarchitects


Strategy

Senses of Place: Phase 3 Every Day’s a School Play, Every Day’s a Fieldtrip

Equipment The notion of the pop-up classroom requires us to think creatively about the equipment that might be required to support teaching practices. Pop-up classrooms imply, of course, that the equipment required for teaching and learning is highly portable, flexible and robust. Opposite is an example of the kind of design-led thinking which could liberate classrooms from the need for inflexible, cumbersome and ‘dumb’ furniture and equipment. Clearly, technological developments make this easier - virtual whiteboards can be projected onto walls, and cheap laptops have the potential to replace desks, stationery, schoolbags and textbooks in one.

garethhoskinsarchitects


Strategy

Senses of Place: Phase 3 Every Day’s a School Play, Every Day’s a Fieldtrip

Multifunction Specialist Pods A number of learning scenarios undoubtedly require specialist equipment, or particular environmental or acoustic conditions which the flexible pop-up classroom approach may be unable to reliably provide. Some science classes, for example, would require a bench with gas supply, running water, and various dangerous substances. Music classes may need expensive recording equipment, instruments, and an acoustically isolated space. Given the relatively infrequent nature of such classes, a small number of mobile, flexible pods could easily service the needs of a very large number of pupils. Mobility and flexibility offers enormous value - if a music rehearsal / recording pod is designed in such a way as to be able to act as a mini, mobile band stand, and if a science pod can be placed in public spaces at the weekend for outreach education projects, a relatively small, but smart, capital investment, combined with the temporary exploitation of host spaces around the city, can work very hard indeed for the school and the community.

garethhoskinsarchitects


Strategy

Senses of Place: Phase 3 Every Day’s a School Play, Every Day’s a Fieldtrip

Public Surfaces for Learning Whiteboards are not the only surfaces which can be employed for teaching purposes, and the internal walls of a classroom should not be the highest expression of a student’s ambition to display his work to others. The city is full of under-exploited surfaces - ground treatment from the scale of an entire public square to fragments of pavement can be used for learning. Text, drawings, games, puzzles, textures, samples, fossils, holes and bumps, inset cabinets and shelves - the capacity for public surfaces to be part of a stimulating learning environment is limited only by the imagination of the designer. And if the public realm is saturated with such stimuli, the order in which these surfaces are encountered adds a further treasure-hunt or narrative richness to the learning experience.

garethhoskinsarchitects


Strategy

Senses of Place: Phase 3 Every Day’s a School Play, Every Day’s a Fieldtrip

Permanent Installations In acting as the driver for building permanent installations, the School-Without-School-Buildings most clearly exemplifies the parasite / benefactor dichotomy. This is a practice which makes sense at all levels of ambition a modest grid of benches in a public park which can be used for classes and lunches by the school offers similar advantages to the citizens at large, and the same double benefits apply to an expensive lighting project in a city’s main square which turns it into a theatre, a gallery and a outdoor cinema all at once.

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Senses of Place: Phase 3 Every Day’s a School Play, Every Day’s a Fieldtrip

Imagined Scenarios

How a School-Without-School-Buildings might establish an itinerary of urban learning scenarios

garethhoskinsarchitects


Senses of Place: Phase 3 Every Day’s a School Play, Every Day’s a Fieldtrip

Imagined Scenarios

School Plan Rather than a rows of identically proportioned rooms connected by artificially lit corridors, the plan of this School-Without-

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School-Buildings might look something like this.

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Library(public library)

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Geometry Classroom (courtyard with ground treatment)

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Music pod / performance structure

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Classroom (town square)

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AV projection classroom (courtyard and wall)

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Nursery classroom (town hall courtyard)

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Classroom with greenhouse (unused office space and lightwell)

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Classroom (unused commercial space)

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Science pod

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Lockers (former public lavatories structure)

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Geological specimens (ground surface treatment)

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Science pod with courtyard (gap site)

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Clasroom (unused commercial space)

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Projection screen (windowless gable wall)

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Exhibition structure (replacing site hoarding)

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School Hall (church buidling)

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garethhoskinsarchitects


Imagined Scenarios

Senses of Place: Phase 3 Every Day’s a School Play, Every Day’s a Fieldtrip

School Plan And, of course, it could look completely different from one year / term / month to the next - as the pressures of the urban economy exert themselves on the availability of resources, and seasonal markets and events move in and out of town, and curricular requirements change. This dynamic nature, the flux of activities and developments, the ever-changing character of the environment is precisely the city’s greatest asset, and a source of inexhaustible richness for the student.

garethhoskinsarchitects


Imagined Scenarios

Senses of Place: Phase 3 Every Day’s a School Play, Every Day’s a Fieldtrip

Example Scenario 1 A section of hoarding to a long-term gap site is replaced with a gallery shelter which offers a covered place for students to show and discuss their work, both within the school community and with the city beyond. Seating is provided - a place to pause, look, and perhaps draw. A cafe opposite, generally quiet mid-morning, acts as a staff room, and also provides catering for the public exhibition ‘openings’. In the distance, the site of former public lavatories houses a storage island housing both school equipment and pupils’ lockers

garethhoskinsarchitects


Imagined Scenarios

Senses of Place: Phase 3 Every Day’s a School Play, Every Day’s a Fieldtrip

Example Scenario 2 A parking bay adjacent to the town square is borrowed as a location for a specialist science pod. Its location allows it to act as a billboard for communication with the wider city about science education, and it can be used for such events at evenings and weekends. A modular approach to its design would make for flexibility regarding capacity, mobility and transportation. A university building in the background offers occasional free classroom space, and its rooftop sports facilities are used by the School-Without-School-Buildings.

garethhoskinsarchitects


Imagined Scenarios

Senses of Place: Phase 3 Every Day’s a School Play, Every Day’s a Fieldtrip

Example Scenario 3 Empty office space is used as a pop-up classroom, and a blank gable wall opposite allows a class to watch projections on a grand scale. A small pocket is borrowed from an adjacent disused site, to offer a small area of shelter as a viewing room, for the city at large to watch and listen in (by means of a speaker concealed in the wall) to the classes. A history of the moving image, with key dates, an analysis of the relevant science of optics, and a local cultural history of cinema, is inset into the pedestrianised paving.

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Developing Whole Town Models - Hubs for Learning (Gareth Hoskins Architects)