Friday, November 11, 2011
Click here to read Day 1, Day 2
Unlike on Wednesday, when the buses were late... we were all grateful to hear that the bus taking us on our days journey to southwest England had been waiting for us for over 30 minutes before our scheduled departure time. As we settled into our seats, there was a slight buzz in the air; we were going to visit some worthy projects, take part in a panel discussion on sustainability in schools, and of course take in the English countryside! Our British friends on the day before had told us how beautiful the rolling hills were, and it was going to be a great drive!
Our bus took its time getting through the central London morning traffic, but in decent time the dense fabric of the city began to unravel. The buildings became smaller, the trees became thicker and the roads were more narrow.
The journey through the English countryside was a very rewarding one. I knew it was going to be a sight to take in, but I did not expect the serenity and tranquility of the rolling hills, overcast skies, and wooded horizons.
The roads we traveled on was the epitome of what the English countryside is, complete with cottages and grazing livestock.
After about two hours sitting on the bus, we arrived at the Bryanston School, a boarding school outside of Blandford Forum, in North Dorset. Our bus pulled up in the courtyard outside the grand hall built in the 1890's. We were greeted by several individuals at the front door, including the headmaster, a professor, a a few students. We were escorted through the main building where we encountered the students passing between their classes.
We journeyed outside of the main hall and across the campus to the far northeast side of the Bryanston School grounds.
We were led into the newest building, which were there to see, the Sanger Centre for Science and Mathematics. In a lecture hall, we were welcomed and given a broad explanation of the education philosophy that is found at Bryanston. A member of the administration explained that the school based their learning on problem solving, and they were not just teaching students, but teaching them how to learn. To effectively do that they felt they needed both time and space, which was the brief of the project given to the architect.
One of the project architects, Tom Jenkins of Hopkins Architects, then took the stage and explained the design and construction of the building. Tom explained how the horseshoe shape of the building is meant to conclude the historical axis of the school, while also connecting with the rest of the campus from that axis.
We were then divided into three groups to tour each of the three floors of the school. Each floor was designated for different subjects (math, science, and physics). I had the privilege of receiving a tour of the the 2nd floor, which was designated for science. We first were shown a classroom, which was one room divided into a dry lecture space and a wet lab space. The spaces were designed so that in the future, if need be, a wall could be placed inside, and become two rooms.
We were then brought into the storage lab room where the instructors prepared the science instruments and chemicals that were used.
While the classrooms were on the outside face of the horseshoe, the inner face was where the public library/study space was located, and linked all the classrooms through this space.
We got the opportunity to talk with some of the students, and get their understanding of how their schedule worked, and how they used the building. The young woman in the photo below, was actually an American from Idaho "just going to boarding school" as she put it.
As we left the building, Tom, looking back at the building, explained how the usage of standard brick on the facade as a major piece of the energy saving techniques, and that they ended up having to use less insulation than they previously thought.
We then walked around the east end of the campus where we were shown the Art Building, a very modest building at the edge of the campus behind a small patch of woods.
There were a few students working on some dynamic art pieces in the bottom floor of the building.
The school was small, but somehow our large group were able to navigate through it.
Outside the art building we listened as the Headmaster thank us for our visit as she restated how much the Sanger Centre gave the students more than just a building, and how Bryanston had gained so much from these new learning environments that raised the standards of education at their school.
We got back on our bus and took the one hour ride to Frome, where we went to the Rook Lane Chapel, home of NVB Architects.
We sat in the original hall of the chapel, which was built in 1707, and renovated by NVB in 2003. Here we had a symposium of sustainability in school design. There were seven individuals from both the US and UK who presented their work and philosophy of sustainability in schools. These presenters were architects, engineers, suppliers, and educators.
Our host from NVB welcomed us there and explained the importance of addressing sustainability in schools. He mentioned that the top 10 jobs in Europe in 2010, did not even exist in 2004, and were all dealing in realms of sustainability and technology. He said that it was important for architects to understand these fields deeply to incorporate them into their design.
Through the numerous discussions we learned more about the difficulty of BREEM, the process for teachers and students to adapt to new buildings, and how certain sustainable practices have done more harm than good. The conversations allowed those of us from the US to learn about how sustainability practices differ in the UK, and those from Britain were able to learn from some of the Americans sustainability practices.
Some of the things that I found interesting from the discussion was how teachers in the UK did not think they should have to open or close windows to regulate the temperature. The reason for this was said that since there are so many older schools, easily over 150 years old, their windows and wall systems have enough small leaks that it creates enough ventilation, and the educators never had to open the windows. In many instances, the windows were not even operable. The panelists said because of this, creating a sustainable building was not enough. They said one has to teach the users to practice sustainability in the little things they do, and through both design and usage, a sustainable equilibrium will be reached.
One panelist said that certain elements included in buildings, such as lights that turn off automatically when no one is in a room, teaches students that they never have to worry about the lights, and that they are taught not to worry about when a light is on or off, doing the opposite of teaching them about conservation.
One statistic that seemed to 'wow' everyone is the crowd was that only 20% of buildings built in the 20th century address the position of the sun. The panel discussed that the sun has been rising for millions of years, and that one would think we would have addressed solar orientation by now.
Even though the symposium was partially cut to preserve time, and ended up being a lot shorter than had been originally planned, we somehow found ourselves one hour behind schedule. We only had a moment to admired the serene view of Frome as we quickly left the Chapel to the bus.
As we drove through the English countryside some forty minutes later, on our way to our next destination, it was a nice surprise when Steve Shiver got on the bus microphone and said "Hey we're passing Stonehenge if you look to your left!" Immediately the quiet bus erupted with everyone getting up and congregating on the left side of the bus to get a view of the prehistoric monument. There were shouts of "where?" "oohhhh" and "there it is!"
But just as fast as we came across it, we passed it. The murmur of seeing this historical site lasted for awhile in our bus. Seeing Stonehenge definitely woke up our sleepy crowd. Jim LaPosta humorously said "not sure if a drive by of Stonehenge qualifies as bucket list satisfying".
As we continued our drive, night fell, and we found ourselves stuck in slowmoving traffic towards London. At this point we were a lot more than an hour behind schedule.
We arrived in Slough, a far suburb of London, and went to the Foster+Partners designed Langley Academy. Though we couldn't see the building, the light emitting from inside gave us a sense of the buildings layout and form.
We entered into a grand room that seemed as if was more a museum than a school. There were planes, skeletons, and huge banners hanging from the ceiling 30+ ft above us.
Two architects representing Norman+Partners, including Senior Partner Luke Fox, were there to show us the school and explain their design.
We split into two groups and were shown around the school. We were told that the atrium is meant to be large and open, showcasing the "gallery of learning". The three yellow drums that surround the atrium house the ten science labs of the academy, showcasing the subject which Langley Academy both excels in and is best known for.
Two wings protrude away from the atrium and house both the computer labs and access to the classrooms.
One part of the building which caught the attention of most of the conference attendees where the bathrooms. Instead of being off to the side and hidden from view, they were at each end of the wings and clearly visible by a large window clearly showing what was inside. Here was another school which uniquely designed a restroom to address security and safety concerns.
On one wall was a diagram of the sustainability components that were found in and around the school. The diagram allowed me to not only get a better understanding of the components, but just the general floor plan and layout of the school.
As the tour concluded, we all gathered in the main atrium. Not only was the tour over but the conference was concluding as well. Steve Shriver thanked everyone for coming to London and being a part of the conference, and the CAE. Caroline Lobo then spoke on behalf of the CAE Advisory Group and presented Steve with a small gift for the work he had done organizing the conference. Caroline Lobo then thanked Jeanne Jackson for all she has done serving her five years on the CAE Advisory Group. It was the perfect way to conclude a beautify day through southwest England, and the rewarding conference.
We all made our way back to the bus and drove towards central London. As we made our way into the city and merged onto the busy roads, we celebrated a successful and engaging conference with some warm English beer!
Though the conference was only three days long, we all truly felt that we had experienced more than three days worth. We toured a handful of projects that varied in solutions, scale, program, and success. We had a wide array if meaningful discussion on the role of design for students, families, and the society's greater good. We talked to each other about the things we were each doing at our own firms and how they were working or not. We were learning from everyone around us and everything we encountered. Everyone left the conference not only understanding the importance of well designed learning environments but acknowledging the roles that we all have in making sure school environments continue to be a place for students to learn and grow.
**All photos are property of David Leitman, and may not be duplicated without permission.**