Education is the foundation of human society as we know it today. Education leads to personal edification, scientific and artistic innovation, technological development, and the ability to transcend what we previously considered to be impossible. It develops in us an ability to better evaluate, dissect, and interpret the world around us from entirely new perspectives. Education is the beginning of knowledge, and along with it wisdom, but more importantly it instills an integral desire to dig deeper, to push harder, and to make something “more”.
Architecture, I would argue, is a direct result of this desire for learning, for something “more” in our built environment. At some point in time, our ancestors decided that their lives could be improved, could be made easier by changing the spaces in which they lived and worked. In this way, education has shaped the field of architecture into what it is today: a practice of designing functional, innovative spaces that aspire to be both efficient and beautiful.
Interestingly though, over the years architecture has in turn begun to shape and influence education as a whole. The spaces in which people learn can affect the eagerness in which students comprehend and readily understand course material. The organization of classrooms, the daylighting, the acoustics, the distribution of students, the student to faculty ratio per room, the width of school corridors…. the list goes on. The point is that even the minute details that go into the design of today’s schools can influence the learning environment and teaching quality of a school as a whole.
I am both humbled and inspired by the role architecture has played and continues to play in education. Architecture has the incredible power to either inhibit or promote learning, and it is a power we as designers should take great care in wielding.
I was born and raised in Las Vegas, NV, which is known to have one of the worst (if not THE worst) public education systems in the nation. I believe it’s from my firsthand experience attending such lackluster schools for my primary education that I began to develop an interest in education as a whole. Over the years, I have worked as a peer tutor for primary and secondary schools in Las Vegas as well as at North Dakota State University (which is where I currently attend).
Through my university, I will have the incredible opportunity this fall to travel to the Nordic countries of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland to conduct research, analyzing what makes their education systems so incredibly successful. In these countries, I plan on visiting a wide variety of schools, using them as case studies in order to investigate the unique style of learning in the area, as well as how architecture both reflects and shapes this educational environment. How does their schools’ architecture inform or influence the decisions that the students make? How can architecture make school more collaborative, more engaging, and more fun?
I believe attending this conference will only help to further my understanding of architecture for education in the United States and enable me to make a better comparison. I am also very interested in hearing the opinions of design professionals that work on creating and renovating schools in the southwest and other parts of the U.S. besides the Midwest (where I live now). Partaking in discussions with like-minded individuals with keen interests in the field of education and how architecture can impact and improve learning is an incredible opportunity I definitely do not want to miss.