Committee on Architecture for Education


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The Committee on Architecture for Education (CAE) is a large and active group of architects and allied professionals concerned with the quality and design of all types of educational, cultural, and recreational facilities.

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Architecture and Bullying

  • 1.  Architecture and Bullying

    Posted 10-31-2017 21:35
    As my thesis is focusing on the impact that architecture and bullying have on each other within school buildings, I went to the EDspaces conference in Kansas City, Missouri in attempt to find more information to help further my research of my topic. While most sessions I attended were helpful I am curious to your opinions and insight on the theories of school buildings and how color theory, natural light, and flexible furniture can help decrease the amount of physical bullying within schools full of teenagers. Have you thought about architecture and bullying and how they impact each other or is this a new idea brought to the surface? Are there other methods you would use in designing a school building in hopes of reducing physical bullying amongst teenagers?

    Kristen Houghton
    Northfield VT

  • 2.  RE: Architecture and Bullying

    Posted 11-01-2017 01:05
    Hi Kristen,

    What an intriguing topic. At first, I thought you were alluding to bullying in architecture school. ;)

    Back to your thesis: I've not consciously associated school design with causation of bullying or violent behavior. I have read studies on color theory- how red can cause aggression, even anger. I personally like red hues (on accent walls).

    My gut response is to suggest eliminating long corridors and rows of metal lockers as a way to eliminate that sterile, almost prison-like feel.

    Last January, Houston CSI sponsored a talk by Knoll on their new flexible education furniture line. My teenager's Principal received the info with joy.

    As an interior designer, I think carpeted areas, relaxation lounges dispersed among pods of open/closable classrooms - outfitted with the latest technology- and done in tasteful color palettes (warm or cool undertones? Brights vs pastels? Use of natural woods vs plastic?) would go a long way in making schools more pleasant.

    But is there a budget for all this?

    I love your thesis and look forward to hearing input from you and others.

    Also, it seems the tech giants like Google, Facebook, Apple, and Yahoo have the right design ideas and fun aesthetic that schools should steal from.

    Relatedly, have you seen the movie/documentary High Tech High? It was very enlightening and addressed the Socratic style classroom layout and gave students the reigns to lead themselves.

    "Education is kindling a flame, not filling a vessel." - Socrates (?)

    Thanks for starting this discussion.

    Good luck with your research.

    Kind regards,

    Tara Imani, AIA, NCIDQ, ASID, CSI
    Registered Architect + Interior Designer

    Tara Imani Designs, LLC
    10333 Richmond Avenue, Suite 170
    Houston, TX 77042

    Work/Mobile Ph: 832-723-1798

  • 3.  RE: Architecture and Bullying

    Posted 11-01-2017 17:34
      |   view attached

    You may want to review the "attached" PDF or search for Dr. Dieter Breithecker. Bodies in Motion - Brains in Motion: Better learning in an enriched environment.

    Not about bullying per se but a good primer on adolescent physiological behavior in the classroom.



    James Spinola, AIA, CSI

    RLPS Architects

    250 Valleybrook Drive

    Lancaster, PA 17601

    Planning-Architecture-Interior Design



    Confidentiality Notice: This email message including attachments, if any, is intended only for the person or entity to which it is addressed and may contain confidential and /or privileged material. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender by reply e-mail and destroy all copies of the original message. If you are the intended recipient but do not wish to receive communications through this medium, please so advise the sender immediately.


    bodies-in-motion-web_2.pdf   1.02MB 1 version

  • 4.  RE: Architecture and Bullying

    Posted 11-01-2017 18:02
    We believe that designing schools that allow students to "see and be seen" is the most critical aspect to discourage bullying. Once out of the teacher supervised classrooms, students in hallways, dining rooms, common areas, etc. need to feel safe. Transparency is key. If students feel "that at any time an adult may see me", there will be less bullying and vandalism.

    Boyd McAllister AIA
    VCBO Architecture
    Salt Lake City UT

  • 5.  RE: Architecture and Bullying

    Posted 11-01-2017 22:23
    Hi Kristin,
    I largely agree with Boyd on this one. However, it's clear to see the value in everyone's comments above. It will take the understanding of individual project parameters to fully understand which approach to take. The parameters of budget obviously, along with factors such as new-build versus renovation Etc.. These all clearly create conditions that we as Architects must respond to as fiduciaries on a project. Having said that, it would be interesting to see a white paper that explores... let's say a half dozen scenarios in which various levels of key factors and parameters are taking into account and a proper approach to each scenario is outlined. That could be a really great start for a useful book for K12 building designers and Beyond. I'd love to hear your feedback on that idea.

    Tariq Abdullah AIA
    Principal Architect, CEO
    Tarchitects LLC
    Atlanta GA

  • 6.  RE: Architecture and Bullying

    Posted 11-03-2017 00:57
      |   view attached
    Hi Kristen,
       As Boyd said, the use of Natural Surveillance (per a CPTED design approach) certainly offers promise for reducing school bullying. This is something my colleague and I touched on in a presentation we gave at AIA 2017 in Orlando, so it's neat that you're also interested in this topic. I'm a big proponent of designing safe and secure schools that also promote psychosocial wellbeing, or a positive climate, at school; we can do this by designing an environment that helps build school identity/culture, which in turn becomes a part of each student's identity. When students have a shared social identity, they will be less likely to bully and antagonize one another, despite the cliques and social groups that invariably arise (jocks, nerds, etc.).

    Anyway, my dissertation was on student perceptions of safety and psychological comfort in CPTED designed schools, so we should chat sometime about shared interests! In case you're curious, I've attached the presentation I gave at AIA about using CPTED to meet safety and psychosocial needs. There are some references and sources at the end that you may find interesting. Cheers,

    Daniel Lamoreaux
    PhD Candidate, School Psychology
    The University of Arizona
    Tucson, Arizona


  • 7.  RE: Architecture and Bullying

    Posted 11-09-2017 12:44
    Hello everyone,
    Thank you so much for the feedback and response on my topic. There is no budget necessarily which is a great opportunity for my design process. I agree with many of the points that have been made like safety and transparency being key to design. I am looking at precedents that are eliminating the hallway and corridor effect. I find that by eliminating the hallway there is less opportunity for bullying to occur and higher opportunity for students to interact in a positive way through education. With eliminating hallways and creating large collaboration spaces that are open to classrooms brings in the idea of shared social identity which can lead to less bullying opportunities and situations as mentioned in the comments above. My design is to be a new build and I am looking at the site location to be in East Hampton, NYC. I determined this area based on schools in the surrounding area and the statistics of poverty and higher education. The idea of "see and be seen" is an idea that I believe can go a long way and be a crucial part of the safety of schools. The psychosocial well-being is a quality I am keeping in mind when responding to the students affected by my design. Thank you for the presentations as I have found both of them helpful for my research and I hope to use these methods in my design.

    Daniel I would love to connect and talk about some shared interests!

    Kristen Houghton
    Northfield VT

  • 8.  RE: Architecture and Bullying

    Posted 11-10-2017 17:29
    Historically student restrooms are one of the most common places where bullying occurs. We are exploring a number of different configurations to make them less concealed spaces. On our most recent schools we are eliminating multi occupancy restrooms entirely providing multiple single occupancy restrooms that are directly accessed off the main circulation. These spaces include a toilet and a sink and are intended to be gender neutral when the code catches up with the new restroom gender laws in California. For now they will be signed for boys and girls. Because of the direct adjacency to the main circulation we think these spaces will provide a more safe and secure space to use the restroom.

    Richard Berliner AIA
    Berliner Architects
    Culver City CA

  • 9.  RE: Architecture and Bullying

    Posted 11-10-2017 19:22

    I hope you'll be providing good ventilation, solid sound attenuation and a good "weatherstripping" under the door for further privacy.

    I think the old time high school bathrooms were problematic because they were inadequate and dehumanizing, cold decor, perfunctory everything, and nasty cold concrete block walls-- felt like what an institution or prison might be like.

    I anticipate those single user restrooms will cause a lot of problems-- they will be abused and misused. Sorry to be negative.

    Best Regards,

    Tara Imani, AIA, NCIDQ, ASID, CSI
    Registered Architect + Interior Designer

    Tara Imani Designs, LLC
    10333 Richmond Avenue, Suite 170
    Houston, TX 77042

    Work/Mobile Ph: 832-723-1798

  • 10.  RE: Architecture and Bullying

    Posted 11-13-2017 08:49
    Hi Kristen,
    I'm late to the discussion, but it's intriguing, and provides a good launching point for change in the way schools are built.  Right now, building codes and educational guidelines for building aid for schools in New York require enclosed classrooms, of a certain size to hold a certain amount of students.  The number of students in a classroom are typically controlled by teacher-School District contracts.  Recent changes in educational styles have loosened up the interior of classrooms to provide opportunities for team teaching and team learning.  Some schools are providing spaces adjacent to the classroom for groups to gather and work when renovating or adding on.   The organization of the classrooms into a building require fire exits, smoke control ie:  compartmentalization for life safety, and noise control.  This puts the people in enclosed boxes for their safety, even though newer configurations can be just as safe.
    Just like the road systems and in our cities, overcrowding leads to conflict.  The corridors in a middle or high school are packed with kids every 45 minutes or so.  The cafeterias are loud and often disorganized, often with no overflow space for kids who finish eating early.  Conflicts arise, abrasiveness increase as students struggle for diminished space for eating, study or play.
    If schools can be designed with appropriately sized "roads" and with classrooms that provide life safety without becoming boxes, then some friction can be reduced.  Attention to acoustics and engagement with teachers will help shape your educational spaces.  Changing the building codes and moving the governmental educational guidelines into the 21st century will help too.  Solving the life safety requirements while providing open and usable teaching space and defensible student spaces can't happen too soon.
    Good luck.

    Phillip Zemke AIA
    Rhinebeck Architecture & Planning PC
    Rhinebeck NY

  • 11.  RE: Architecture and Bullying

    Posted 11-14-2017 17:30


    I have been tracking the discussion and, as the husband of a middle school counselor, would offer two thoughts she has shared with me time and time again:

    1)     Architecture cannot solve societal issues – out of her ~600 students, 90% of the issues are caused by 5% of the children. This starts in the home and cannot always be handled within a school setting. Despite her best efforts, those kids will act up and torment others regardless of the building or classroom configuration or the manner in which the teachers, administration, and counselors try to address the behavioral issues.

    2)     My wife used to teach in an open classroom concept. It didn't work then and I sincerely doubt it would work now. Be cautious about designing open classroom settings especially regarding visibility and acoustics between different student groups.

    I honestly hope the issues schools are facing will go away in the future. Good teachers are leaving the profession due to the increase in problems they are facing with today's students AND parents (even if it is the minority causing the issues).

    Good luck to everyone!


    Brad Thomason, AIA, LEED AP

    Director of Integration


    (p) 319-731-2836

    (c) 319-389-9145


    Ryan Companies US, Inc.

    625 1st Street SE, Suite 175

    Cedar Rapids, IA  52401




  • 12.  RE: Architecture and Bullying

    Posted 11-16-2017 09:51
    I have to agree with Brad (and his wife): Architecture can not solve societal issues. That is not to say we should not make attempts to contribute to a better management of such challenges but we need to start with a realistic view of what impact we can make. I agree that increased visability can help deter unwanted behavior to an extent. I also understand the desire to increase space allocations for hallways, common areas, etc. but this is often a budget constrained proposition.

    I would caution against the belief that architecture will ever eliminate the feeling that school is a prison because we all felt that at one time or another growing up and it had little if anything to do with the architecture. Place 20 kids on the softest warmest sand beach under trees that drop the most luscious fruit you can imagine with warm sun on your face and a cool salt water breeze. Now tell those 20 kids they must sit there from 8:05 till 8:55 while some adult talks at them about English composition = prison. There is a great deal we can do to improve the educational environment but we need to also acknowledge that our ability to change that environment is limited.

    One avenue that might be worth continued study is the use of community schools (K-8 neighborhood schools) in lieu of the grade centers that have become so prevalent. There is some study that indicates an increased feeling of "ownership" when it is your school rather than simply the box you will occupy for 3 years until you move on to the next box. This, in theory, can increase a sense of pride and community and reduce conflict.

    The education of our children will be a continual struggle to obtain a balance of all of the factors that contribute to the educational environment and architecture has its place in that arena but teachers are now and always will be the key. We need to acknowledge that at the end of the day education breaks down to 20 little butts in 20 little chairs listening to the adult in the space. Teachers are and always will be the key.

    Scott Piper AIA
    SPM Architects Inc
    Palos Park IL

  • 13.  RE: Architecture and Bullying

    Posted 11-18-2017 13:44
    I will share a meeting i once had with a superintendent of a small K-8 school in North Jersey.  He told me that he made it a point to know each child's name, the names of their siblings and even the first name of the parents.  When I child was called out for behavior he said " Johnny, do you want me to call Mark and Debbie (the parents)" When the kid heard that he knew who his parents were by first name the kid usually straightened out pretty quick.  This same superintendent told me that K-8 was good because the older kids are aware that there are younger one's watching and imitating their behavior.  This made the older ones more aware and also gave them a sense of responsibility. Suffice to say he was no fan of the K-1, 2-4, 5-6, 7-8 patterns that we design for the industry of pushing kids through schools.

    Paul Tiajoloff AIA
    Paul K. Tiajoloff, Architect, LLC
    Boonton NJ

  • 14.  RE: Architecture and Bullying

    Posted 11-20-2017 14:38


    While I agree there are certain social issues that cannot be solved through design but general safety and student success can be effected through great design. I believe most if us have heard the value and positive effects that quality day lighting has provided as an impact on learning. I will focus though on those design principles that can effect specifically bullying since this was mentioned. Double Loaded Corridors are a gauntlet for bullies. A simple bump, push, spit or comment can be waged easily under the direct supervision of staff. I have also noticed corridors less than 12' in width being produced to try and hit some metric of efficiency which further exacerbates this problem. While I agree that the open concepts of the 60's are an absolute failed design that should never be repeated, the open pod concepts work exceptionally well. They provide better student management by simply not dumping the entire student population into circulation when the bell rings. Visual and oral transparency are improved. The pods also provide better acoustic management as well.

    I know this is one topic but there are several publications supported by solid research that demonstrates that by applying exceptional design we can make a difference on what happens within a school. Color, texture, nature space all have impacts on the human psych and our contributions as architects have a significant impact on people.

    David [Henebry, AIA NCARB ALEP LEED] AIA
    [da Vinci Planning]
    [] []

  • 15.  RE: Architecture and Bullying

    Posted 12-02-2017 23:25

    Over the past decade and more, a growing list of fields have been studying environmental influences. Education is one, studying the impacts of school design and environmental quality on student performance. Appreciation for the inseparability of environmental factors from cognitive ability, even the development of personal identity, are emerging. I recommend Sarah Williams Goldhagen's terrific new book Welcome To Your World as introduction to some of this research. Rather than finding that architecture is unable to solve social problems, there is increasing evidence that social problems cannot be solved without also addressing the environmental influences that help shape them.  


    Carl Elefante FAIA

    Quinn Evans Architects