Facility Planning: Fresh Perspective

Don't forget the students when gathering design ideas.

“Learn while we eat! Make your mark! Personalize your locker! Create a memorable experience! Make stairs a learning experience!”

These were the directives of Teen Design Camp 2007, hosted by the University of Minnesota College of Design.

This year's theme was school design. Each of six workshops focused on redesigning some aspect of a school. Each teen selected a design specialty. The schooling workshop focused on “rethinking your learning environment.” The designers responded to planning and design questions such as:

  • What do you love about your school?

  • What would you improve if you could?

  • Where and how do you learn?

The teen designers experienced a different style of learning. They were challenged to create, develop, refine and “sell” their own ideas. In response to “how and where do you learn,” the schooling group decided to look at the design of the space that hosts the final reception for students, parents and guests.

The students were designing the space for displaying, presenting, disseminating and eating refreshments. They developed multiple programs and tested them through scenario planning and programming exercises (just as in designing a school). Ultimately, the group had to design for multiple uses and user groups.

The students incorporated video projection, signage, graphics, lighting and innovative uses of common materials. By using a scaffolding structure and recycling highway billboards, students minimized their designs' ecological footprints.

Students from each workshop presented their final design ideas to members of juries. Some of their ideas:

  • Trash receptacles decorated to graphically reflect waste.

  • Recyclable trash baskets covered with plastic water bottles on all sides and caps decorating the lid.

  • Recyclable paper baskets covered with newspapers.

  • Making stairs a learning experience with decorative graphics such as “Exercise!”

  • Personalizing student lockers graphically, expressing the individuality of each student and creating easy identification for the student.

  • “Make Your Mark” bulletin board allowing students to graphically express themselves.

Next time you begin planning and designing a school facility, expand the task force beyond architects, educational planners, the school board, administrators, teachers, parents and business leaders. Invite students to get involved. Their innovative ideas may expand your horizons.

Rydeen, FAIA, is an architect/facility planning specialist and former president of Armstrong, Torseth, Skold & Rydeen, Inc. (ATS&R), Minneapolis. He can be reached at [email protected].

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