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A School of Thought

Deconstructing schools often reveals the significance of educational systems and societal values. Perhaps architecture should go further than that? Designing educational spaces, in the broadest sense, contributes to shaping the young minds of the future.

We have here, Schendlingen School by Matthias Bär in Austria and WAYAiR’s proposal for a new school in Ulyankulu-two very different examples embodying a common theme;the use of architecture to enhance it’s surrounding community. A theme that has been a core factor in our design of the playground at West Leederville Primary school. 

Driving the form and function of both schools is, at first glance, the implementation of educational programs. Where Schendlingen School uses the PISA module, WAYAiR’s proposal applies the theatre based educational Polishart program. The difference here is vast. PISA’s module, which aims to assess students on their ‘competency to have a successful life in a well-functioning society’ (DeSeCo) is measured by the ability to hold a job, adaptive qualities to changing technology and the ability to communicate with people from different backgrounds. WAYAiR’s employs a theatre based educational system to teach communication, primarily the English language, through movement, rhymes, dancing, music and puppets. Both schools have an auditorium/theatre space central to the design.

Schendlingen School which forms a focal point as a neighbourhood centre in a socially problematic catchment area, responds to the ridged settlement structure of the village it is situated in, through the use of ‘diverse interiors’ and flexible room structures. Sustainability is approached by the use of untreated raw materials, to improve the air quality. 

WAYAiR’s proposal, situated in a town which resulted from political unrest, aims to be a focal point by providing an ‘educational village’ for its people by attempting to strengthen a sense of community by encouraging play between the children and other Ulyankulu inhabitants. The school is also open after hours to provide a social space for the community. Sustainability here, lies in the use of local materials and craftsmanship, with passive cooling, high thermal mass and the use of the roof for water collection in preparation for annual droughts. An appreciation for a harmony between the natural and built environment, is fostered through the use of mango trees to aid in ventilation in collaboration with the roof system.

The importance of play in the cognitive, social, emotional and physical well being of children was integral to the design of the playground at West Leederville Primary School, encouraging children to interact and engage with the world around them, in both the natural landscape and the built form and furthermore encourage physical activity and self-advocacy skills. To achieve this, we collaborated with landscape architect Michael Stoner, which resulted in the installation of cycle paths around the heritage listed Moreton bay fig tree, and the addition of indigenous plant material. 

More than ever, there is an increasing need for architecture to be more than just pedestals to institutions. Once built, architecture becomes part of a community’s collective experience and therefore has an ethical responsibility to it’s public and it’s surrounding environment, not only through it’s immediate purpose, but through it’s very design and function. 

What do you think?

Read more about the schools including our design for West Leederville Primary school, by clicking on the images below.

 Schendlingen school | Matthias Bär,  Bernd Riecher, Querformat 

Schendlingen school | Matthias Bär,  Bernd Riecher, Querformat 

 New school in  Ulyankulu  | WAYAiR

New school in Ulyankulu | WAYAiR

 West Leederville Primary School | Slavin Architects

West Leederville Primary School | Slavin Architects

anjana balakumar