Architecture matters

Serendipity is in the design.

Photo of Nick Wilson
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Architecture matters.  The intellectual is the result of the physical foundations.  How do we encourage natural collaborations instead of mandated meetings?

Constructive interactions can't be forced, but they can be encouraged and cultivated.  The story of Steve Jobs participation in the design of the Pixar and the location of bathrooms is well known.  We want all on our campus to work together - separate disciplines need to interact, coworkers need to bump into each other, we need spaces that draw people and encourage communication.

Beyond the physical architecture, there needs to be a administrative architecture.  Once the space is defined and built, it’s the job of the architect to stand back, observe the interaction, make minor edits and changes that further stimulate the flow.

It’s all about design, physical flow, intellectual flow, and the inspiration that comes from serendipity.



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Photo of Dan Blake

I love the idea of architecture as not only the physical environment but the administrative structure and design of the school. I have always been troubled by the way schools, particularly at the secondary level, are divided by subject areas and how the use of space (classrooms of a similar subject grouped together, department meetings by subject area, etc.) only reinforces these divisions. These artificial divisions, which are virtually non-existent outside of schools, only serve to limit teachers (and students) understanding of how all things are interrelated. Some of the most powerful professional development experiences I have been a part of have occurred when teachers from different subject areas and vastly different grade levels,who would not otherwise have come together, have been able to find common interest in a topic and realized they have much to learn from one another.

Photo of Nick Wilson

Think you nailed it. I am a secondary teacher, but lucky enough to teach special education. This has given me allowance to cross boundaries into other disciplines - I get to talk to all teachers in order to assist my students, so I have less boundaries than most. However, the physical and administrative walls exist - and they are reinforced concrete!

Photo of John Faig

@Dan,
Well said. I recently read a book titled, "The Business Model Innovation Factory" by Saul Kaplan and it was a generic blueprint for change. He thinks that organization structures generally get in the way of change. I have seen this in education as silos of people try and optimize their work and few people have an organization-wide perspective. When you dig into the details of how a particular school operates, you indeed find that there is a great deal of "interrelatedness" and systems thinking helps identify indirect consequences of actions.

Photo of Chris Good

Space can have a powerful impact on how people relate to and interact with each other. "It can be a barrier or an accelerator" (as a smart person once told me). HMW think about our built learning environments if we consider how people interact within them as the first parameter? Great take Nick!

Photo of Nick Wilson

yeah, I have been in a few startup spaces - it's true that the engineers tend not to prefer the open space plan (noted in the NY Times article.) Distractions can be a huge issue. What makes the task more challenging is that concepts of space, flow, purpose are all flexible. What may work today will not be good tomorrow, and what may work for one individual or group may not be good for another.

We're in quickly changing times - quick reactive adaptability is a necessity.

Photo of Sarah Lundy

The insight you're offering here could be a game changer. I'm often trying to imagine how we might redesign our existing structures or work more flexibly with what we have-- a transformation from inside out....

Photo of Nick Wilson

The NY Times article has some nice quotes;

"Doors now seem an impediment, slowing the making of something new."

"... a sense that nothing is permanent, that any product can be dislodged from greatness by something newer. It’s the aesthetic of disruption: We must all change, all the time."