Thursday, 16 July 2009

Iconic Buildings

Not a school and I know it seems to be unfashionable to like iconic buildings these days, but I do just love the Hilton Hotel / Apartments in Manchester.
I spend a of of time in Manchester at the moment. No matter where you are , or how you drive towards it - there it is. The jutting out glass floor of the bar half way up the building always makes people wonder if the building will stay upright.  You just have to engage with it.
There are times when it IS appropriate for schools to be of iconic design within their own communities, why shouldn't they? There are lots of people who want schools to really resurrect community cohesiveness and become the central hub for the area used by everyone.  They have to be exciting, attractive and inviting.  I really don't agree with those folk proposing that we should use one of a limited number of standardised designs. Each community has its own uniqueness, which their schools should reflect.  It is not like building an identical branch of a  furniture showroom or a DIY warehouse. 
Whatever the external views, it is the learning spaces inside that are most important though.  There is no point having an exciting exterior if the inside layout does not maximise opportunities for the full range of learning styles in agile and adaptable spaces. Learning is changing faster than the buildings  - the agility is essential.  We know all the ingredients for how to design such spaces, it's a matter of incorporating them into a pattern that meets the vision of the school.
There are some really exciting learning spaces being built now, often that have had considerable student and community input into the design.  Immediately there is increased ownership and engagement with the building as a result. They want a building in their community that they can be really proud of and that offers a full range of services to enhance their community.   Why shouldn't it look fab as well!

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