Architects and teachers design the school of the future in Catalonia

The educational transformation not only implies a new approach in the way of training students, but also a new space concept and its uses. In 2019, the Department of Educationthe College of Architects of Catalonia (COAC) and the Jaume Bofill Foundation started a path to rethink the schools design. This work, in which 80 experts have participated and has been coordinated by the pedagogue Jordi Vivancos and the architects Mariona Genís and David Lladó, has now been reflected in the document ‘Our learning, our spaces’, a guide in which, for the first time in 22 years, the new construction and transformation criteria of educational center spaces. Criteria that, according to Educació, seek to “break the current rigidity” of the design of public schools and accompany the new learning methodologies.

The basic idea: to design schools and institutes based on the educational project of each center and with versatility. In this sense, the ‘conseller’, Josep González-Cambraystresses that “interventions in educational settings, furniture adjustments and the adoption of digital technologies must respond to educational transformation and must be part of the educational project of each center”.

Currently, a royal decree of 2010 sets the common minimums for all schools in Spain. This regulation, in which the classroom is the central space, includes the general features of a regulation from 1973. In addition, each autonomy has a more detailed guide. The document presented now updates the guide that was drawn up in Catalonia in 2000, carried out exclusively by architects and based on the traditional model of knowledge transmission: blackboard, teacher and students. “The previous document only allowed a school with a single way of learning, based on the teacher-student transmission of knowledge. The new one is designed so that schools have many ways of learning and is open to new methodologies,” says Genís.

Architects and pedagogues

The great novelty of this guide is that for the first time it is the result of dialogue between architects and pedagogues and necessarily involves the participation of the educational community, which will be the one that will decide what its school is like. Genís and Lladó stress that it is a guide “flexible to adapt to each school”. “We are not looking for standard schools or closed projects,” they say. Architects have relied on similar guides from countries like Canada, France or UKwhere this model is prevailing.

Assuming that the spaces have to be adapted to the new learning methods, as a general guideline, the schools that are built from now on will be more flexible and versatile and its spaces must be inclusive and take into account the gender perspective. From a technical point of view, the illuminationthe temperature, the ventilationacoustics and furniture are also key since each of these elements affects learning in one way or another, the report underlines.

Some pioneer schools, like the Montgròs Institute of Sant Pere de Ribes, have already been incorporating some of these elements that the guide now systematizes. The case of this centre, which has become a benchmark for work by areas, is significant. Built just 10 years ago with ‘classic’ criteria, the management team that heads Susan Soler, has been making improvements to the building –which they have financed with money won in various competitions– to adapt it to their educational project. Pioneer in work by areas, they decided to tear down the partitions that separated the classrooms and convert them into a large classroom where 90 students from each level work (there are three lines) with the support of 4 teachers. Teachers do not have a table, but move around the students’ tables. This center continually receives visits from teaching teams. The next week, without going any further, 30 teachers and inspectors from Lasarte visit him.

Between the general guidelines, the report stresses that the center must adapt to the environment in terms of materials, orientation of the building, access and mobility and anticipate future modifications and extensions. The building must be sustainable and healthy. Educació also calls for a minimally complex design and rationalization of costs.

Learn in any space

In addition to design aspects for new buildings, the report also gives guidelines for transforming existing buildings. Among these, it recommends enabling an accessible lobby. Another point of change is related to the hallways and passageways, which take on a new role, also related to learning. These multipurpose corridors can already be found in many Catalan schools. It is the case of the La Vila de Palamos school. “Our corridors are learning spaces, where we do globalized work. We also use them for moments of emotional accompaniment between tutor and student and they are also reading spaces. Our corridors are libraries”, explains the director, Lluis Colas. In high school Montgros They have incorporated in the corridors some small bleachers and a blackboard in which the teacher can pay more attention to a group of students.

The concept of library The school advances to be a space for research and access to more dynamic knowledge. In fact, it is proposed to rename it ‘Recerca’ (Investigation). They have already implanted it in the Esteve Terradas Institute of Cornellà. “The library is now called ‘Research Space’. It is more than a library to use. There is space for studying and bookshelves, but also an agora for debate and dramatized reading, an area for meetings and space for project work”, describes the director, Olga Quesada. That is why the tables are all folding, the walls are blackboards and the partitions are mobile. “This system opens up possibilities that until now we did not have or even imagined,” adds Quesada. There are no unique solutions. In Montgròs they have eliminated the library as such and instead have created library spaces in all classrooms so that young people can see the books, have them there.

The kitchen and dining room gain prominence and both become spaces for learning. Thus, students will be able to enter the kitchen to carry out workshops and the dining room is no longer just a place to eat, but rather a nutrition center, where students learn what they eat, how it is prepared and what one or the other eats for. food.

The guide leaves open the question of playground and sports court. Although the regulatory framework provides for a sand which can be used as sports track –it will have the dimensions for the practice of sports–, it leaves to the discretion of the school how that playground should be and if the track space can accommodate other activities.

The document also provides for the possibility of bicycle parking areas, orchards and playgrounds.

mandatory participation

In the design of new schools should participate yes or yes the educational community (teachers, families and municipalities). It is an essential requirement. In fact, Educació warns that “no center will be built or expanded without a prior participation process”. In the opinion of the Department, this participation “is an opportunity to incorporate new perspectives, to deepen educational involvement and to introduce cooperative work formulas”. “This guide guarantees that all educational centers and all extensions are made after a participatory process with the entire educational community,” Cambray stressed. At this time, there 48 participatory processes underway in centers throughout Catalonia.

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The participatory process will have three phases: a first of diagnosis and definition of space, the second of project and construction of the center, and the third of evaluation of the educational space. The aim is thus to facilitate that the entire process will respond to the project of the center and the needs of the members of the educational community. The report underlines the “importance” of the involvement of the municipalities since in many municipalities the centers open their spaces to the population beyond school hours, as is the case with playgrounds or libraries. And in some cases it also shares municipal facilities such as sports centers.

obsolete hubs

And while Educació lays the foundations for renewal, on a day-to-day basis there are many educational centers that have remained obsolete and have maintenance issues. “There are centers that would not pass an energy efficiency test,” he stresses Jesús Martín, leader of UGT, which underlines that there are still too many schools where there is loss of cold and heat, with classrooms “not prepared to withstand high temperatures”. Old-fashioned furniture, insufficient equipment (for example, a single teachers’ toilet in a three-story building), poorly insulated windows and a lack of air conditioning are situations that students and teachers still suffer from. “It is very good to promote new projects, but this implies a large investment. And updating the current centers also requires a lot of money,” warns Martín. The director of Montgròs herself, who celebrates the success of the new guide document, warns that they will require important resources to adapt all current centers.

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