Learning Environments for the Modern Age: The Top 10 Takeaways from LearningSCAPES 2019

By: Andrew Iverson, Architect | AIA, ALEP, NCARB, LEED® AP

The Association for Learning Environments (A4LE) held its annual international conference last week in Anaheim, California. As usual, I found it to be an invigorating discourse between facility planners, architects, school facilitators, policy makers, and educators. While this list is in no certain order, it is pared down from the hundreds of amazing experiences and insights attending this conference can offer.

        • “School Sucks” … or at least it has since the mid-1300s during the Italian Renaissance. Even 14th century students were distracted, dozing off, and talking in the back corner. This doesn’t have to be the case though! As architects and planners it is our responsibility to help create learning environments that can make a difference.
        • “It costs just as much to [design and] build a good school facility as is does a bad one.” In fact, I would argue that the bad ones “cost” more because …
        • “When it comes to the built environment, there is no neutral.” Buildings are either helping us or harming us. The spaces in which we live, work, learn and play effect 40-80% of of health and well-being!
        • Just as virtual reality is becoming a tool of classroom instruction, so should it become a tool for architects and planners to deepen the design discourse. VR is an incredible communication tool to build understanding and co-create learning spaces. Also, it seems to work pretty well at Disneyland.
        • “We can’t assume we have a shared language.” Design professionals often have a spatial awareness that allows them to see and speak about the physical world that not everyone gets. Be mindful, drop the jargon, and tell stories to build understanding. If that doesn’t work, try using virtual reality as mentioned above.
        • “Collaborative pedagogy is active, messy, and loud!” So we need to plan for it. Flexibility is the common response, but it is more than just a variety of easy to move furniture. To truly be agile, think also in terms of “time, space, use, and tandem.”
        • The number of special needs students continues to grow at a time when there is a shortage of teachers trained to address those needs. Design professionals should see this as an opportunity to create environments that can reduce stress for these educators and incorporate features to offer some respite.
        • When looking at Scandinavian schools, an apparent philosophical difference is the relationship between the school and the community. One of invitation versus one of fortification. In the post-9/11 United States, we will ever return to the point where we are no longer terrorized by desire for ever increasing security?
        • Co-creation is not as easy as consultation. It requires all stakeholders to open up, trust, and redistribute the power to make decisions. It can feel like risky business, but with it comes greater rewards.
        • These kids ROCK!!!


At Bray, we work with educators to understand the evolving needs of students and teachers in order to create intuitive, adaptive learning environments for the next generation. By listening and collaborating with staff, teachers and students themselves, our architects strive to inspire learning every day.

Read more about LearningSCAPES and A4LE here.


Want to learn more about how we can help inspire your students and teachers? Give us a call or email Ellen to set up a meeting at edelvecchio@brayarch.com.


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