I was first introduced to the book Make Space by John Burns at Shekou International School, where its lessons had been applied to make their campus more inclined to spark and kindle innovation. For those not familiar with it, Make Space brings together lessons learned at Stanford’s d.school on the relationship between physical space, collaboration and creativity. The results on show at SIS were striking, and went far beyond my own efforts to create a teaching space that was less “classroom” and more “workspace”.
A year of germinating and working on other things, and I have finally spent some time browsing the book. Adding this to my previous thinking, experimenting and reading on the subject, I would love to design and build a studio workspace into a school. Such a studio would belong to no particular department, but would be bookable for use by anyone looking to break out of class, and set the scene for more creative, collaborative, flexible work. It might include some of the following features:
- Relatively bare walls, unfinished concrete floor and lots of nature light. The ability for walls to be drawn on, repainted and hacked in other ways.
- A range of seating including sofas, bean bags, foam cubes (which can become walls, building blocks, simulations), high stools.
- A range of tables at different heights and surfaces for standing, sitting and leaning at, including d.school’s Periodic Tables and Flip Tables.
- Movable whiteboards (such as Z-Racks from Make Space), which can be used for sketching and partitioning ad hoc spaces. Dry erase surfaces on walls.
- Having everything on wheels, so that sofas, desks, and boards can be moved and re-purposed at any time.
- Moveable projectors for setting up ad hoc display areas.
- Some distinct micro-environments around the edges, including a hot desk area and a cozy area.
- Hacking and making tools and materials (such as Make Do) for rapid prototyping and construction.
Such a space would hopefully shift the school focus away from the teacher, and towards student-centered learning and creativity: not something you want all the time, but definitely a model to build students and teachers up to.