28 April 2009

Design in Mind

Pixar by M. Pollo CC-BY-NC-SA

Some of you may have seen the above picture before. It's been floating around for a bit. It is a shot of some of the offices at Pixar Studios. Below is a shot from the Google Offices.

Google Office by Albert Bredenham CC-BY-NC-SA

No doubt all of us have been in buildings that feel creative and energizing---places that inspire. I can think of very few of these which have been schools. No matter what you do to your classroom, there is not much getting away from the fact that we are working in an institutional setting. Ceiling levels are low...hard surfaces abound...and white walls are the order of the day.

I know the dismay I have each morning walking into the cubicle farm---and how differently I'd feel if the rabbit warren walls were developed into something more Pixar-like. It's a drag to have exist in a windowless space with nothing from the natural world to look at.

But what about our young minds? What is the impact to these designs on our students?

A recent article in Scientific American explores the relationship between living and working spaces and the mind. The article details the impact of ceiling height on creativity, the restorative effects of being able to look at a natural setting, the impact of lighting on circadian rhythms, and more. What would happen if we were intentional about using this sort of information when designing schools? Is it more motivating to adults and kids alike to think about coming to learn in a setting built to inspire?

There is something about having a personal connection to a particular place. Maybe that is the problem with most office areas: cubicles are all alike. Same height...same materials...same footprint. Those who work in them can add unique contributions, but there is no sense of individuality or the value of thought. Be the machine. Be on the "team." I would like to think that schools aren't training grounds for this, but until the buildings change, I'm not sure that we aren't closing minds within these concrete boxes.

1 comment:

Mr. McNamar said...

I learned today that many of my students are closing their minds to learning because of the state of our building. The east coast heat wave wreaked havoc in our heat-box of a building. Kids were sweating, I was sweating. Then they go the water-fountain to find it doesn't work properly. I would love to teach in a Starbucks like environment.