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Kate Ganim

Evolving the School

Over the last century, dramatic advances have been made in the fields of human development and pedagogical thinking. Yet, the school building stands stagnant. Either school designers from over a century ago were incredibly forward-thinking, or weve got some serious catching up to do.
Recognizing Mechanisms and Limits: An analysis of the traditional school based on educational design literature
Material and Human Scale Interior Scale Organizational Scale Urban Relationship Scale

The centralized resource plan

The dumbbell plan


School Building


The courtyard plan

The classroom-clustering plan


Materiality: Prescribed classroom materials with uniform performance: durable, washable, antisceptic, long-lasting, child-resistant Ergonomics: Adult furniture scaled down to a childs size. Differences in a childs movement and behavior are not addressed or accounted for.
The spine plan The courtyard with classroom clustering plan

Uniformity of classroom layout: lecture or groupwork format

Uniformity of organization: double-loaded corridor strategy

Parking as means of monastic isolation from the adjacent community

Formal Education Traditional School Home schooling Potteries Thinkbelt

Montessori Hertzberger Waldorf Nature Schools Informal Setting Formal Setting

High School for Recording Arts Bright Works

The Public School Ideas Circus Danfoss Universe Museums, Galleries, Exploratoria Informal Learning Unschooling

The Argument
Assuming that the schools goal is to prepare its students to enter the workforce, it has historically been quite successful. Its efficacy has lessened its need for change.

The Changing Job Market: 1950-2000




Increases in Educational Attainment: 1950-2005


Employment Rate: College graduates under age 25

Employees (in millions)

While there has been an increase in the number of jobs that require skilled labor, educational attainment has increased disproportionately in the US, resulting in an oversaturation of the skilled job market.

Science and Technology Employment: 1950-2000


Percent of US population 25-29 years



Job Market in 1950

Other Manufacturing




Metric Assessment

The traditional school was successful because of its hierarchical nature, and its focus on uniformity and metric assessment, which are reinforced by its architecture. The job market, historically based in agriculture and manufacturing, valued these skills.

Job Market in 2002

The job market has changed drastically in the last half century. Manufacturing jobs, which used to account for a third of US jobs, have dropped to around ten percent. This is attributed to increased automation and offshoring.


22.4% Unemployed
High school degree or more





22.0% Working; no degree required

Batchelors degree or more
1950 1960 1970

55.6% Working; degree required



1970 Year









Source: The US Census Bureau, Current Population Survey and 1950 Census of the Population New York Times, Outlook is Bleak Even for Recent College Graduates, 2011

The high tech industry has also had an impact. Not only has it played a larger role in the job market with its fast growth, but the evolution of the field itself is the fastest of any the world has seen. Our world is evolving at an unprecedented speed. There is a growing need to adapt, create, and innovate in order to keep up with or stay ahead of the curve. Uniformity and narrow definitions of success are obsolete in this new job market; creativity and innovation have taken their place.
Source: The US Science and Technology Workforce, Report for Congress, 6/30/2009

Source: USA Today, U.S. manufacturing jobs fading away fast, 2002

Non-School Precedents
Informality: The Loose fit Material and Human Informality: Rogue Interventions Conceptual Antithesis Programmatic Antithesis (Typologies)

Over the last 50 years, the job market has changed entirely. The traditional school model continues to teach towards the job market that existed then. Students today graduate, unprepared and unable to enter the new job market. Educational architecture has sat stagnant and blind to these changes. Assuming that the schools goal is to prepare its students to enter the workforce, it must respond to and evolve with the emerging job market. With todays technology and corporate educational programs, is it so far-fetched that the unchanged school could become obsolete?

School Precedents
Lebbeus Woods System Wein Andy Goldsworthy Fall Leaves Olafur Eliasson Your Blind Passenger Playground


Mark Horton, The Little School

The Great Mosque of Cordoba

Michael Townsend One Kinsley Avenue

Adventure Playgrounds



Mark Horton, The Little School

MVRDV Villa VPRO Urban Relationship

Stephane Malka Self Defense

H. Roy Kelley RAND Corporation


Arkitema, Hellerup Skole

City as School

Bernard Tschumi Parc de la Villette

The Imagine Bus Project

LeCorbusier Venice Hospital

Urban Transit Network

The Public School

Unwrapping the School: A Design Experiment Narrative

Experiment #1: Conceptual Antithesis Experiment #2: The Loose Fit Experiment #3: The Rogue Intervention

Brian Price, Latent Politics