Hallways take up large amounts of usable space within a building, and given the inherent function of circulation as the means to move from one space to another, this is particularly true in a school building. At a time when real estate development and construction costs are soaring, owners are eager to find ways to maximize their space and are challenged to think creatively about dual-use and adaptable spaces. According to school architect and author of “The Third Teacher,” Trung Le, over 35% of the average school’s square footage is in use less than 5% of the typical school day. With that understanding, and at the request of some of our clients, we’ve been thinking about how we can create learning spaces that utilize corridors in ways that maximize efficiency and help transform education into a visible learning atmosphere.
This concept of non-traditional, flexible learning spaces, combined with recent advancements in technology, has allowed some schools to offer 1:1 solutions—from iPads to Chromebooks to laptops. The results of inquiry and project based activities are often transformative, and student led learning becomes ubiquitous. Creating spaces for this type of learning is a natural progression.
Utilizing the corridor as learning space does not necessarily replace the classroom, nor does it need to be implemented on a wholesale basis. By working through such strategies on our school projects, we’ve found it’s helpful to think of this concept on a sliding scale, determined by the school’s pedagogy, age groups of students, and physical constraints of the site and building. In essence, no two solutions are ever the same.
One of our clients requested we use every ‘nook and cranny’ to create learning opportunities outside of the classroom in creating their school. As designed, these spaces have the ability to evolve over time and more closely align to individual learning styles while fostering positive socialization skills. We’ve also realized (and have put into practice) a degree of distinction between the different types of flexible spaces depending on the age groups and grades they’re serving. This distinction goes hand-in-hand with the school’s ability to aid in the gradual maturity of their students, from an atmosphere of constant oversight and teacher-led content delivery, to more independent work with less direct supervision.
Studies have shown that the quality of a school improves by locating learning opportunities both within classrooms and outside of them. By creating learning environments in corridors and other underused spaces, we expose students to the type of environments they are likely to experience in their educational and professional future. We’ve enjoyed exploring different ways to get the most out of the square footage available for a project, and are sure that as teaching methods and technology continue to evolve, so will the way we design spaces for learning.