This video shows a summary of Atelier Aitken's School of the Future Research Project.
We are excited to be starting our next research project in partnership with expert synthetic Biologist, Dr Svetlana Boycheva. This will be exhibited as part of the 'Architecture of the Future' Exhibition at the Silos, Wynyard Quarter at this year's Festival of Architecture.
The exhibition embodies the realm of unfolding possibilities where intelligence is embedded into architecture and ultimately how we will live our lives in the future. Explore how technological developments like autonomous cars and augmented reality will come together to change the way we live.
Unité dans la diversité (United in our diversity) We have created a conceptual proposal, in reaction to the current refugee crisis as well as the recent events in the USA. We are seeking to create a tower for peace, for tolerance, for friendship, for love, for nostalgia, for remembrance, for nurture and for growth..
a tower for refugees
Approximately 60% of refugees live in cities, not camps….in cities, refugees often face hard conditions and have their basic rights denied. Depending on what country they have re-settled in, there can be many barriers that they face in starting a new life. We see this tower as a typology that could be adapted and located in other cities around the world. The landscapes may be different and the overall size of the building too but the general programme remains similar in nature.
a tower for humanity – for peace and unity
We see this tower as a symbolic of the natural altruistic nature of people… a shared desire for peace and happiness… a sense of unity to ease the sense of fear… we would like it to be symbolically located near Trump’s tower in opposition to his fear mongering and instead spread a message of acceptance, tolerance, humanity and love.
a tower for nostalgia for lost homelands
We want to create a place where displaced persons, refugees, may come to remember their homeland, before it became war torn and terrifying. We wish to create beautiful open landscapes where they can come to relax, pray, communicate with their family in other places around the world. The landscape zones would have free wi-fi and communication facilities as well as commercial kitchen facilities and so on sensitively integrated for market days. Their may be memorial elements integrated here also.
a tower for awareness and remembrance
The tower hopes to raise awareness of the plight of refugees and not only raise money for refugees worldwide but also to increase our tolerance and acceptance of diversity. For this tower, located in New York, the public may take the express elevator to the top where there is an interactive signal tower that digitally shows data such as the movement of refugees worldwide. The public can also input their own messages here. There will be a museum space for visitors to see what is happening in the various conflict zones worldwide and also regarding the movement and state of refuges worldwide. The landscapes for this proposed tower have been digitally extracted from actual landscapes from the countries where the highest number of refugees come to the United States of America. Visitors to the tower will be able to buy authentic wares and food from the shops and markets run by the refugees.
a tower for education and livelihood
This tower will be a place where refugees can learn new skills for their new home. We also hope to teach refugees skills, such as coding and teaching skills to enable them to help create programmes to educate refugees in developing countries in ways that are relevant to them. Within the tower we hope to create profitable employment for refugees, as a start up job when they first come to the country such as cooking and selling food at the markets. Immersive language training will be freely available along with translation services. There will also be a manufacturing part, with the latest technology such as 3d printers where they can produce wares to be sold. It is hoped that these towers become both enjoyable and profitable enterprises both to run the facility and also help provide funding resettlement costs for refugees into their neighbouring countries – which is often the better option.
a tower for the future – sustainability and technology
Technology is developing so rapidly there are so many creative ways one can use it in the built environment. We propose that the large open spaces will bring in natural ventilation to each zone of the building as well as harness energy through solar cells integrated into the open landscapes and sections of the facade.
Visually, the general façade pattern has been conceptually extracted from the strata from the refugee’s homelands. We propose that up close, this strata will actually be created from homeland images. The main façade will have a fine screen made of moveable metal panels that open and close to create shading as required. There would be a library of imagery, related to the refugee homelands, that will be selected automatically in a ‘pixelated’ format. The image selected will depend on the amount of shading required. The reflective nature of the panels means that the solid aspects of the building will also reflect the surroundings of their location, connecting it to the new place, while the voids will clearly represent the originating homelands.
Project Leader: Jo Aitken. Core project team members: Sophie Crews + Madumal Gunaratna
Our latest research project for our studio is exploring the future of learning environments and how this may look with an integrated approach between design, technology and pedagogy.
It is empirically evident that the reason for the hierarchical human dominance across the planet has been a result of our intelligence and our fundamental ability to pass on knowledge from one generation to another. Thus education is the premise for our progression as a society, civilisation and species.
Architecture is a facilitator for education and has historically been an allegorical codex of how knowledge is transferred in each society. It is therefore the responsibility of architecture to accommodate for todays changes and also instigate a way for new knowledge of education to be manifested in a physical form.
In education curriculum, we are seeing a trend towards more collaborative and topic focused learning and less focus on individual subjects. There are many changes in teaching and learning technologies and methodologies that are yet to be addressed as a physical and spatial concept. While the world continues to evolve at an accelerating rate, the majority of schools still have classrooms based on the convectional ideal of an enclosed box with one teacher and rows of students – a system that is generations old.
While institutional spatial design is slowly changing, including the integration of open space learning and technology, we believe that educational facilities need to start addressing these changes more holistically and explore what their role may be in the future. The traditional school model may become out of date soon, particularly for older children. A possible scenario for older children is that they may become increasingly mobile, with a mixture of online learning and in-situ learning. The introduction of self-driving vehicles may become a game changer for them, where they may have a mobile classroom space (bus) that takes them to various places for ‘insitu’ learning depending on what they are learning, such as a robotics factory and so on. The mobile classroom becomes their main space for social interaction with classmates and concentrated time with their teacher.
As for younger children, we still see the importance of having a ‘physical’ centre of learning, with the attentive care of teachers, to address areas that are difficult to be developed through technology and at home such as social development, physical development, cultural development and the learning of basic skills. Some students of course will continue to learn better with more traditional methods of teaching and learning, which should still be offered.
The environmental impact is of paramount importance to this whole concept. The future school needs to be an excellent role model to future generations both through its design and the environmental information that is disseminates to the children. The space would largely be solar powered (cells on the roof). As a ‘glasshouse’ type structure with both internal and external spaces, it is a natural light filled space that can manage its internal temperature through natural ventilation and shading. Tracking sensors in the ground plane may allow shade activated in the roof plane, in relation to the sun's position and where there is movement on the ground plane. We see a mixture of inflatable structures and acoustic/thermal curtains as creating the smaller, more traditional teaching spaces as well as assisting with temperature regulation when needed. The model would need to be adapted for different climates and to work with locally sourced materials, eg bamboo structures. In terms of plants, the school would be planted with both local vegetation and also crops. Children would be able to track, digitally, their environmental statistics for their school, their city at large, their country and the world. The children are responsible for helping maintain their environment and there will be coveted local, national and global environmental prizes based on this.
Spatial design for schools should enhance and aid the education process by reflecting developments in both pedagogy and technology. Ultimately we need a new building typology that interacts with the children in a way that current schools are failing to do. As Aristotle stated “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all,” and architecture has a great responsibility in educating the heart through the creation and manipulation of space. Greek Philosopher, Aristotle, born in 384 BC founded a 'Peripatetic school' that involved teaching and learning while walking.
An important element for our proposed model for a future learning environment is to make it more interactive and more physical – emphasising the need for movement to create both a healthy mind and healthy body. This also aims to counteract the fact that children now spend more time outside of school passively playing or learning on technological devices. This ‘physical’ element could possibly be reciprocated virtually for children with restricted mobility.
Play can serve as a powerful matrix of learning in education. Research has proven that children’s pretend play can promote both cognitive development and the development of dimensions of social competence. Current misunderstandings of the pertinence of play, mixed with academic pressures, have lead to schooling systems turning a blind eye to this fundamental part of child development. Therefore it is often disregarded that children may need guidance from adults for play because of the nature of play being a natural childhood activity. Creating space that allows for the freedom that one finds in open fields, such as a park or a forest, is important. Thus as a new pedagogy comes into being, that understands this need for play and open space, architecture must therefore adhere and accommodate for these changes. Spaces should be designed in a way that they are open and flexible, whimsical and interactive. We must no longer lock children in the boxes we call classrooms and only forcefully educate their minds but open their hearts to education through a playscape, a synthetic park, and a mindful maze.
While we see digital learning games as a valid way of learning in its own right, we believe that gaming concepts should be integrated into the future school's teaching and learning methodologies as a physical experience. Not only could this make learning fun and motivational, it could also create a more integrated way of learning and testing through using a mixture of skills and focusing on problem solving. This could work well with a curriculum that is based on a 'topic' learning structure, similar to what is proposed in Finland. Problem solving television game shows such as 'Survivor' and the ‘Krypton factor’ could become part of the mainstream learning process. The games and activities could be varied according to the topic at hand, the desired skills to be learnt and the level. Children could continue to play these learning games and build up their scores and hence competencies in specific areas. Personality and career profiling could also be used at a later stage so that children can increase their competencies in the necessary areas.
Culturally, as a flexible model that can be adapted, both physically and virtually to its locale, it can be a cultural hub that reflects the culture of its inhabitants as well as allowing children to easily visit and interact with other cultures within their school, using new technologies.
As architects, we are seeing a trend for the design brief for public projects to become increasingly similar, regardless of the type of public institution, albeit an art gallery, a museum, a library, a school and so on. It is possible that to some extent, many of these institutions will blend together as one. In Europe, we are already seeing the grouping of public facilities together to create economical and environmental efficiencies and to reflect their increasingly shared aims. Some institutions will become obsolete and others will need to renew their purpose and role in our future society. We see this proposal as a flexible model that can be used to modify existing schools and also to create new ones, whether they be temporary or permanent.
In regards to the idea that our world could become fully digitised and heavily reliant on virtual technologies, we believe that humans will continue to be nostalgic for the past. In the future, they will still, at times, want to write with an actual pen on paper and read an actual paperback book under a tree. Through design exercises at architecture school, where students continually cross backwards and forwards between digital technologies and analogue methodologies, we can still see validity in both approaches, which develop different skills and create different outcomes. We believe that the same will continue to apply to learning in general. We don't believe that we will ever live in a world where people are completely immersed in new technology, in so-called 'futuristic' spaces that are digitised and created fully out of synthetic materials. Humans need face to face interaction with one another of which neuroscientists have studied this need extensively. They need to be in spaces that make them feel good with fresh air, natural light and comfortable temperatures.
One difficulty that we see with trying to implement innovation in the institutional sector is that too often the brief is too rigid and doesn’t allow enough room for experimentation within the built form. The main issue however is that there needs to be a much closer relationship between designers and the educators in charge of the education curriculum so that the two can work in synergy together in leading us to the future.
Architecture could be the leader in this movement. Educational spaces of the future should be designed in a way that seamlessly accommodates technology, play and nature. Constructions should become an altruistic means to educate our children through the formation of spaces that are adapting to the nature of our current and future epochs. We must therefore speculate what these spaces may look like, and understand that these new pedagogical environments are already possible.
Core team: Jo Aitken, Madumal Gunaratna
Before embarking on a journey to imagine what a school of the future may look like, first we wanted to explore human needs and how education, in partnership with school design, could address this?
Please refer to next post for further development and information.
We are very passionate about discovering and exploring new technologies and ideas that contribute to making our lives and cities more enjoyable, functional and sustainable. We are particularly interested in the intersection between design and technology, where we are seeing a new paradigm in the way that people are living. As architects, urban designers and future visionaries, we need to think carefully about how people will be living, playing, learning and working in the future. We have recently decided to start publishing some of our findings and work in progress.
Some of our current topics of interest are:
1. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) Technologies: How can we make the most of mixed reality / virtual world technologies and use it successfully as a design tool.
It is easy to see how this technology can be useful in terms of visualisation but how can we make it more useful as a design tool or interactive entertainment device. One of the main barriers to transitioning to 3d workflow is its useability and control systems. We see developing a universal 3d language, that can be adapted for each application, as a key step to making this work. If we designers are then able to move into an actual, off the screen, 3d workflow then we need to think about what our design spaces / studios might look like. Other issues then arise such as ergonomics of 3D workflow - will we get RSI or will being more physically active have a positive influence on our health and well being? It is possible that we could also move backwards and use real world tools in the 3d workflow process, eg why not pick up an actual paint can (obviously one that is empty and made for the application) and spray the holographic model when you want to change the colour.
If we want to use these technologies in a more mainstream, day to day manner, the same challenge that exists with other 'wearable technology' exists. (Image above shows Microsoft's Hololens). Is it truly wearable? Is it too heavy? Does the device fit our identity? Can we power it for long enough? Will there be privacy issues?
2. De-isolating parents by providing solutions to help balance parenthood, career and socialising. While women have progressed a lot in the last 50 years, support systems and facilities that allow new mothers, or fathers in some cases, to balance both parenthood and a career are still lagging behind. Children used to be brought up in a more communal 'village' scenario and now young parents are more isolated. One such solution is shown here, in Paris, where you are able to bring your baby along to this co-working creche.
3. Mobile working and Co-working - As frequent travellers who find ourselves working in all sorts of interesting places, we are big supporters of mobile working. We support initiatives such as co-working spaces and remote abroad programmes to combat issues of isolation that come with this new, flexible way of working. We would like to see a more globalised approach allowing people the option to have global memberships to workspaces worldwide. Ideally this would come with global / dual location memberships to schools, apartments and healthcare to allow families - particularly where the parents come from different countries - to share their time between the different places and allow their children to grow up with their families in different places, multi-lingual and better understanding their mixed identities.
4. Exploring the future of learning environments and how this may look with an integrated approach between design, technology and pedagogy. We see a move towards Open, flexible, playscapes that are environmentally focused and responsive to the rapidly changing needs of learning and technological developments.