This project brings together an opportunity in the urban landscape, the soon to be obsolete car parking buildings, along with the need to physically transform learning spaces to meet the changing needs of human beings. 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. Architecture must therefore accommodate for current changes and instigate a way for new knowledge of education to be manifested in a physical form.
In order to progress society in the right direction we must first understand the current issues it faces, prioritize them according to Maslow’s hierarchy and then address them through the creation of a new learning model that integrates technology, architecture and pedagogy.
Our latest educational project helps to address a number of key issues that we are facing as a society including:
1. Health Issues created from increasingly sedentary lifestyles
2. Social Issues: Inequality. Capitalism has had far reaching negative impacts globally. Once known for being a leader in equality and social standards, shamefully, approximately 30% of our children in New Zealand live below the poverty line. We need to remove any barriers possible to allow all children the chance to be well educated by providing a barrier free and accessible learning environment.
3. Social issues: Ignorance resulting in increasing selfishness and lack of tolerance and empathy in society. Threat of nuclear war and terrorism are serious threats to world peace.
4. Social issue: Isolation and loneliness – In partnership with local rest homes and elderly networks, the learning park offers opportunities for elders to come along and participate in activities with younger generations such as storytelling (fictional and historical), learning games and cultural activities.
5. Social Issue: Attention deficit disorders and short attention spans. We want to provide an opportunity for learning in a way that is engaging, fun and sparks curiosity and therefore a desire to learn.
6. Social issue: Lack of demographic and socio-economic diversity at higher levels in social sector institutions, influencing educational content
7. Environmental Issues – Global warming and pollution are two of our biggest issues, globally. This project would of course demonstrate full sustainable principals, including the repurposing of existing infrastructure.
8. Educational sustainability and Continuing Professional Development(CPD) – The rate of change, accelerated through recent technological advances, means that we need to provide dynamic and accessible learning to all ages to enable people to learn and upgrade their skills to stay relevant.
The Proposal: The Urban Learning Park
While we believe it will have many principals that should be integrated into both existing and new schools, this project makes the most of an up and coming opportunity in urban centres. This is a new genre of public institution that brings together the library, the museum, the art gallery, the community centre, the cafe and the park.
The increasing level of public transport and incoming technology, ‘driverless cars’, offer a new spatial opportunity to be activated, urban car parking buildings. They offer many opportunities as they are well located, usually near key public amenities, they offer a regular grid and flat or ramped surfaces which are good for accessibility, augmented reality, projection and display. The open sides and entrances offer no physical barrier to users and they are very strong, designed to hold many cars. (Contemporary art can often require very strong structures).
The underground levels of the carpark, if there are any, are useful for small theatrette spaces, projection and gallery spaces. The upper floors are linked together with an adventurous learning track, surrounded by dynamic content screens and interactive problem solving activities. It is imagined that augmented reality devices will really bring this space alive, to reach its full potential. Towards the outside of each floor plate are the natural light filled quiet zones, separated by a series of suspended acoustic baffles, for quiet activities like reading. Our project, based in central Auckland, acts as a first prototype for this kind of building. It is imagined that every centre would be slightly different, according to the local area's needs.
The roof space offers an international garden and outdoor cinema showing international films, with subtitles. Basic language skills can be learnt in each regional zone. These connect to a series of international food stalls, run by immigrants and refugees, where one can practice their newly acquired language skills with the staff as well as hear stories from their homelands. The selection of countries on display may change from time to time and will be generally based on countries where the incoming immigrants and refugees to the region have come from.
What is the impact of this proposal on both education and beyond?
The barrier free learning park offers the opportunity for people of all ages to learn, play and learn to love learning. Sparking curiosity is an essential ingredient for learning.
Increasing digital literacy across the population can help to decrease ignorance & increase tolerance in society. It also allows people from lower socio-economic groups free and unfettered access to the latest technology and information available to develop the necessary skills to help both themselves and their family.
Offering child supervision services provides an opportunity for parents or caregivers, with young children, the ability to remain intellectually and socially active through learning opportunities, networking or simply time to themselves to recover from the demanding role of parenthood.
The adventurous and physically focused learning strategy targets health issues, both physical and mental, related to increasingly sedentary lifestyles. As Greek Philosopher Aristotle stated “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all,” Aristotle, founded a 'Peripatetic school' that involved teaching and learning while walking.
“The World economy no longer pays you for what you know. Google knows everything. The world economy pays you for what you can do with what you know.” Andrea Schleicher – Director for Education and Skills (OECD).
Therefore, problem solving focused learning allows people the ability to develop their ability to ‘think laterally’ and adapt more easily to inevitable change.
While we see digital learning games as a valid way of learning in its own right, we believe that gaming can now be integrated as a physical learning experience using Augmented Reality. Not only could this make learning fun and motivational, it could also create a more integrated way of learning and testing application of knowledge through using a mixture of skills and focusing on problem solving. Look out ‘Survivor-esque’ gameshows, here we come!
*This project is in progress.