17 SES 04, Paper Session
This paper reports on the results of a project that is soliciting a series of reflections on how we might today read a collection of radical projections of imagined educational environments published in a 1969 special edition of the Harvard Educational Review (HER). The research has been carried out via a series of invited seminars featuring keynotes by leading architects and others interested in the design of schools and other educational environments today. The project has been funded by the University of Cambridge Arts and Humanities Research Fund.
Entitled “Architecture and Education”, the HER issue featured contributions from eight prominent architects and planners, a child psychiatrist, an architectural historian and an illustrator-cartoonist all exploring the role of educational architecture in different ways but oriented towards a common question, asking “if and how the physical environment informs and shapes and liberates the human spirit” (Preface). Unusually for the HER, almost all of the contributors were either European or had worked in the field of architecture in or shortly after the Second World War. The issue therefore takes on particular significance in terms of how ideas about community and designing for educational environments in a world that was being re-made might circulate and gain support.
Responding to these radical visions, proposals and questions set out in the 1969 publication leads to our overall objective: to learn from historic conceptions of educational architecture in order to provide better understandings of the spatial and architectural challenges (and commonly proposed solutions) in education, in the present.
Our theoretical framework approaches architecture (and writing about architecture) as a combination of material and discursive proposals: buildings provide real material constraints and possibilities for their users, and they (and writing about them) also propose suggestions about how their material structures might be used. We therefore see architecture as the “organisation and form of physical space” (De Carlo and Bunčuga 2014, 125). However, this practical approach to spatial design rests on a discursive body of policy, theory and legal stipulations found, for example, in building regulations, design guides for schools, industry magazines and academic journals (such as the HER) which may “profoundly affect how the building will be experienced and used” (Markus and Cameron 2002:14) as well encourage shifts in future designs. This dual material and discursive approach helps us to understand what buildings do directly as well as their inspirations and intentions. It becomes also a historical and social approach since school buildings recall previous designs. Always in dialogue with the past, new designs should therefore be seen with an eye that reflects on the extent to which they remain faithful to (or attempt to depart from) particular cultures and traditions of design. Finally, since architectural design is the organisation of space, it is also always about the organisation of people (although this does not need to resort to architectural determinism (Broady, 1966) as the writers of the 1969 special issue were keen to emphasise).
To understand contemporary educational architecture and to help in accounting for an apparent loss, discounting or transformation of “human spirit”, we draw on concepts of “spatial fetishism” (Sayer, 2000) and “fetish of technology” (Harvey, 2003). This allows us to explore what we argue is an instrumentalization of educational architecture in many countries, a turn towards the design of space as a technology of learning maximisation and a consequent exclusion of the “human spirit” that was elicited in the 1969 special issue. Hence the final part of our framework is the reengagement with that issue as a tool to reconsider how discussions about school design might be re-opened and to be made more inclusionary.
Broadly, our methodology is comparative, positioning the 1969 HER special issue as a counterpoint to examples of today’s discussions on school architecture – particularly those found in government policies and the architectural press. In this way, we aim to shed light both on the 1969 issue (its production, its writers’ allegiances and particular architectural philosophies) from the perspective of 2018 and, vice-versa, to use the 1969 issue to reveal the exclusions that have taken place in current architectural discourses on education. An analysis of the 11 papers comprising the special issue will situate the proposals of the authors within contemporary architectural and educational discourses including the revolutionary climate of 1968. In doing so, we also trace the movement of these people and their ideas through European and US universities, and other cultural institutions such as CIAM (Congrès Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne) meetings, the ending of CIAM and subsequent formation of the Team 10 architecture network. Text-based documents are also useful here including a 1947 special issue on educational architecture in the Italian architecture magazine “Domus” that featured articles by educationalists (Ernesto Codignola and Carleton W. Washburne) and some of Europe’s leading architects, for example, Ernesto Rogers, Jane B. Drew and Alfred Roth as well as a young Giancarlo De Carlo who would later write for the HER 1969 special issue). Contemporary perspectives on educational architecture are drawn from policy documents on school-building programmes (principally England and Italy), the architectural press, academic discussion and the contributions of invited speakers at the series of project seminars.
Preliminary work exploring the background to the HER 1969 special issue has been carried out. However, as the seminars exploring contemporary visions of educational architecture (and particularly potential alternatives to current dominant models of building schools) are still to take place (in March, May and June 2018), the work for this paper is at this time ongoing. Nonetheless, our background research suggests that the technicization of education, a process we understand as the turning of education towards maximising learning gains, can account for the squeezing out of interest in as well as proposals for “human spirit” in contemporary educational architecture. What counts in contemporary discourse is whether and how buildings contribute to learning, conceived in increasingly narrow ways. However, this is not only a technical issue regarding architecture, it finds support from a systematic conceptual and linguistic devaluing of human values more broadly. “Human spirit” or similar constructions now sound quaint, innocent and unsuitable for educational visions that see schools (in particular) as sites for developing human capital. A stronger reading would even suggest that “human spirit” has been excluded from discussions on school-building and design because it threatens to distract from (or even pervert) the core aim of schooling as producing job-ready, flexible proto-workers.
Broady, M. (1966) Social Theory in Architectural Design. Arena - the Architectural Association Journal. (January), 149–154. De Carlo, G. & Bunčuga, F. (2014) Conversazioni su Architettura e Libertà. Milano: Elèuthera. Harvey, D. (2003) The Fetish of Technology: Causes and Consequences. Macalester International. 13 (1) [online]. Available from: http://digitalcommons.macalester.edu/macintl/vol13/iss1/7. Markus, T. A. & Cameron, D. (2002) The Words Between the Spaces: Buildings and Language. London: Routledge. Sayer, A. (2000) Realism and Social Science. London: SAGE. Various (1969) Preface. Harvard Educational Review. 39 (4), 2.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
Network 6. Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures
Network 7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education
Network 8. Research on Health Education
Network 9. Assessment, Evaluation, Testing and Measurement
Network 10. Teacher Education Research
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Network 12. LISnet - Library and Information Science Network
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Network 14. Communities, Families and Schooling in Educational Research
Network 15. Research Partnerships in Education
Network 16. ICT in Education and Training
Network 17. Histories of Education
Network 18. Research in Sport Pedagogy
Network 19. Ethnography
Network 20. Research in Innovative Intercultural Learning Environments
Network 22. Research in Higher Education
Network 23. Policy Studies and Politics of Education
Network 24. Mathematics Education Research
Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
Network 26. Educational Leadership
Network 27. Didactics – Learning and Teaching
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