2018 saw the release of the book published by Indire entitled, “The Classroom has Broken. Changing School Architecture in Europe and Across the World”, available in Italian and English and downloadable for free in PDF format.

Taking up the title of the well-known book by Francesco Antinucci published in 2001, “School is broken: because learning methods change”, this work proposes new models of school learning environments that are now spreading throughout many countries across the world. The building model, that has long dominated school architecture, based on the familiar pattern of the classroom and the corridor, seems to be no longer suitable for the technological tools, the teaching strategies and the objectives, in terms of skills, that characterise the most innovative learning environments.

This process of rethinking demands that the classroom model be surpassed as the only spatial reference of daily teaching and opens up a series of new innovative solutions and models with which to design the characteristics of a learning environment and to redefine the role and function of the classroom. In this context, the “1+4 Educational Spaces” manifesto, prepared by Indire in 2016, can be compared to a series of other solutions and models that are spreading today at an international level.

The book is edited by Samuele Borri and has a foreword by Alastair Blyth, a former OECD analyst who has long supported governments internationally in designing and assessing learning environments. It contains a collection of articles edited by national and international experts including María Acaso, Jim Ayre, Harry Daniels, Wesley Imms, Jannie Jeppesen, Elena Mosa, Kaisa Nuikkinen, José Pacheco, Otto Seydel, Hau Ming Tse and the Indire researchers Giuseppina Cannella and Leonardo Tosi.

The book is organised into three parts:

Part one: Designing spaces for learning
Introduction. The environment as a third educator
Design as a social practice
Pedagogy and space: the Australian case with an evidence-based approach
New social constructions of learning

Part two: New models and new solutions for school environments
Introduction. Designing new learning scenarios
1+4 educational spaces for schools in the third millennium in Italy
Classroom – Cluster – Open educational landscape. Three different development lines for school design in Germany
The European Schoolnet’s Future Classroom Lab (FCL)

Part three: Educational spaces and innovation processes
Introduction. A space for innovation
Connections between school buildings and learning
Architecture and interior design as key elements in changing the educational model
The development of schools: a way forward

The extract from the introduction by Indire’s President, Giovanni Biondi, allows us to frame the aims and perspective of Indire’s research work:

Over a century ago, Maria Montessori created spaces and furnishings on the basis of students and their needs and tore down barriers between classes. But the most functional school model, in terms of the objectives of the great educational systems of the West (which were to transmit knowledge and skills to an illiterate population, preparing it for entry into the new industrial society), remained centred on classrooms. On the other hand, if the lesson was the fundamental moment of school life, the environments had to be designed and furnished according to this centrality. Every other different need had to find space in the large corridors or in the “decomposition” of the classroom, in separate corners dedicated to the various activities. […] The disciplinary fragmentation of secondary school, the school timetable divided into ”subjects” and the consequent rotation of teachers in the same classroom, on the same chair did not challenge this architecture, nor the meagre furnishings of classrooms, until today. Generally in primary schools, teachers have always managed to tackle the problem of creating activities and environments and furnishing them in such a way that they are as suitable as they can be for students. It was the very age of the children that required reasons to be found for school activities, especially through involvement in constructive processes. It is no coincidence, therefore, that the most significant innovations both in architecture and in furnishings have been seen in buildings designed specifically for this age group: kindergarten and primary school. When, going forward during the course of studies, subjects become the centre of schooling, the classroom also becomes suitable for the activities that take place there. […] The historical-narrative method by which philosophy is explained as history, mathematics as science, and which then refers to reading the textbook at home, today, shows all its limitations in the difficult involvement of students. Developing collaborative skills, in shared study and research programmes, is not easy in classrooms with rows of desks, facing the board. By not thinking about enhancing logical skills or problem solving, only requiring that attention be paid to the lesson, is an effective solution. […] The lesson is an important element in the learning process but it can no longer be the only one. It can no longer be the axis around which a teacher’s employment contract is constructed and the teacher’s role is defined, the school hours in secondary schools are set, the architecture and even school furnishings are decided. In primary schools, and even more in kindergartens and preschools, where this centrality does not exist, where the environment is built in a functional way with regard to the activities, not only have chairs been set aside but the furnishings are different too, the door and the classroom walls continue to represent uncomfortable boundaries to be overcome. Walls and restrictions are not always easy to break down in buildings built tens, or even hundreds, of years ago and they, therefore, constitute an often insurmountable obstacle. A scenario that opens the topic of constructing new buildings which have been designed by looking at the innovation of the teaching organisation that will necessarily affect the school in the coming years. Architectural solutions must be guided by a vision of a school model change and not vice versa. […] The characteristics of the new school organisation are still to be identified, a school that we do not know yet and that will have to be built by relying on the design skills of architects and engineers but also researchers, administrators and school communities who can add their contribution for a school to be built based on needs and requirements partly related to the community and the region and partly related to the new teaching models that Italian schools are already independently carrying out in a bottom-up approach.

Read the book “The Classroom has Broken. Changing School Architecture in Europe and Across the World” (pdf) >>>

Laura Coscia

The book, which can be downloaded, presents the most innovative international models for a school environment

Type: Book