By Hanan Rawashedah
Schools have long been one of the main institutions in any civilized human community. One can’t argue against the notion that the school, if not the first, is the second, after parents, in playing a key role in shaping and forming the future generation, as our children spend half of their days inside the school building throughout their schooling years. schools They are community resources that go beyond their primary educational functions. So, shouldn’t schools be the safe haven where all students can find themselves and flourish in an educational and positive space? Do our existing schools really create such a haven?
Our time has changed immensely and the needs of our students to learn and develop has evolved and grown complex. The questioning of what is considered “standard” is raised. There is no doubt that school layouts have developed through time. The typical vision of a rigid layout of a rectangular classrooms filled with rows of desks in a double loaded corridor like that of early 20-th century and late 19th school designs have altered through time, as research has proven that students need more equipments and a more dynamic space of study to interact and be productive in. Schools in the past ranged from one room rural school houses to major symbolic civic structures in large cities. Suburban schools were the first to undergo construction development and design. Despite the growth of suburban construction, the fundamental design with classrooms along double-loaded corridors did not change very much. However, in warm climates, a one-story “finger plan” school rather than the common two to three storey school was constructed, serving to be both economical with its wood and small quantity of steel, economical and more human friendly in space and size. The concept of having an open air single loaded walkway to classrooms with a view of a grassed court was presented.
In the 1960s and 1970s, educational experiments with open plan classrooms and
no fixed partitions to allow flexibility in space use was presented . The experiments were proved unsuccessful as the teachers complained to have lost the sense of place or own “home” classroom and poor acoustics. Another approach of making combined classrooms into clusters was tried. An example of this method was implanted on The Harris Hill elementary school in Penfield, NY. five hexagonal classrooms were designed to provide space for seminars, individual studies, and group instruction, with no fixed partitions. Other schools clustered individual classrooms together with common support spaces
The present 21 century school designs now tackle evolving social, economical and educational concerns. Design goals of providing and enhancing the educational climate of a school while accommodating the needs of learners in a flexible and adaptively changing spaces are obtained. This raises the efficiency of use in space. Goals of creating a healthy, safe and secure environment also surfaced leading to a number of design principles in school buildings :
Design for protection against natural hazards
Design with increased attention to occupant security
Design with increased use of day lighting and comfort control
Design for durability
Design with a long-life/loose-fit approach: allow for internal change and flexibility
Design for sustainability, including energy efficiency and the use of “green” materials.