By: Hanan Rawashdeh
“The intention of the whole is to challenge the message sent by a society that routinely communicates its disregard for the young by educating them in cheap institutional boxes surrounded by impenetrable chain link fencing.” A statement made by the architectural firm Morphosis after designing the Diamond ranch High school. One cannot deny the exceptionality of the school design from the typical traditional school layout with the double loaded corridor and classrooms on both sides. The Morphosis architects went one step forward in developing the design of educational spaces during the period of 1994-1996.
The one hundred and fifty thousand square foot project lies on a seventy-two acre hillside in Pomona Los Angeles. The school accommodates fifty classrooms, a gymnasium, cafeteria administration and parking for 770 automobiles. The building form is of two rows, each holding a group of classrooms and other programmatic functions in a fragmented yet interlocked way, creating a long central canyon like feeling in between. With the topography of the hillside penetrating the school’s different programs a kinetic and interchangeable experience is created. The school design allows and encourages the student to engage and interact with their surroundings. Connection and embracement of the surrounding nature are clear with the landscaped outdoor teaching areas that act as a buffer between the structure and punctuate the classroom units with views of mountains and sky. The street between the two rows turns into a linear space of social interaction. The high defined edges of the structure spark the curiosity of the students within. Each group of classes and grades are clustered in a way to create a neighborhood- like environment, increasing the sense of belonging for any student to that specific building part and transforming what was once an institutional educative space into a more welcoming and almost homey experience.
Social interaction, nature and creating an efficient educative space are three fundamental key points that are implemented in the design. As noted in the book “Linking architecture and Education” for Anne Taylor, the holistic goals of educational facility design is reaching “ the whole learner”. In definition: a learner through body, mind and spirit. Learning through the body or physical learning can be achieved from the firmness and structure of the educational space. Learning through the mind, or cognitive learning is through the commodity and function and lastly the learning of the spirit or emotional learning is captured from the delight and beauty of the educative space.
In conclusion, one can realize how much architecture plays a vital role in stimulating its users in achieving their goals.