Education vs Regulation: Expanding the Architect’s Role in the Design of Modern Learning Environments

Patrick Sanford

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Intro image mosaic

Modern Learning Environment. A term that increasingly has negative connotations in the public consciousness and yet is still championed by the New Zealand Ministry of Education. This thesis explores the history of school design to demonstrate how Modern Learning Environments (MLE) are necessary in our schools, yet the Ministry’s regulations have led to poor implementation and a negative perception of MLE principles. This thesis expands the role of the architect in the design of schools to supplant these regulations, demonstrating alternate methods of achieving quality learning environments to those used by the Ministry of Education.

An example of the planning study used to analyse a number of precedent schools. The types of spaces are catagorised and arranged by area and adjacency, displayed in barcode-like format.

In lieu of consultation with a client, this thesis uses a process of synthesising learning from precedents to establish programmatic briefs. A system of graphical logic derived from OMA’s Seattle Central Library planning diagrams is used to document, analyse and transform this information. To demonstrate the effectiveness of this process in producing a successful school design, it is used along with three guiding design drivers to develop a proposal for a pilot primary school in Hobsonville Point. Rather than deferring to the Ministry’s design principle for MLE, this thesis distils scholarly research and precedent analysis into the categories of Timber, Ventilation and Play.

Averages and ranges
The average distribution of spaces within the 15 schools studied in the thesis. The "fuzzy edges" account for a range of error stemming from the sample size.
All barcodes
All of the barcode diagrams used to analyse the distribution of spaces within various schools.
Mosaic plans
A mosaic created by weaving together all the barcode diagrams. This image can be used as a planning tool for new modern learning environments as it retains the reletive distribution and adjacencies from the initial sample of schools.
Design drivers 2
A collage of drawings which led to the development and implementation of the three key drivers of Timber, Ventilation and Play.

The final proposal and conclusion of this thesis are not a denunciation of the Ministry of Education nor their MLE principle. Instead, it is a showcase of what is possible outside the restrictions of the Ministry and how architects are capable of producing a successful school without prescriptive regulation. The Ministry of Education and its policies are vital for our nation’s success. It is important, however, to be aware of their shortcomings and possible alternatives.

Classroom renders 2
By using the planning mosaic and the three design drivers, a proposal for a primary school was created to test whether this design process could produce new modern learning enviroments.