Dusty Lake, AIA, NCARB
Open offices, glass-wall conference rooms and break rooms designed to encourage creativity are no longer unique to the Googles, Facebooks or Apples of the world. Companies of all kinds are redesigning their workspaces for the 21st century and asking how to adapt them further to accommodate a distributed workforce as post-pandemic work habits come into focus. In addition to emerging technology, companies are investing in collaborative spaces that provide a multitude of opportunities for their employees to thrive and innovate. A one-year post-occupancy study conducted by our client, L3Harris, evaluated the use of their newly designed collaboration spaces and demonstrated that specific design elements and configurations were three times more effective in generating innovative ideas than the typical conference room.
If this is the work environment that students are entering, do educational spaces need to adapt to better prepare students to thrive? As companies and educators adapt to new, sometimes blended models, how will the spaces where people gather need to change? If employees are three times more effective in purposefully designed collaboration spaces, what can this mean for students, teachers and traditional teaching spaces?
The GRADE-IENT Concept
With most curriculum models set up to teach and test, innovation and creative ideation often do not have a role within the traditional classroom walls, but that is changing. Across all sectors, BRPH designers have heard clients echoing one another over concern that graduates schooled on a “teach and test” methodology are ill-prepared to enter the workforce. Educators are listening, too.
BRPH recently participated in the School of Thought design competition, hosted by the online design resource community UNI, which sought ideas about how to adapt the high school built environment to support the shift away from “only academic-learning to one that infuses an innovative model.” Our Education Team’s competition entry, a new school design concept called GRADE-IENT, proposed a “student-driven learning cycle” to address the need for a more multi-faceted approach to learning. Much like a 21st century- designed office space, it encompasses a purposefully designed educational environment that promotes and nurtures the technological, methodological and social skills that students need during high school and beyond. In recognition of its innovative design, GRADE-IENT was recognized with the competition’s “Editor’s Choice Award.”
More than simply a building with desks and chairs, the physical GRADE-IENT space itself is designed to be a catalyst for teaching and learning. It allows teachers and students alike to explore, create, collaborate and ideate in a plethora of ways, while catering to their unique learning styles. Spaces can be manipulated and changed to suit the needs of the many different types of personalities using the space at any given time. They are also designed in a way that considers more than the primary need of the intended space. A simple eat-in cafeteria, siloed auditorium or a quiet, single-use hallway is a distant memory. With GRADE-IENT, we say goodbye to the idea of single-use spaces and classrooms, and hello to open, configurable, collaborative spaces that are proven to generate creativity and innovation.
A centerpiece of the GRADE-IENT concept is the Collaboratorium, a new term combining the English words ‘collaboration’, ‘laboratory’ and ‘auditorium.’ The Collaboratorium allows for student-centric collaboration and exploration amongst peers and mentors to drive ideation, critical thinking and soft skill development, all of which employers are demanding in a globally competitive environment. The Collaboratorium challenges the traditional classroom model of teach and test by promoting student-driven learning. It encompasses both small and large collaboration spaces, various presentation environments, dining areas, performance spaces and community access points, supplementing classroom-based learning exercises. With flexible furnishings, integrated maker spaces, robotic and coding stations, students are encouraged to embrace curiosity, creativity and experimentation in a variety of spaces.
In lieu of testing, students engage with mentors and peers in the Collaboratorium to apply reasoning, evolve their thinking and fuel their innovative exploration. This prepares students to enter and contribute to a workforce in the same way they have contributed to their own education.
As innovation and creativity prove to be the currency of the future, BRPH believes now more than ever that the necessity of collaboratively- focused spaces cannot be underestimated. We’ve seen them work with companies like L3Harris, and we are hard at work infusing them into the schools we are privileged to work with. The Collaboratorim is just the beginning, and as we look towards a future post-pandemic, we know the challenges and opportunities are vast.
To receive our in depth case study on Collaboratoriums, or to learn more about about how BRPH can help you launch the future of your learning environments, contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dusty Lake, AIA, NCARB
Dusty is a registered architect with experience working across multiple market sectors including aerospace, manufacturing, commercial and education. Her passion lies within the educational sector where she utilizes her experience from cross markets to push the boundaries in educational design and implementing creative solutions for diverse learning environments.