Unfolding the box

07 Mar 2011

Gensler designs prototype classroom that blurs the traditional lines of educational space

The classroom is NOT a box, it is a learning environment. Traditionally, the school building is an industrial package of these boxes efficiently put together. The mission statement of The Blurred Classroom is to unfold, unpack the box - and blur the lines of how the classroom is traditionally known.

Future Leaders Institute [FLI] is a high performing a public charter school in Harlem, New York City providing quality Kindergarten through 8th grade education in spite of specific challenges that each student faces. Curriculum includes language, math and science skills, and strives to include social learning around individual responsibility, community and leadership experiences. The positive and progressive program permeates through the schools' culture, as well as having an immense impact on student's families, local neighbourhood, and community.

FLI currently resides in a mid-century public school building with a traditional plan designed around a simple double loaded corridor with stairs at either end. FLI has found the physical space they occupy constrains the level of effective education they can provide and their ability to prepare future global leaders. Living in an urban, high-density environment, these students are surrounded by the hurried speed and unforgiving nature of the world.

The Blurred Classroom is intended to prepare students for this fast-paced world by creating an encouraging atmosphere which is comfortable yet rigorous; versatile yet stable; individualised yet communal; and liberated yet responsible. This typology is designed to be integrated into an existing school building, realising the following aspirations:

REUSE: Appropriate portions of the existing building. TRANSFORM: The corridor by changing it into an activated learning space. UNFOLD the BOX: To provide for multiple types of learning environments with maximum flexibility. ENGAGE: The outdoor environment from the classroom and bring the classroom outside. SHIFT: Thinking to allow for traditional group space to become activated communal space. EVOLVE: Towards learner centered spaces. BLUR: The lines between flexibility-defined spaces to create a wide variety of learning environments. 

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