Designing Culture as Opposed to Designing Spaces

It’s exciting to share thought leadership with educators and architects alike on school design and I recently had the opportunity to do just that with VLK’s Educational Planner, Dalane Bouillion, Ed.D., at the EDspaces Conference in Kansas City.

Our presentation topic “Designing Culture as Opposed to Designing Spaces” was based on our belief that to create purposefully designed learning spaces, we, as architects, must understand the culture of the communities and districts that we design for, and that culture is and always should be the foundation of design for our clients.

A packed standing room only crowd of almost 200 attendees intently listened and participated in our conversation of how through VLK Curation, we gather, assess, and implement districts’ cultures in our designs, and the benefits that could be realized through this process.

The underpinnings of our beliefs about the importance of a district’s culture in design are adapted from the work of Deal and Peterson, and the Schlecty Center. Our studies of these have led to the following alignments between the culture of districts and the architecture of our projects.

Where culture fosters school effectiveness and productivity; architecture provides a message of deeper purpose and values.

Where culture amplifies the energy, motivation, and vitality of school staff, students, and community; architectural elements of a school can tie a community together.

Culture increases the focus of daily behavior and attention on what is important and valued; architecture signals what is important.

Culture fosters successful change and improvement efforts; architecture motivates staff, students, and    community by forging pride in their schools.

Participants eagerly listened and quizzed us about the process and we addressed questions ranging from changing school culture to how do you get administrators and teachers to open their mindset as to this type of approach and the possibilities of the resulting facilities.

We can’t wait to share again!

Reference: Deal, T.E. & Peterson, K.D. (1999). Shaping school culture: the heart of leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.