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About this book

This book draws on important original transdisciplinary research to address a wide range of issues relating to the remodeling of existing schools for pre-teenagers to fit them to various novel teaching models (e.g. collaborative learning, ICT integration, and out-of-classroom working) and to create effective educational environments for the future.

The strong relationship between people’s wellbeing, physical environment and student learning in schools has already been extensively studied in international research. At the same time, a number of different scenarios of possible innovations are now emerging, and these require conscious choices in terms of designing both the ways and the places where educational processes can be developed.

The principal focus of this research was the relationship between infrastructure, activities, and school communities.

The book is divided into three sections, the first of which discusses conceptual aspects and outlines innovative renewal strategies. The second section describes a participatory research process developed in five case studies of lower-secondary or middle schools with the aim of updating our knowledge about such schools and identifying emerging issues. The last section presents case studies, operational tools, and design strategies that aid decision-making and support interventions to renew school facilities. The book is intended mainly for scholars of architecture and education, but is also of interest to a wider readership, including principals, teachers, designers, decision-makers in school communities, and heads of municipal education departments.

Table of Contents


Renewing Strategies for Existing Schools


Scenarios Under Change in School Facility Interventions

From the beginning of the twenty-first century, a renewed focus on the ‘educational’ value of physical school environments came to spread around, even though this mainly occurs to the designing of new infrastructures. Nevertheless, most of the existing facilities are supposed to keep accommodating teachers and students for a long time yet. In order to stress the need to address the same approach on the existing schools, the following brief scenario introduces the OECD activities aimed at promoting national policies for school renewal. Then, a number of examples are presented of local implementation by some European governments as well as of international research programmes on this issue. In the end, a focus is specifically devoted to the intervention strategies on school buildings promoted in Italy in recent years.
Maria Fianchini

Education and Architecture: Seeking Grounds for Dialogue

The importance of the educational environment, the space in which students spend a significant proportion of their daily lives, is a well-established principle. Numerous national and international studies suggest the need to focus carefully on this dimension, recognising its contribution to, and influence on, the entire teaching–learning process. Notably, key figures in the history of education have long concerned themselves with this issue, albeit from different perspectives: some seeking to offer children a setting reminiscent of the home, in the sense of a familiar environment designed to meet their needs (Maria Montessori), others designing the school building with the help of engineers and architects (Giuseppina Pizzigoni) and still others conceptualising space as the third educator (Loris Malaguzzi). However, apart from a small number of exceptional cases, dialogue between education specialists, educators, teachers and architects has rarely become consolidated practice; most frequently, teachers and learners inhabit spaces previously designed by others and are obliged to adapt to pre-existing environments. It should also be noted that, compared to younger children in the 0–10 years age range, the specific age group focused on in this book, namely, preteens and teens, has not benefited from investment in researching, building or assessing educational environments. Yet, it is precisely in this older cohort of students, who are struggling to define their identity, experiencing constant bodily change and seeking support for their relationship with societal institutions, that direct participation and a joint rethinking of school spaces could make a vital contribution to ongoing personal and collective development.
Franca Zuccoli

Outdoor Experience in Schoolyards Aimed at Widening Learning Opportunities

Learning methods and educational programmes are increasingly dealing with the environment in which students and teachers spend most of their time. To this regard, the outer space has gained a leading role in many educational environments, above all in northern Europe and overseas. In Italy, it is often up to the teachers’ choice whether to carry out educational activities in schoolyards, whose use has been increasingly reduced also due to the fact that they are not fit for the needs of the lessons. This contribution aims to outline the relationship between the school ground and its use for learning activities, starting from outdoor lesson experiences for students’ physical well-being, providing some recent virtuous examples in which renovated schoolyards host well-equipped and structured classrooms. Indeed, outdoor classrooms are not a simple conversion of traditional indoor classrooms in the outer space. They are rather an opportunity to promote and facilitate the perception of natural elements as well as an inductive learning through practical experiences.
Antonella Bellomo

Resilience Thinking and Sustainable School Infrastructure Management

This short essay outlines a framework for adopting a resilient approach to the management of secondary school infrastructures, bearing in mind that identifying resilient features and actions of infrastructure in educational establishments is a path which has only recently been embarked upon and that currently there are only a few theoretical and practical references available. This framework has been developed on the basis of both theoretical references and resilient general strategies, as well as the numerous and widely disseminated good practices that have been mainly carried out in Italian schools. Although the latter are often characterized by partial responses to problems instead of systemic and integrated solutions that distinguish resilient approaches, they provide a framework of feasible solutions that can be used to outline the capabilities and possibilities of intervention. The article, first of all, outlines the functions that an evolutionary resilient approach, geared towards achieving sustainable school infrastructures and able to capture the opportunities of development and improvement from their problems and critical situations, can have in their management. Second, it describes the main intervention criteria that should characterize this kind of resilient approach. In this regard, two aspects are explored. The first one is the capacity of the school to be able to integrate socially and functionally with the neighbourhood, succeeding in becoming a point of reference in dealing with social- and educational-critical situations and a stimulus to seize the opportunities for cultural and educational development embedded in the dynamics of change. The second one is the capacity to develop stable subsidiary management of the school infrastructures and the important role of effective planning.
Marcello Magoni

Updating Knowledge of Middle Schools


Updating Users’ Needs Framework in Middle Schools. A Field Research Activity

A common knowledge on problems, needs, and wishes of middle school user communities—as regards conditions and ways of use of their facilities—currently lacks in Italy. However, in order to move towards an effective renewal of the schools, this framework of knowledge may be useful to raise awareness of the physical environment issues as well as to inform decision-making. Starting from this hypothesis, experimental field research was carried out on five lower secondary schools located in the metropolitan area of Milan by a research group that included scholars of both architecture and education, with the active involvement of a range of actors within the school communities. This essay focuses both on the methodological approach of the research and on the results of each stage of the evaluation process. The cross-reading of what emerged from the tours through the schools, the voices of students, teachers, and principals, as well as the information and data collected by questionnaires, highlighted a number of critical issues, that have been discussed in the conclusion.
Maria Fianchini, Franca Zuccoli

Supporting School Communities’ Planning


Looking for Educational Environments. Rising Design Attitudes to Shape Contemporary Interior Spaces

In this essay, focused on the analysis, coding and mapping of the architectural features characterising a wide selection of international school building projects—both new and adaptations of existing ones—the theme of the quality of interior spaces for educational environments is confirmed as a central element for the design of school architectures able to respond to the needs for some inhabiting guarantees, such as comfort, hospitality, recognition and belonging to the school community. Starting from the qualitative and quantitative mapping of paradigmatic projects and with the support of exclusive interviews with some of the designers of the founding quoted case studies, have been identified some ‘recurring projects attitudes’, able to offer one projective interest on real topics. In fact, they propose solutions aimed at those questions essential to a qualitative leap in school buildings, towards the creation of educational environments. We have called them: the school as a place of relationship, the highly specialised school, the equipped school; the recognisable school, the customized school and the open school.
Marco Borsotti, Alessandra Spagnoli

The Schoolyard: A Space for School and Neighbourhood Communities

The schoolyard is an important resource for learning and training. However, this space can host other functions that can be useful not only to the school community but also to the neighbourhood and to its environmental resilience. This chapter proposes a useful approach for designing outdoor spaces—especially in the lower secondary school—devoted to educational and recreational activities, as well as sports. The connection of topics and training programs to space requirements for accommodating these particular outdoor lessons leads to relate the elements present on the site and consider them in both the classroom design and the educational issues. Moreover, once the teaching activity is over, this space can become a public space open to the community, especially in those cases where urban spaces are scarce and poorly equipped. Despite the fact that critical aspects could emerge especially with regard to maintenance and security, existing examples show that these initiatives—when properly regulated—offer opportunities for both the community and the school. Finally, the school’s outdoor space, which can often be one of the few permeable areas of the neighbourhood, can be the right place to implement some microclimatic adaptation measures, useful to improve the neighbourhood’s environmental resilience. Nine sheets at the end of the paper describe nine different best practices about the way to cope with the schoolyard use.
Valentina Dessì

A Resilience View of the School and Neighbourhood Community Actions

Only a decade ago, and in a marginal way, resilience thinking was explicitly affecting school community actions in supporting maintenance and management of school structures, actions that for several decades have been a key factor of school life. However, as these initiatives are largely bottom-up ones and involve a large number of citizens interested in school activities, they take on a high interest from the point of view of resilience. In fact, many meaningful experiences and arguments that are not born in the riverbed of resilient thinking can be deemed part of it. The aim of this text is to analyse school community actions in terms of resilience, in order to better understand their characters. These actions are almost entirely characterized by constructive, functional, social and cultural interventions designed to provide students with good quality teaching in comfortable, functional and stimulating environments. In several cases, these actions are not just about the school, since they also target the upgrading of the neighbourhood structures and seek to improve the civic sense and knowledge of the relative community. These actions are the result of several factors, not always integrated, ranging from the commitment of teachers, pupils, parents, citizens and associations to the stimulation and support actions of the municipalities to public and private funding. The first section of the article explicates the classification of the actions of the secondary school communities from the point of view of resilience thinking, which is used in the other sections of the article to classify and describe several illustrating school community actions, mainly Italian, which have interesting resilient characters.
Marcello Magoni

A Simplified Toolbox for the Operability Assessment of the Built Environment in Middle School Buildings

The paper aims to propose a simplified set of tools to support the “ex ante” operability review of the built environment within the framework of new educational projects for the middle schools. The starting hypothesis is that the educational projects should be developed in close connection with a forecast of the characteristics and performances that will be required for the built environment in order to optimally achieve the educational objectives. In order to identify a set of possible tools to be adopted for the above-mentioned process, the paper develops an analysis of the available models that are used in different areas such as, for instance, quality planning and value analysis. Two methods are investigated in detail in the paper and described as possible tools for the operability review: the QFD model (quality function deployment) and the FBS technique (function breakdown structures). A proposal is put forward in the paper in order to define key concepts and parameters to be used for adopting the QFD and FBS techniques within the scope of middle school educational projects. The proposed tools are also tested in a case study developed within a middle school based in Milano with the aim of assessing the usability of the proposed tools by the teachers engaged in the set up of the new educational projects and educational proposal of the school.
Giancarlo Paganin
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