The Democratic Learning Landscape
Thinking about democracy, the architecture of primary schools normally doesn’t pop up in our minds. Democracy is mostly seen as a way of governance. However, within the idea of social democracy, the relation with primary education and its school buildings can be made. According to John Dewey, an American philosopher and teacher, implies social democracy an educational system in which every person gets an equal chance to discover and develop its own capacities and talents. It is the architecture that can provide learning spaces that is a reflection of this plurality of intelligence.
The project is situated in Vledder and the surrounding area, which is a low-density shrinking area. The idea of social democracy has been used to transform the architecture of the primary schools in this region on two different scales. On a regional scale, the organization of primary education, and on a building scale, the learning space itself.
Schools are more or less operating independently and on one location. Shrinkage means normally in these kind of regions that only the biggest schools in the biggest villages remain open, because of financial reasons. By changing this system from completely independent schools to a system in which the whole region is part of and responsible for learning facilities, it’s possible to organize education in a more democratic way.
The traditional rectangular classroom doesn’t provide learning space for all the different learning styles and types of intelligence. The challenge is to design a learning environment consisting of many different types of learning spaces. The research focused mainly on social, economic aspects, learning styles and types of intelligences and their influence on architecture.
The outcome on a regional scale is a learning network in which the whole region provides learning facilities. Pupils are part of this network and make extensive use of all facilities instead of being in one school building all the time. There are two homebases in the network, from which pupils will explore the outside world. One of these homebases has been designed. The architecture of such a homebase differs from regular schools on multiple levels. The school consists of learning landscapes with many different kind of learning spaces instead of rectangular classrooms. Every age group has also its own outside space. The architecture stimulates to learn in different ways, different things, and isn’t giving preference to one or multiple intelligences, but treats them all as being equal.