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European school design 'types' for the 21st century

This information is from an article written in 2010 by OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), Alessandro Rigolon, which presents an overview of European school building design types.

The type of spatial layout of a school depends on specific characteristics of a school, the level of education, the number of pupils, the school's philosophy, climatic conditions, and its location in the region (urban, suburban, or rural).

Changes in pedagogical approaches today - including the growing demand for areas dedicated to breaks and collaborative work means circulation spaces take on new significance.

As the future needs of schools is becoming more and more unprecendented there is a need to define design guidelines.

The courtyard type

One of the most frequently used in the past and is still popular. Although there are variations on this type, the standard characteristic is the protected outdoor area - that can be easily surveyed and is psychologically reassuring. Advantages are: that it provides a visual focus for the interior spaces, the feeling of being inside a closed area, with different degrees of opening, and a sense of well-being.

As shown above, there are 3 variations: the closed courtyard, the multiple courtyard, and the open courtyard.

The block type

Characterised by compact volumes, simple internal layouts and a large space for socialising which leads to the main learning spaces (classrooms, studios, laboratories). Advantages of this approach is the prevalence for spontaneous meetings and of a social 'heart'.

The cluster type

Here the building is fragmented into different volumes, which can represent independent pedagogical units - "small learning communities" - "school within a school" - each space has a particular and recognisable character, and enhances a sense of belonging.

There are many variations of this type depending on the circulation scheme. Unlike the block type, movement from private to public areas is filtered by common areas or "buffer" spaces - playing a  key psychological role enabling student to identify themselves in small groups, gradually transiting towards the rest of the building. Finally, the independent volumes need to be linked by a general gathering space, defining the public character of the building.

The town-like type

Utilises a multiplicity of spaces and functions - hence the metaphor of the town. The most public space, the "town hall square", is surrounded by the most important "buildings" (library, auditorium). From here, a series of roads gives access to spaces that are more and more "private".

Two sub-types include: the "complex blocks" - often single-storey with a compact footprint and "compound structures" - formed by a variety of  freely arranged volumes. The notion of urban space is created by the complexity of the internal spaces and the richness of the three-dimensional shapes.



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