Architects for education: designing learning environments that inspirePlanning Architecture
For an education environment to be effective, the space must fuel the desire for learning and fit the practical needs of the teachers, students and community who use it. It must be equipped with the tools students need to reach their full potential, whether they are student sitting Key Stage 1 test at primary school or for their master’s degree at university.
Education is the future of the United Kingdom. WindsorPatania is committed to working with public and private providers of education to create spaces that enable them to deliver the very best learning opportunities to their students.
In this article, we share our nine-step approach to how we work with our education sector clients. We also go behind the scenes on one of our most ambitious projects yet – the state-of-the-art XR Labs for Eastern Colleges Group.
WindsorPatania's nine-step approach to educational architecture
1. Designed for teaching
Learning environments affect life chances. Studies have shown that classroom design is more important than all other factors in delivering successful outcomes. That includes play facilities, specialist facilities, navigation routes and even classroom size. For example, the right primary school design helps the development of the youngest children, substantially boosting their academic performance in reading, writing and maths.
We start from here whether you’re in primary education, secondary education or higher education settings.
The classrooms we design for schools and further/higher education establishments are spaces in which students excel educationally.
2. Space to be together
Schools are more than just classrooms. They’re venues for socialising, forming friendships, pastoral care, outdoor and sports activities and more. They’re places where young people go to and come from en masse every day. Students learn a lot about life outside the classroom too.
Student safety must take priority at all times but it must also sit comfortably within a framework where learning is one of many activities that take place. We create spaces that facilitate activity, teamwork and learning inside and outside the classroom.
3. No barriers to communication
The physical environment of an educational establishment should promote and stimulate students’ imagination and curiosity.
Not only that, it should encourage students to exchange their ideas and perspectives on a subject with other students and teachers. In our designs, we aim to make communication between students, teaching staff and all stakeholders easier and more natural.
4. Built to cope with future technological advances
The future is digital. Integral to any successful modern learning experience is access to the latest IT and communications infrastructure. With leaps forward in AI, machine learning and the coming age of quantum computing, a school’s physical infrastructure needs the capacity to be able to accommodate the technology of tomorrow.
This was a key component to our work on the XR Lab at Eastern College Group’s XR Lab which we detail more on below.
5. Research facilities
Universities need to provide the right space in which their students can undertake research and create new innovations.
Whether you’re planning a new build lab or you wish to retrofit existing spaces, we have the expertise to create sustainable, high-quality labs and workspaces for your students.
6. Community spaces
Education estates are no longer just primary and secondary schools. Local authorities now view schools and colleges as accessible campuses for their local communities.
These are places from which services like local offer requirements to early years support for local families can be delivered. Whatever use cases you have in mind, we can factor them into the design.
7. Commercial potential
Many schools now rent out their space to bring in additional funding. Likewise, the number of primary schools offering nursery provision not only as a revenue generator but as a pathway to enrolment is growing.
We can help you create first-class nursery facilities for the community as well as quality spaces that compete well to win meetings, conferences and other events.
8. A focus on sustainability
Sustainability is a foundational part of all WindsorPatania projects. We’re passionate about our contribution to getting the UK to net zero as soon as possible and we recognise our part in that.
We design with energy conservation as a priority from the outset. That covers every stage from the construction phase to everyday use post-completion.
9. An outstanding part of the local built environment
From academies to secondary schools, the look and design of a facility need to be a part of the local area but also stand apart from it as a beacon of learning. The design of the building is part of what sets student and community expectations of an educational establishment.
We build educational establishments that all stakeholders can be proud of. Function is vital but so is form.
Working on the XR Labs development with Eastern Colleges Group
Extended reality (XR) combines augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR). AR overlays digital information onto the real world just like Google Translate’s live translations. VR creates immersive user-driven 3D simulations like Facebook’s Meta VR headsets. MR blends real and virtual elements – it’s now deployed in medical training to give future surgeons 3D patients to practice on. Many different sectors like the automotive sector now use XR to reduce R&D costs and optimise the product development process.
West Suffolk College, part of the Eastern Colleges Group, see providing immersive learning opportunities through technologies like XR as necessary. This is what will give their students the skills that the marketplaces of today and tomorrow demand.
Ryan Windsor of WindsorPatania learned of the opportunity in a chance meeting with the CEO of West Suffolk College while out for a run. A former student and governor at the college, he pitched the firm’s services and within a week – before they had even been appointed – the team had prepared a concept, that was received very well by the college.
Two of the major challenges faced by WindsorPatania were:
- Tight deadline: We had to work quickly to design and build a state-of-the-art facility that met all of the college’s requirements. We did this thanks to the careful planning and coordination between our team and the college’s team.
- Ensuring sustainability: We had to incorporate sustainable design principles into every aspect of the project from materials selection to energy efficiency. Everything was carefully considered from ventilation to natural lighting and the orientation of the building.
Now the site is up, students can explore virtual environments, interact with digital objects as if they were real and collaborate with students and teachers in brand new ways.
According to Giovanni Patania speaking to Suffolk News, architect director and co-founder of Windsor Patania, “The comments we have had so far are that people are astonished by the building and how it connects to the function. It is a building within a building or hangar. It used to be a workshop, but the college got some funding to pay for an augmented reality centre.”
Share your requirements with us
As experienced education architects, we’d appreciate the opportunity to find out about any forthcoming education new build or refurbishment projects you have.