Designing Learning Spaces

[As I travel and attend conferences I’m hearing more and more people talk about rethinking how we design learning spaces. In this Edsurge article, you’ll hear from Danish Kurani, an architect who now specializes in designing educational learning spaces. He has a fresh take on concepts like “flexibility” and “modular furniture.” He objects to design that is not purposeful and relevant to the needs of learners. In Pittsburgh there have been some excellent examples where learning spaces match the needs of students. The South Fayette School District created STEAM Studios in their new intermediate building. It was critical to have an informal environment that encouraged creative team-work. The walls were bright colors; the acoustics were appropriate; the furniture was purposeful providing collaborative opportunities. As soon as students or teachers walk into the room they understand the expectations for learning.  In the near future the Children’s Museum plans to create a Museum LAB that will be purposeful providing middle school learners with spaces similar to what Kurani has designed for schools.]

Apr 11, 2017

STEAM Studio

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

“Flexible.” It’s a word that often pops up in conversations about redesigning learning environments, relating to choices in furniture or movable walls. But according to Danish Kurani, redesigning 21st century classrooms goes much deeper than merely achieving flexibility—it involves going all the way back to considering Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Kurani is a licensed architect who focuses his work on learning spaces, and currently teaches a “Learning Environments for Tomorrow” course at the Harvard Graduate School of Education every year. Having worked on locations ranging from Denver’s Columbine Elementary to SELNY, a psychotherapy clinic and adult learning center in New York, Kurani has seen and used a variety of tactics to implement learning design in pursuit of specific goals.

This week, EdSurge sat down with him to hear about the most common design constraints, architecture gone wrong, and the work his firm recently conducted on the Code Next Lab in Oakland. Check out the Q&A below, or the recording on the EdSurge podcast.

EdSurge: Danish, as an architect, why did you decide to pursue education as a field for design?

Danish Kurani: A few years ago, when I started Kurani as a design practice, it was with the intent that we would use architecture to help solve global problems and challenges. I think, a lot of times, when we’re thinking about the biggest problems in the world—whether it’s poverty alleviation, or environmental issues, or healthy living and healthcare, or education—architects aren’t usually at that round table. I wanted to make sure that we had a seat at that table, because I think our surroundings make such an impact in our lives. Of course, you’ve got to pick somewhere to start, and being an immigrant in this country, when you grow up in an immigrant family, usually education’s paramount. Your parents understand that, for upward mobility, you’ve got to be educated. That was always of high importance in our family.

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