If we think about how the educational system worked in the past, we can quickly see that both the teaching style in schools as well as the school’s infrastructure were very different from the current system. The educational model of the twentieth century could be defined as being similar to the "spatial model of prisons, with no interest in stimulating a comprehensive, flexible and versatile education."
However, we are now at a time when social, economic and technological developments have created a more global society and where information and learning are becoming more affordable. This radical change has transformed the societies in which we live, leaving the current educational model based on a rigid and unidirectional teaching obsolete.
As such, there are schools that have not only broken the mold of traditional teaching but have formed new educational standards, exploring new paradigms and opening up new possibilities within the design of educational spaces. Since architecture and educational models often reflect the ideology of a society, how is the school of 21st century defined?
All over the world, there are many pioneering schools that have decided to take the extra step and move towards the future of education. New models propose that all students, regardless of their origin or condition, can do their very best. Below, we will introduce you to a few innovative schools of the 21st century that have radically changed designing educational models.
Ørestad Gymnasium / 3XN
This building was created in order to promote a new vision for secondary school education in Copenhagen, Denmark. Its design promotes reflective and collaborative learning which is delivered through a variety of teaching styles, whether working in small groups or one-on-one. As a response to these needs, the architects proposed an open-plan building that is organized around a central staircase; its open design forces teachers to innovate teaching methods.
Ecopolis Plaza / Ecosistema Urbano
This project was developed within an area surrounded by transportation infrastructures and industries. Its main objective is to integrate the concept of sustainability into daily life and improve the urban ecosystem of the site. The design of the school creates a public space accessible to the inhabitants of the neighborhood. Its educational program includes a program that allows children to become aware of the environment in order to make children responsible adults.
The design of this school was developed by taking into account its environment, taking advantage of the fact that it is surrounded by nature and at the same time creating a fun space for children. In this way, a "big house" is created for the children, meaning a wide space that, because of the topography of the land, looks like a large staircase and allows children of different ages and different learning paces to interact with one another.
Kwel Ka Baung School / a.gor.a Architect
Mae Sot, Thailand
Located on the border between Thailand and Myanmar, this school's main objective is to provide education to children from families displaced due to civil conflict. This project was designed to involve the community in the school building process, in hopes that workers from the state of Kayin (Myanmar) would refine their skills and learn about the adobe construction system.
Vittra Telefonplan / Rosan Bosch
The teaching principles of the Vittra school in Stockholm are mainly based on creating stimulating learning environments for students. The school has no classrooms or walls and instead uses dividers to create flexible laboratories that let different types of learning develop which are based on a digitized teaching approach.
Farming Kindergarten / Vo Trong Nghia Architects
Dong Nai, Vietnam
This kindergarten was designed for the children of the workers in a shoe factory in Vietnam, which meant the budget was not very large. However, the high-quality design of the building allows children to have a green space where they can experiment with nature and learn about the importance of agriculture.
Pies Descalzos School / Giancarlo Mazzanti
Located in Cartagena, Colombia, Colegio Pies Descalzos, or Barefoot School, has been a driving force of change that has enhanced living conditions for the community and has offered residents new alternatives for personal and community development. The architectural project sparked the urban transformation of the area and became a symbol of pride for the city. More than just a school (the project) seeks to create new facilities and community centers, like libraries, classrooms, and places for sports, where neighborhood activities can take place.
Family Box / SAKO Architects
This center was designed to create a playful atmosphere that stimulates children's curiosity. The interior space is made up of cylinders of different sizes and shapes that become the different rooms and classrooms of the school. The center offers a cheerful educational environment, where students can participate in a variety of activities and enrich their imagination.
These schools, along with many others, act as an example and embody an innovative educational system that is attentive to the global reality as well as the local realities of their communities. Each one of their students learns to live, to narrate their identity, to discover and transform the world of the XXI century.