In Defense of Introverts


A Playground for Leif by Designliga

So far, I’ve cited the merits of the playground – the loudest, craziest, most running-aroundiest environment for kids you can imagine – as a point of inspiration for design.

I’ve espoused the potential of community-oriented schools to motivate and, somewhat grandiosely I’ll admit, change the world.

I think I’ve uncovered a bias. In me, and in architecture at large.

For years, Western culture has valued and rewarded natural born extroverts in its effort to breed out-going, sociable, go-get-’em type citizens. (For two intelligent, chuckle-inducing narratives on the plight of the introvert, check out Jonathan Rauch’s touchstone piece in The Atlantic and Susan Cain‘s fabulous TED Talk).

In my zeal to present solutions to the obstacles facing education, I too got caught in the trap. To rectify this situation, I will – once again – examine schools; but this time, I take a more balanced approach. Today I take into account that bullied, forgotten group: introverts.

Community-Oriented Architecture in Schools: How ‘Extroverted’ Design Can Impact Learning and Change the World

© Yazdani Studio of Cannon Design. UCSD’s Price Center East, a "highly-permeable addition" with many entry points, plazas, and monumental staircases meant to "engage the building’s surroundings and enrich the street experience."

You’ve considered every detail: re-thought the spatial configurations of the classrooms to account for over 40 students, ensured that the noise from outside doesn’t drown out the teacher, perhaps even adjusted the storage to kid-friendly heights.

As an architect, you live in the skin of the people who will daily occupy your buildings. And of course, the impact of physical conditions should never be underestimated, especially in the design of a . Study after study has cited that the correct environment can greatly improve student engagement, enrollment, and even general well-being. [1]

However, there is another vital way in which design can impact learning. An approach that recognizes the power of society and culture, that aims to create a school not only permeable to the community around it, but charged with positive symbolic value.