Repurposing unlikely spaces for a school: A photo essay

A school doesn’t need to be purpose-built. In Australia, the commonly held view that a new school needs to locate a greenfield site to grow a school. In other parts of the world it is more common to local a disused building, a brownfield site.

Greenfield sites have not previously been built on. This includes the greenbelt land around cities.

Brownfield sites are defined as “previously developed land” that has the potential for being redeveloped

In my travels I have visited some interesting schools. But this week my Danish and Swedish friends tweeted about a school in a disused submarine factory in Malmo, Sweden.  Mia and Jens (@LOOPbz) from Danish design consultancy LOOP, along with Colin (@EDU_Colin) from Ecophon acoustics alerted me to their adventures in a series of Tweets. So I started thinking about this one, and some of the brownfield sites that I have visited. We are heading to Europe and UK again this year (October 2015) for the SCIL Vision Tour.

Malmö Högskola

(These are photos from Colin’s Tweets)

A former submarine factory with imposing post industrial learning spaces. This media school is due to open soon.

Photo: Colin Campbell, Ecophon

Photo: Colin Campbell, Ecophon


Vittra Telefonplan – An old telephone factory in Stockholm

Vittra Telefonplan is one of 30 schools in this Swedish free school system that I visited in 2012. It is a school without walls in this former telephone factory that has created a variety of zones for different types of learning.

Design firm Rosan Bosch describes the brief for the project: When the new Vittra school “Telefonplan” was established in Stockholm, Rosan Bosch created the school’s interior design, including space distribution and distinctive custom-designed furnishings. The interior design revolves around Vittra’s educational principles and serves as an educational tool for development through everyday activities. Link to Rosan Bosch

Vittra Telefonplan


IPACA – Three schools to one campus

In 2014, after the SCIL Vision Tour, we visited the Isle of Portland, in Dorset England, with our friend, Gary Spracklen. Gary is the Director of Change and Innovation at IPACA – Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy – the group of schools on the island. The schools are in a process of change as they join and relocate in the disused maritime centre in Portland. “We want to create a small school environment within a big school setting but bring the benefits of a big school as well.” From three schools to one campus. Follow Gary @Nelkcarps to see what great work is happening at the school.

Slide1

A curious fact about the Isle of Portland: If you are ever on the Isle of Portland never say the word “rabbits”…

“Because burrowing can cause landslips in quarries, residents of Portland, Dorset, instead call the creatures underground mutton or furry things.” Accordingly, the W&G publicity will carry the alternative slogan “Something bunny is going on”.

Weymouth and Portland mayor Les Ames illuminates: “If the word rabbit is used in company in Portland there is generally a bit of a hush. In the olden days when quarrying was done by hand, if one of these animals was seen in the area, the quarryman would pack up and go home for the day – until the safety of the area had been reconnoitred. It is an unwritten rule in Portland that you do not use the word rabbit.” (From: theregister.co.uk)


Kunskapsskolan – Swedish Free School System

Since we started taking educators and architect on the SCIL Vision Tour, we have regularly visited Kunskapsskiolan, the system of around 30 school, started in 1999. The design of the schools is undertaken by Chief Architect Kenneth Gärdestad. The schools aim to be open, inviting and spacious, where most of the space is used for learning.

Kunskapsskolan’s schools are typically located in facilities which were originally built for other purposes, i.e. former office buildings, factories or shops. But the architecture, characterised by light, visibility and flexibility, does not only allow for a more effective use of space (the average amount of space per student is between 7-9 m2); it also gives rise to an open and collaborative atmosphere where the idea that every space is a learning space is omnipresent. This concept also gives schools the flexibility to adapt to changing conditions. An office converted into a school could be converted back entirely or partly if demographics or demand were to change. From OECD Report

Kunskapsskolan

The SCIL Vision Tour again this year provides a wonderful opportunity for school leaders and architects to have a first-hand experience of great school designs.

@anneknock

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