Melissa Cantrell, principal of our Education + Research Studio, wrote a featured article in the 2019 Design Equilibrium, a magazine produced by AIA Atlanta.
AIA Atlanta is a chapter of the American Institute of Architects, a professional membership organization advocating for architects, designers and students, with over 1,700 members throughout metro Atlanta. The group has published their yearly magazine since 2013 as a platform to educate, inform and stimulate discussions on the built environment.
The theme of the 2019 Design Equilibrium explores how architecture responds to growth and social change in Atlanta. As the city’s population rapidly expands, it asks how the design community can respond to needs in terms of work, housing and diversity.
Melissa believes education impacts social change by providing the knowledge and skills for success. In her article, “Drivers for Change: Architecture as a Tool for Educational Reform,” she presents how good design, especially in learning environments, impacts and adds value to our communities.
“Our educational constructs don’t support the way in which today’s youth consume the knowledge that is being imparted on them.”
As designers, we have witnessed over the years a desire for a new pedagogy of teaching and learning. Programs like Future Ready Schools are encouraging architects and schoolboard visionaries to invert the traditional classroom from teacher-centered learning to student-centered learning.
The rising generations are no longer responsive to the Carnegie units of decades past. And so, school systems need support tools for a changing paradigm in the educational model. They are looking for an overhaul, a modernization of the learning environment that bolsters the necessary hard and soft skills that lead to success in the workforce.
Through interdisciplinary research, Melissa and her design team are conceptualizing the entire school as an extension of the classroom. Their work seeks to align the built environment with this new vision of personalized learning, where students can embrace their agency and take ownership of their education.
“As we redesign the way in which we educate our children, it is also time to revisit the journey by which we define the environments…”
Architecture can define relationships, experiences, and support a more holistic learning culture through spaces for collaboration and exploration. It is a vital piece of a school’s modernization. Melissa notes, however, that true transformation cannot be affected without the leadership of the school and community. The drive for change must come from partnerships and engagement with the stakeholders around a collective vision: that an effective environment with strategic utilization and proper teacher training can serve as an innovative tool for learning and ultimately, for student success.