Workshop three - architecture and learning spaces

Fraught with looming exams and deadlines, our young city shapers set aside any impending pressures for the third Shape My City workshop, which saw local architect Terry Pinto from PAAD on hand to impart his architectural expertise. Volunteer planner Andy Bell was also present to provide advice from a planning perspective.

At the start of the session, group members Cai and Hani shared their recent experience with London based architectects and artists MUF. This involved them researching the usage of an area of public space close to their school to feed into development plans for the local neighbourhood forum.

Terry imparts his wisdom
Terry then opened the session by sharing the highs and lows of his career; ranging from his degree in Birmingham, to his varied time spent working in Madrid and London. With Bramble, his canine companion in tow, he engaged our city-shapers, providing a glimpse into his diverse career path by sharing:
  • the highs and lows of a career in architecture 
  • the impact of recessions on his career
  • how his social conscience has influenced his projects/clients 
Discussing design ideas

Next, as a warm up for their design challenge, the young people played a word association game prompted by images of a range of buildings. Asked to provide one descriptive word for each building, Krishna Avanti Primary School was branded ‘beautiful’ and the Guggenheim ‘shark-like’. Other descriptions included: abstract, relaxing, echo, playful, origami and unique. The common theme of these diverse images was that they were all types of learning environments (schools, nurseries, colleges, museums, galleries, libraries, universities, outdoor classrooms), which got our group thinking about new and innovative ways of designing spaces for learning.

The group were then prepared to tackle their design brief to design a future learning space. Equipped with an infinite budget, pens, paper, inspirational images and their creativity, they divided themselves into two large groups, before sitting around the table to intently discuss their ideas.

Visioning future learning spaces
 With Terry Pinto’s statement that ‘if it’s boring I’ll tell you’ ringing in their ears, the young people set about giving free reign to their creativity.

They made sure to consider key factors:
  •     age of learners
  •     flexibilty and comfort
  •     inspiring
  •     fit for purpose now in the future
  •     environmentally sustainable

The first group opted for a non-site specific 'study-pod', where each member designed an unique space. One underground pod included a solar paneled tree feature, whilst another involved an inbuilt refreshments area (to provide coffee for tired students). They also considered building storage into the exterior design so as to free up interior space, and reflected on the various uses of the space in relation to its function. The second group developed designs for a Performing Arts Centre for the elderly. Featuring separate spaces for different artistic activities, they located the space within a forest, and used sustainable construction materials, such as wood for its carbon retaining abilities. Other features included a special ‘rabbit-hole’ feature inbuilt into the natural terrain, and a pond surrounding the entrance.

The final designs
Both Terry Pinto and Andy Bell were highly impressed with the innovation and creativity of the designs. Providing constructive feedback, they considered the possible drawback of the entry pond as a barrier to visitors, as well as the merits of various sustainable building techniques - from wind turbines and solar panels to the use of bio-mimicry. 

We asked Terry for his reflections on the workshop:

'As a teenager I had no idea what architecture entailed, so I felt it was important to participate with Shape My City. What I found were engaged young people who were actively interested even when I told them some of the stark realities of being an architect in today’s world. Despite this they produced interesting work that would not have gone amiss in the early years of an architecture degree. Well done! I hope that that they maintain their enthusiasm and heed my words of advice- to be passionate about their work whatever they do.'

You can find out more about careers in architecture the RIBA and from the Architecture Centre.