Last year I was able to spend some time with Tim and Laurence of Brand Architects discussing the Classroom of the Future project they had just taken to China. Inspiring stuff that points the way to a future of re-thinking the design of spaces for learning. The connections between this design and its application to other variants across both K-12 and VET learning led to some great ideas but shifting the mindset of the people who minimise risk and repeat formulaic buildings was tough.
This was the latest interaction with such ideas. In the past I have discussed new exhibition spaces and experiences with Roy Stringer, learning spaces with Stephen Heppell, visited places like my first Frank Ghery building, the Stata Centre at MIT and seeing elements of how these might come together in the future such as the Toyota sponsored Auto Mechanic facility in Canberra which borrows ideas from theatre. New thinking about the nature of experience, the changing dynamics of these spaces and the use of technology as an integral part of the experience were common to all.
The recent publication of the new book by B Joseph Pine II, one half of the influential duo who released The Experience Economy 10 years ago, has got me thinking about these things again. ‘Infinite Possibility’ now extends the playing field and also begs new questions about how we design buildings, spaces, furniture and tools to fit this new world? It is not a trivial side issue any more. Learning, innovation creativity and collaboration drive new economies.
How does a space look when a child can pick up their technology (iPad) and explore the world in real time using the inbuilt camera and augmented reality? What sort of nooks are useful for:
- Introspection and reflection,
- Collaboration in the real world or virtually,
- Mentoring, or
Once the industrial presets are thrown out, there can be seen a wonderful array of new possibilities for how we design real world knowledge spaces. This doesn’t stop at learning and schools. If a modern economy is characterised by knowledge work, innovation and collaboration; what do offices, walkways, shops and transit areas now begin to look like. Possibly not what we have developed over the last century or so. The Stata Centre shows what can be done, the portable Classroom of the Future sets an additional set of possibilities and who knows what else is possible. If only we can match the pace of change of technological possibility with the design of spaces, nooks and furniture – it would open up a new world of possibilities that might reverse the trend of shrinking marginal benefit in what we build.