New York City, The Center for Architecture (October 16, 2012)
The New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects, welcomed a group of architects and educators to “Nurturing Minds: Educational Design Policies,” a panel discussion juxtaposing learning environments in Finland and the United States. Moderated by Samuel E. Abrams, presenters included Pasi Sahlberg, Kaisa Nuikkinen, Bruce Barrett.
Nuikkinen (Head Architect for School Design, Helsinki City Education Department) began by noting that the framework for building a school in Finland takes into account the expectations of the community, the needs of the workplace, guidelines, rules, and regulations, benchmarking, pedagogical concerns, national policies, laws, and norms, as well as best practices. Finland’s aim is to develop school buildings that function effectively, answer the demands of the future, and combine high quality architecture with economic viability. Therefore, design must be multifunctional, flexible, interactive, and inclusive of those with special needs. Outstanding examples of designs that meet these goals include The Soininen School (Ilmari Lahdelma, architect), and The Latokartano Comprehensive School (Tuomas Silvennoinen, architect).
In contrast, Bruce Barrett (New York City School Construction Authority) began by noting that the New York City School System serves 1.1 million students and employs 77,000 teachers. The city is currently planning for a student population that is expected to increase by 31,500 new seats between the fiscal years 2010-2014, which is a real challenge in an area as dense as the city. Stakeholders need to work together to produce school spaces that meet individual needs of schools. Barrett highlighted the city’s most recent projects, which have included renovations of larger schools that have been converted to house several smaller schools under the same roof (such as Mott Haven Campus in the Bronx, and Metropolitan Avenue Campus in Queens), rehabilitations of older buildings (such as P.S 3 in Queens), and renovations that require additions (such as Midwood High School, in Queens, which had to take over the playground space of a middle school across the street in order to create new building space).
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