Where does the region’s education design stand today?

Education design has evolved greatly since its early days of windowless, concrete rooms. And according to most professionals in the regional industry, technology has played a major role in the sector’s creative boom.

Laura Bielecki, senior interior designer from Godwin Austen Johnson Architects, explains: “Today the key elements to successful school interiors comes down to three simple parts: light, space and technology. Bring these all together and you’ve created a world class space to learn, play and evolve. Technology advancements put to bed the old blackboard learning style, and now we need to embrace interactive whiteboards, tablets and computers to allow our children to grow and learn alongside the technology world of today”

Cathy Di Savino, marketing manager, Intermetal furthers Bielecki’s comments on the role of technology in
education design. She notes that the new generation of students are constantly connected to technology, which allows them quick and easy access to content and resources. Because of the nature of today’s digital natives, the setup of the typical classroom or lecture hall has to adapt.

Di Savino says: “Furniture manu-facturers must provide adaptable classroom furniture to accommodate evolving technology and different teaching styles while keeping the students comfortable. Furniture needs to accommodate areas where students can work collaboratively or on their own.”

When it comes to education design, the interior schemes mostly centre on floors, walls, lighting and furnishing. According to Bielecki, natural daylight is a reliable stimulant for students and keeps them alert, energised and active. Another advantage is that it not only creates a bright space without the harshness of fluorescent lighting, but has also been proven to positively impact students’ creativity.

Bielecki says: “As designers we achieve this by lull or high level windows and skylights in atriums. Our opportunity when working in the UAE is our accessibility to utilising guaranteed daylight. Learning methods have evolved as has the space that houses the learning. No more is it about sitting at desks facing a wall, but about versatile spaces, furniture that can adapt to individual and group tasks, and spaces that constantly need to change.”

Liam King, managing director, Human Space furthers the notion of furniture needing now, more than ever before, to accommodate collaborative work styles. With a main focus on mobility and functionality, King believes that education spaces should also reflect this change in learning styles.

He says: “Educational spaces are beginning to reflect this change in working styles where a lot of group work and collaboration happens. In such learning environments, furniture should be easy to rearrange for any group and task requirements.”

King adds: “We always support the use of ergonomic furniture items which are prepared using reclaimed wood and materials. We look for Green Guard, BIFMA or similar certifications when we procure furniture for our clients.”

The latest furniture ranges on the market for educational design are striving to ensure their durability as well as their ergonomic features. According to Di Savino, Intermetal’s range of educational furniture incorporates flexibility and other tools that support active learning. She says: “Many of the products in our educational furniture portfolio offer options that support the different ways of teaching and learning, such as classroom tables, ergonomic chairs and desks, with elements of mobility to support reconfiguration.

“Teachers can begin a class with a lecture, break the class into small groups to collaborate and then have students form a large circle for group discussion.”

In addition to providing multi-purpose and function furniture, designers who embark on educational projects should have a basis in student psychology so as to create the most beneficial space for its users.

According to Bielecki, a lot of research has gone into child development and learning styles, and “by keeping up to date on the latest research, interiors are able to facilitate modern learning styles. Psychology of colour provides designers the ability to encourage quiet, lively, fun or reflective spaces. It also allows spaces to relate to different age groups.”

According to the professionals that spoke to Commercial Interior Design, material choice is equally as important as the designer’s colour selection. With constant wear and tear, and varying age groups, material choices for furnishings and surface coverings need to be based on durability, functionality as well as aesthetics.

Bielecki confirms: “Acoustics are a huge issue for schools and therefore, as designers we need to specify products that absorb and reflect sound in the correct manner. Classrooms require a lot of focus and attention by the students, so [carpeting floors offer acoustic advantages]. While gyms need to have the option of being louder and more vibrant.

“As well as thinking of these elements, building maintenance and longevity should be priority. We need to not only make the education space usable for children and teachers, but also have the quality [of design] that the parents want to see as their child’s learning space.”

Di Savino notes that Intermetal’s furniture typically consists of polypropylene plastics and steel and are 99% recyclable. With full scale manufacturing capabilities, Interface has full control throughout the process to ensure strict quality measures are adhered to before anything leaves the factory premises.

As for the direction that education design is headed in, King confirms: “The future of learning will be more group oriented. Such group participation better prepares students for working life in communities. From the very beginning, learners get experience working in teams. Furthermore, with advents in new technology, there will be more and more use of digital and interactive ways of learning.”