Consulting with JM Architects

Meeting with Deborah Makay at JM Architect’s office – January 28th 2011

The project we are embarking upon locates us in an enviable position of examining an existing ‘material’ school building and one that is being designed but yet to exist: the ‘immaterial’ school building.

We have the plans for the school. They’re loaded floor plans, with indicative symbols about the use of each area, we have read from it that certain ‘open-ended’ areas of the school have actually be prescribed functions. This calls into to question opinions about what the phrase ‘dynamic’ space implies and how it might inadvertently constrain how communal space is used within the school into a particular consumer based environment.

The new Curriculum for Excellence, discussed in an earlier entry, opens the debate about implied freedom and flexibility in learning, that could in fact be conditioning children to mimic an office environment.  In every school there is a balance to be struck about between allowing freedom and retaining control. These were questions we wanted to ask the architect.

We are in a fortunate position, operating on the periphery, between the architects who are in charge of the live project and the teachers and pupils that will be using the building. This presents an opportunity to apply the focus of our studies ‘Disruptive Technology’, applying our previous work to critically investigate the methods undertaken for the design of the school. Our project aims to suggest new methods of designing and use for the proposed building,  testing our ideas within the existing school in the company and consultancy of the lead user.

A meeting with the architects at their office, Deborah Makay was kind enough to explain the design and give us a copy of the plans, sections and the design proposal report. The notes below outline the key points made during the meeting, as Deborah explained and answered our questions.

There are positive aspects of the new design, but in order to search to a theme to investigate in our projects, some of the criticisms/comments we are also noted:

Time tabling

It was discovered that time tabling had a surprising large influence on the design of classrooms and the layout of surrounding areas. What can be achieved during certain times constrains the area and degree of co-operation possible between classes. What is interesting is that the current timetable, designed and evolved from a school that has a nine story tower and the implications that arise from had such a dramatic influence over a totally new space. The opportunity to design a new timetable to suit a new school didn’t seem to have been addressed.

Use of technology

The concept of creating a vibrant and dynamic space in the heart of the school focused around projections and IT walls, as part of a ‘showcase’ of work.

There is a common consensus that the commercialised trend of the design philosophy could be detrimental.

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