BLUR: a model for a speculative reality

what's going on

Existing methods of education are based in a flawed reality that emphasizes the “education” of students for the mere purpose of qualifying them as educated. They have a single perception of learning and of the learned – all students are treated equally and those who thrive within these systems are privileged. As such,  they are often compared to an assembly line –  a top down system that builds all students to the same standard, shoving them into school and pushing them out, rendering “school” as a necessary but transient state in a person’s life.

The architectural result is the banality of classrooms – the school typology as sardine containers in a line – the overemphasis of which leads to the inhibition of discovery, play, and consequently, learning. Students are given freedom neither to interact nor move, and their learning suffers. They are, after all, meant to listen, and the architecture reflects this.

what if...

In many ways, however, these are only a few of the many incapacities plaguing educational institutions today. While it is certainly necessary to examine what isn’t working (and what is), many supposedly innovative schools are founded on the basis of contrarian ideals that inevitably continue to function within the existing system of educational assumptions (HTH, for example, is still dominated by the classroom). It is better then, instead of opposing, to ask: what if? What if learning could be collaborative? What if students were free to interact, to have fun, to express their creativity? What if students could decide how to learn, where to learn, and with whom to learn? what if learning was like this?

BLUR looks at the potentials of learning that arise from a reconfiguration of space and program. Getting students out of the classroom, BLUR puts learning in activity space.

"BLUR puts learning in activity space."

LEFT: how program is simplified, chunked, and divided. Spaces of learning are subdivided into communities based on the different ways that students learn: visual learning, auditory learning, and read/write learning. What’s important in a place of learning is knowing how the students learn, and maximizing their learning potential by tailoring spatial experiences to how they learn.

This juxtaposition of traditionally dichotomous spaces transforms the school institution into a “cloud” that is…

first, a place for activity,


second, a place for kinesthetic learning,

…and third, a place whose future we cannot predict.

By compartmentalizing learning space within a larger active, kinesthetic, and unstable field, and thereby designating specific spaces for specific ways of learning, the architecture is tailored and designed to maximize each student’s learning experience, whether on the inside of the space or relative to its geographic location in the building and respective to the larger environmental context. An auditory learner can talk to herself and her friends in an intimate environment inside her cohort, and then….

What this also allows is a breakdown of hierarchical roles of grade level attributed and solidified by an attachment to a spatial location, normal in schools, “high tech,” “innovative,” or not. It allows the formation of communities based on inherent similarities as opposed to externally applied similarities and allows for mentorship groups to form based a shared means of communication. Plus, in designing spaces for specific types of people, it results in unique spatial identities, necessary for the formation of community, navigational sense, and, of course, learning.

…move into the cloud, where she can experience the sight, smells, sounds, touch, speed, and tastes of people working in their areas of design, scattered throughout the building. On platforms, students can make, open to one another’s processes. On undulating surfaces (“pools, nets”), located at the boundaries between design platforms, students can interact, appropriating space to converse with people of different disciplines. And holding it all together, on a belt system that begins in the center of the building and permeates throughout, students can share, communicating through their work, on the “feedback loop.”

Here, in a space open to discovery, students are free to design, interact, share, and MOVE, all under a roof that is defined by their creativity and accentuates their play. The roof is formed as another interactive/play space and by programmatic generalities – spaces that need certain types of light (north/east/west) or spaces that are hot / need ventilation. Above the former spaces, the roof shoots up and out or down and in depending on the type of light necessary; above the latter spaces, the ducts that rise from them puncture the roof plane. This unifying element serves to tie BLUR together, represent another element of the architectural-programmatic nudge, and act as another intentional element in a playscape that…

1. enhances student communication and play….

view east from culinary design up toward a play area (net) and above paths crossing inside the center of the feedback loop

2. tailors learning experiences to different ways of learning….

view east from the visual learning community.

…and 3. puts student work on display for all to see…

view from that play area (net), looking at the vast array of student work circulating inside the feedback loop.

both for the students…

view west from the garden on top of the read/write community. students in a space dedicated to AV design are broadcasting a meme.

and for the public.

adrian tsou