Nov 12, 2019

THRIVE Classroom Design

An Interview with Sylvia Kowalk, Legat Principal/Director of Interior Design and Robin Randall, Legat Principal I Director of PreK-12 Education

Vendor partners: DIRTT, Tandus Centiva, a Tarkett Company, TURF, VS America

What was your concept in designing this classroom?
Thrive — How the environment supports students and teachers thrive and use their full potential. Educational design is about understanding the function of the space and developing environments to support the well-being of the occupants. We experience our surroundings with our senses. How we develop spaces, the use of light, color, sound management, textures, patterns, personal comfort, body movement and the use of sustainable materials shapes students and teachers’ performance and well-being.

What role does technology play in the space?
Technology is the teachers and students third arm. Such a great tool that has improve teaching, learning, playing, communicating, studying, exploring in a short sense…living! We implemented a surrounding technology approach to our classrooms for easy access, so it could reach everybody in the room. Is not juts what kind of technology devices the teachers and students will bring to the classroom, is having the capability and the flexibility to incorporate all options within the learning environments. Note that I did not say within the classroom, learning environments happen everywhere. Our task as designers is to identify the opportunities.

How does the design and technology plan encourage attendee interaction?
We believe it was because of the easy access to technology, being literally surrounded by the presentation, there was not a bad spot to sit at. Attendees could view the presentation for 4 different monitors so everyone could see and participate. 

How does the choice of furniture impact the space?
Another important aspect was the implementation of choices. Personalize choices of furniture pieces, everybody felt comfortable and relaxed. Is not until the human body is comfortable and relax, that learning starts.  We also implemented movement within our space. Visual movement by using different shapes, heights and types of furniture pieces that visually energizes the space and makes the room inviting and appealing. We encouraged movement and well-being practices by adding colorful inspiring banners. We believe people sense we care about their well-being. Creating and Inviting, caring and performing space for people to thrive, that was our goal.

What do the flooring choices say about your classroom?
In our thriving and well-being concept, one of the most important aspects is sound and comfort, carpet brings that sense of comfort to the space and it definitely impacts sound. Our intent was to have a monochrome color flooring approach in order to highlight the bright and fun pieces of furniture while maintaining visual balance within the space. In a learning environment the flooring is not usually the focal point of the space, we wanted the students to be drawn to a fun flexible environment and by using brighter colors in the furniture we bring their attention to the pieces that they can work with, touch and play with, is about connecting.

What reactions did you hear from attendees in this classroom?
We heard attendees say it was their ‘favorite” venue, lots of positive comments about the furniture and the leaves.  People actually came by between sessions — just to hang out.  Here are some comments we noted:
  • “I like the leaves — it adds a biophilic touch.” 
  • “The leaves match the furniture and I like the crunching sound”. 
  • The bird sounds and low lighting were “therapeutic”.  
  • The couch with feet up was a favorite position — as well as the blue comfortable chairs. “Thumbs up on the flexible furniture.”

How will this space work for presenters?
We heard presenters commenting that they liked the set-up of the classroom – that they could walk all round the room to engage the audience and also have a large screen presentation. They asked if they could switch and present in this classroom. “This feels good – I like the Thrive! vibe” “We like this set up – good collaboration and team presentation -other classrooms forced us to the middle of the room to present and it was hard because then there’s always someone behind you.”

What do you see as the largest benefit of being chosen as a design team winner?

To be able to present in the THRIVE! classroom. Also to be able to share our design with the attendees and presenters and listen to their comments.  It was also rewarding to bring clients and potential clients to the space and tour them through. We sincerely appreciate this opportunity and would be interested in doing it again when the venue is nearby.  

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