Archive for the 'Education' Category

Scale-Free Schools

February 24, 2011

David and Alastair presented the Scale-Free Schools project at the BSEC conference this week, opening up a new angle on the current conversation about delivering schools in the UK. The end of big capital spending on new schools through the Building Schools for the Future programme has left an acrimonious debate as to whether or not the quality of the built environment matters to the ultimate aims of education, and a vacuum of ideas for how we can design and deliver new schools in an ‘age of austerity’. But the question very few people have asked is, were the shining new institutional buildings of the boom-times really the most appropriate model for learning in the coming decades? Can we take their most successful elements and apply them in a smarter, more nimble way? What is the role of the community in education, and the role of education in communities?

Scale Free Schools is a design proposal for a new infrastructure of education in the 21st century. What do the changing roles of educators, new ideas for learning, emerging technologies and constrained resources mean for the infrastructure of learning?  Off the back of the project, these two videos were commissioned by Architecture + Design Scotland.


Launch of London Hackspace in Hoxton

August 3, 2010

London Hackspace had their space warming party on Sunday to celebrate their move into Cremer Street Business Centre so I went along to find out what was going on. As soon as you enter there’s the thrill of a workshop crossed with a mad inventors lab. I saw angle grinders next to a half repaired (or deconstructed?) bike, old school singer sewing machines, a workbench, an amazing open source 3D printer by makerbot industries that replicates itself and other tools and machines that i dont know the name of. Oh and a disco ball with flashing ligts. Hackspaces as i understand it, are places where like minded people can get together and tinker around, invent, make, play, exchange ideas and tips on many things. They describe it as a communal garden shed. I thought it might be limted to a few techy boffins playing with circuit boards and computer parts but that was just my limited interpretation of hackers. Actually the members of London hackspace don’t define hacker activity to a particular area. One described hacking to me as the act of taking, remaking anything – at London hackspace, this currently includes a planned knitting class (referred to as the first type of programming language), a lock picking sports club, bike repair shop, as well as the more techy activities of playing with circuit components and a tesla aerial (just because it made a cool noise when 4000volts was run through it).

There are quite a few precedences for hackspaces – I had previously come across the more well known ones such as the NYC Resistor in New York and c-base in Berlin – the Hackspace Foundation networks these spaces together. There’s clearly a real community feel to the crowd – faces being recognised from gatherings such as hackdays and dorkbot events.

Having decamped from a shared space with an archery range where they were located for a year, London Hackspace are hoping this move to their own space means that they can grow their membership but also have the room to really have fun. The monthly membership is £40 (less if you can’t afford that) it’s 24/7 access, a proudly anarchistic operation(there are no strict rules or preset definitions of what goes) and people act very much in a shared spirit evidenced by the donated tools and kit and their openess to talk to anyone that is curious in learning.

There was much conversation on the fact that spaces and places like this don’t exist easily, particularly in London because of the commercialisation of space. How do we value these activities that are beyond hobbies but not quite “work” – yet their value in creating a skill and knowledge base is invaluable – and primarily the self taught education of exploring by doing and making. This is the real classroom that should be present in all neighbourhoods – not only do spaces like this spread knowledge and other ways of learning, they are a class in civil society itself. Go down to check it out.


Scale-Free Schools

July 27, 2010

To a surprising extent, the educational architecture we have inherited today still reflects the Victorian, industrial-age mindset which conceived it. Although we no longer think about education in that way, we still design schools as institutional factories for mass-education: purpose-built, expensive, one-size fits all.

As so many aspects of learning and social knowledge sharing have been revolutionised by new technology, the architecture of our schools has lagged behind. This project we’ve been working on in the office sets out to find smarter, leaner, more responsive architectures for 21st century learning, which require us to think beyond simply the design of buildings.

Lets teach our kids to be entrepreneurs instead of lawyers…

July 26, 2010

Inspiring talk from Cameron Herold at TEDxEdmonton on the need to encourage kids to be entrepreneurs. Its witty with stories from his own childhood in the skills he picked up in the everyday – from collecting unused coathangers from neighbours to sell on to the drycleaners to recognising a demand market in the form of 70 year old pensioners playing bridge and selling them sodas. Aside from the amusing anecdotes – the key issues here are that our educations systems and societal expectations are all geared towards pushing kids into fitting into box a, b or c. Those that don’t fit are viewed as wrong, troublesome or in need of help. And the result is a society that is simplistic in its approach to innovation and work. If you don’t fit in a certain way in a few professions you sit outside of mainstream economics and highlighted as an issue or problem to be solved (centrally) using the resources that are being gathered by an increasingly fewer number, or perhaps artificially sustained through the public purse in a seperate accounting column that does not deal with the systemic issues, or create the space to recognise that there is an issue in the first place.  I’d recommend pairing up this video with this article from the Economist “In search of serendipity” a review of ” The Power of Pull” by John Hagel, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison, which describes  theose connector people in business that make things happen. The article describes how the book presents a case for a different approach to business – that the platform technologies of today ie the internet, – challenge the top down approach to business that is perhaps still the standard in business schools. These are skills with nuances that cannot be translated solely into textbooks. As described in the article, “the “power of pull”, a term the authors define as “the ability to draw out people and resources as needed to address opportunities and challenges.” They propose a three-pronged pulling strategy. First, approach the right people (they call this “access”). Second, get the right people to approach you (attraction). Finally, use these relationships to do things better and faster (achievement).” Is our education system or even societal structures able to identify, understand and nurture these qualities as part of the story of enterprise and innovation?

Time to rethink the way we educate the next generation to be more prepared by reunderstanding how we value skills.


00:/ + London_Istanbul Exchange at Architecture Foundation

February 1, 2010

00:/ will be taking part in the London leg of the London_Istanbul Exchange this week where we play host to 3 visiting practices from Istanbul.  See the Architecture Foundation site for more information on public events including a discussion this wednesday evening …

And Now What?

August 31, 2009

And Now What @ Hub Kings Cross

00:/ in partnership with The Architecture Foundation organised the And Now What? series of debates as part of an ongoing debate that seeks to share and evaluate propositions to rethink spatial practice in a radically changing context. Over three invited sessions, key figures debated future scenarios for a changing landscape and explore plausible solutions in housing, urban regeneration and economic development.

“Prediction 1
: The CBI expects that before the next election, 3.25 million people might be out of a job.

Prediction 2: The architect and Harvard academic Paul Nakazawa, predicts that one third of all architects might be amongst those unemployed.

Figures like this show how, as our cities, towns and neighbourhoods are affected by the current crisis, all of us practicing in the built environment professions face a fundamental challenge. But this is a challenge to more than our jobs – all the parameters of built environment projects as we knew them are affected.

No longer can we rely on predictable patterns of behaviour in daily practice and on the professional certainties of the past decades. Instead we need to recognise how the very settings of practice may change, from entrepreneurial models and funding mechanisms to client relations and questions of professional ethics. Now that the speculative housing boom is over, where should architects focus their skills? What new questions are our clients asking, and do we have the right expertise to respond? Was our role in the boom entirely innocent, and what do we want to do differently next time around?

There is an urgent need for public discussion to reflect on what this means: for the way we work, for the future of spatial practice and for how cities can develop in the post-boom era. Most of all, we need to identify and how this can be an opportunity for positive change: what viable models for urban regeneration in a beyond the consumption economy? How can this generate a more inclusive urban economy? What perspectives do we see for low-carbon growth, and how can architecture and planning contribute more forcefully to this? Without the cross-subsidy from housing and retail, how do we strengthen the urban commons of public realm and social infrastructure?”

(Source:Architecture Foundation website)

An edited video is available on the AF website. And now what do you think?


TED Night

April 6, 2009

TED night at 00:/

On the evening of the 1st of April, while helicopters hovered over the G20 demonstrations outside, a diverse group of people gathered at the 00:/ office to watch lectures and discuss them. Using TED talks as stimulus, we tackled the social issues stemming from pervasive augmented reality technology, the effects of overwhelming choice, the effects of too little choice, the importance of long-view statistical visualisation, and the role of creativity in education. Among us were marketers, architects, social media strategists, ecological fashion designers, animators and 3D artists, bankers, all bringing valuable insights to remarkably in-depth conversations. The level of engagement with the topics was a very welcome change to the usual “dialogue” of media sound-bite versus placard slogan.

We hope that this will be one of many such events to come (possibly under the TEDx umbrella), and that it may further inform all of our activities.


Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store

February 19, 2009


The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store is a front orchestrated by 826NYC, a non-profit organisation that exists to encourage children to write creatively and to inspire teachers to encourage this further.

Within the shop is located a secret door that leads to an area filled up with reading and learning opportunities dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills. 

This appears to be an exceptionally good example of an environment that serves a wonderful idea that combines community interaction with learning and a sense of intrigue and imagination. I recommend you watch the video on their website:


The New Liberal Arts

February 11, 2009

There is an interesting conversation on what the new liberal arts should be on the Snarkmarket blog.

It’s 2009. A generation of digital natives is careening towards college. The economy is rebooting itself weekly. We have new responsibilities now — as employees, citizens, and friends — and we have new capabilities, too. The new liberal arts equip us for a world like this. But… what are they?

I would suggest that three disciplines are of paramount importance:

  1. Economics, the study of resource management, from home economics to global financial markets.
  2. Algorithmics, the study of process, causality, and complex systems, including modelling, forecasting, and optimisation.
  3. Politics, the art of communication, compromise, instigation, and implementation in the context of group dynamics.