Finland is currently undergoing one of the most ambitious school redesign projects in Europe. In 2016, after five years of preparatory work, a new national core curriculum was introduced to comprehensive schools. The curriculum favours phenomenon-based learning and a multi-disciplinary approach, which are best supported by an open learning environment. As a result, a new wave of school design and refurbishment is taking place, transforming traditional walled-in classrooms and rows of desks into more flexible and informal open-plan learning environments.
Since the 2000s, a conscious aim at building a sense of community has been evident in school design, which seems to have anticipated school design solutions that are spatially more flexible. One manifestation of this is a spacious multipurpose lobby in the heart of the building. Since the turn of the 2010s, in addition to new inspiring spatial solutions, more attention has been given to aesthetic features such as pleasing materials, expressive use of colours, high quality of finishing, and maximising the use of sunlight.
More recent trends include the use of wood as principal construction material and building multi-purpose units combining schools, libraries and other public services. Combining different functions under the same roof underlines the fact that schools are communal centres and venues for various after-school and recreational activities as well. This, in turn, further affirms the demand for architectural flexibility and holistic and skilful design approach in contemporary school design.
Text: Petteri Kummala