Can we have our lessons outside?
Even though I left school 25 years ago I vividly remember how trapped I once felt in the classroom – and we weren’t even in one of those Victorian places with the windows so high up you could see no more than the sky.
The moment the sun came out, someone would stick up their hand and ask if we could go outside. Perhaps this is why a striking number of the projects in A Space for Learning, an exhibition organised by the Irish Architecture Foundation (IAF), focus on the outdoors. There are remarkable gardens, an amphitheatre and a huge dome that turns one school into something like the Eden Project in Cornwall.
A Space for Learning started life when the foundation invited established architects and young graduates to work with transition-year students to come up with different ways of looking at schools. At the beginning of this year 120 architects were paired with 1,500 students in 90 schools across the country.
The results of their work have been published in a new book and 10 of the projects appear in the exhibition in the gallery at the National College of Art Design, in Dublin.
Both book and exhibition are teeming with ideas. Athlone Community College, for example, turns prefabricated buildings into “Enviro-fab” ones. Its self-sufficient prefabs run on solar and wind power, which can be connected or separated as needed.
At Dundalk Grammar School prefabs become “post-fab” learning bubbles. They are “irresistible architecture” in the words of Ryan Hamill and Eoin McElroy of Idir Architecture. Thomas Campbell, a student at the school, adds: “I thought architecture was just about construction. I never realised it could be so creative and about different ideas.”