Working together at school, learning at work and sharing knowledge in the café: it seems the separation of functions is disappearing. Our working and learning environments are changing: from buildings to which employees or students adapt, to environments that adapt to the needs of their users.
We have been gaining experience in the creation of special working and learning environments for 90 years, experience we subsequently apply in our projects. In this way we provide our clients with buildings that anticipate the future, stimulate innovation and are attractive to students, employees and customers.
Companies increasingly focus on the learning capacity of teams and individuals; schools increasingly focus on learning-by-doing. Both approaches call for flexible spaces that centre on knowledge transfer and collaboration, for inspiring buildings that stimulate innovation. In ten years’ time, there will hardly be any difference between the operation of an educational building and that of a working environment. They will feel different, but the organization of the building, the forms of interaction and the need for flexibility will be the same.
We draw lessons from past design challenges for work environments and use these in design challenges for educational buildings, and vice versa. This enables us to be innovative and improve ourselves. This is reflected by our design process.
- Finding Inspiration
We visit buildings, read about them, come by to experience how the organization we’re designing for operates, and we talk to employees, students, parents, managers, support service workers and ICT professionals.
- Determining the Scale
We establish the ideal sizes of departments and teams as well as work spaces, consultation areas, departments and building elements. We determine the main structure of a building by thinking carefully about the scale of its parts.
- Structuring Flows
We position elevators, stairs and central areas to create hubs where chance encounters can take place. We strategically place facilities such as coffee corners, printer areas, outdoor spaces, war rooms, brainstorming areas and multifunctional areas. The combination of logistic flows and special locations creates dynamic and tranquil areas in a building. In open working and learning environments in which everything revolves around encounters, this is extremely important, because the building creates the framework in which these encounters take place. We deliberately use preconditions for innovative environments in our designs: density, diversity and proximity and thus stimulate not only knowledge transfer, but also cross-fertilization.
People and groups behave totally differently in a sheltered, confidential environment than in an open and dynamic one. This has to do with cultural and personal preferences. Because we work with a combined toolbox for working and learning environments, we can create a wealth of places that enable the interactions needed in the environments of the future. It includes daylight (for good concentration), material (health and look and feel), shelter (acoustic and visual), identity (sense of pride), art (can inspire and provoke conversations) and high-tech or low-tech facilities such as digital displays and whiteboards. What is certain is that every building needs spaces that are beautiful and perfectly finished as well as places that are rough and adjustable and that can facilitate new ideas and activities.
The buildings in which we will learn and work in 30 years' time are the buildings we make today. They are buildings that respond to the needs of users spatially, acoustically and climatically. They are they buildings in which our children will create memories that will last a lifetime and in which they will, later, work. We want these buildings to be generous, diverse and adaptable and therefore make them smart, healthy and future-proof!