We design academic spaces that inspire students and educators

We design K-12 spaces that inspire students and educators

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We design academic spaces that inspire students and educators

We create dynamic spaces that engender collaborative learning and can transform with evolving pedagogies and advancements in learning technology. Our buildings support a range of teaching modalities and facilitate intellectual curiosity and flexibility.

We create dynamic spaces that engender collaborative learning and can transform with evolving pedagogies and advancements in learning technology. Our buildings support a range of teaching modalities and facilitate intellectual curiosity and flexibility.

Today’s educators must build on proven and established teaching and learning modalities, while testing pedagogical innovations, to make learning more efficient, productive, and impactful.

Each new K-12 environment we design builds on past experience to advance the definition of “state-of-the-art” in education. We bring together design concepts and new technologies from our work across numerous building typologies. By integrating these diverse trends into specific investigations, outreach, and basic research, our Education Center crafts schools that improve the quality of pedagogy and student outcomes.

Ennead’s K-12 Education Center Leadership

Ennead’s Centers of Excellence were established to codify the firm’s experience in specific typologies and to optimize and share expertise across the office. Each Center is led by senior Ennead staff who bring deep typological knowledge and are recognized leaders in their respective markets.

The Education Center maintains research and data on the K-12 educational landscape, including trends in best practices, programming, teaching methodologies, benchmarking facility sizes (nationally and internationally), program types (conventional and IB), and ever-changing developments in AV/IT infrastructure. The Center meets bi-weekly to review current K-12 projects, to discuss new environmental approaches to improve learning, and to sponsor lectures by guests from the broader educational community. This affords the staff associated with the Educational Center expanded perspectives on designing for K-12 institutions, which in turn gives them the confidence to question conventional wisdom and deliver truly innovative and transformative leaning environments.

Todd Van Varick

Todd Van Varick

K-12 Education Leader

Minh Tran

Minh Tran

K-12 Education Leader

Design for K-12 Education

We see numerous new trends on the horizon that we can explain and deploy for our clients to customize educational environments that best suit their particular learning culture.

These include:

    • Programming for student mental and physical wellbeing;
    • Designing flexible spaces to accommodate broadly divergent programs;
    • Delivering public spaces that encourage student and community interaction and supports diversity, equity, and inclusion;
    • Creating didactic facilities that show students how the building functions sustainably to encourage environmental consciousness;
    • Conceiving of spaces that support peer-to-peer learning and knowledge sharing;
    • Developing programs and environments that are conducive to faculty-to-faculty collaboration;
    • Integrating the arts into daily experience;
    • Defining a secure and “smart” campus;
    • Utilizing mechanical systems and space planning strategies to prepare for future pandemics.

Bringing the University to the K-12 Experience

The architects and designers who contribute to the Ennead Education Center do not specialize between K-12 architecture and collegiate architecture. We design better K-12 architecture (and better university architecture as well) by understanding the fluid relationship between these two pedagogical contexts and how they shape the developmental journey of a young person.

This is meaningful as we see K-12 schools increasingly nurturing their students in environments that perform like collegiate campuses. From our higher education projects we see universities focusing on student wellness, encouraging entrepreneurship, building “design thinking” into their curricula, integrating the arts into daily experience, creating spaces that foster “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” privileging more independent study, and encouraging teachers to practice collaboratively across all disciplines. Design that creates quiet spaces, ample daylight and access to fresh air positively impacts emotional and physical wellbeing and support learning for neurodiverse populations.

Informing our K-12 clients as to new developments in higher education gives them choices about how deeply to immerse students in a physical context that is like a collegiate experience. When these principles are deployed in K-12 planning and design, rich educational environments are formed and are instrumental in a young learner’s educational journey.

By maintaining a design culture that moves between K-12 and higher educational territories, we utilize the environmental and pedagogical trends in each arena to better respond to the unique institutional needs of each client.

Teaching and Learning in the “Spaces in Between”

There is a growing consensus among educators, social scientists, and economists that today’s students will face a future that will require them to be capable of constant learning, retraining, and new skill acquisition. To prepare, this generation of students will need to be instilled with life-long intellectual curiosity and develop the mental agility to continually acquire knowledge through social engagements, peer-to-peer collaborations, and individually motivated learning.

To support this modality, classroom learning should be augmented by informal knowledge sharing outside the classroom, balancing teacher-centric learning with student-centric learning. All scales of spaces should be designed to support a variety of interactions, from common classrooms to informal breakout areas and corridors. This allows for a continuum of learning, teaching, and mentoring to take place throughout the day, puts “learning on display” everywhere, and engenders in students a sensibility that learning is not a chore, but a communal and individual joy.

We see an opportunity in what we call the “spaces in between”—the circulation networks of school buildings—to deliver novel, diverse, and challenging environments that give both students and teachers more flexibility as to where, when, and how they teach and learn.

Making, Design Thinking, and Creating the “Idea Entrepreneur”

Educational institutions are increasingly focused on cultivating well-rounded students who are capable of traditional data collection and synthesis as well as innovative design thinking. Design thinking can be nurtured alongside more traditional education to deliver the intellectual pleasure of “thinking differently” and to teach students the “joy of failure.” Schools are promoting hands-on experiential learning to instill in students the skills to become “idea entrepreneurs.”

Our facilities support learners who deploy multiple modalities of learning and reasoning –students with “elastic minds.”

We believe when young learners are provided spaces to explore critical thinking in a non-traditional setting, like fablabs, maker shops and informal skunk-works spaces, they thrive. We can deliver these spaces as purpose-built new construction or carefully planned in new or existing academic buildings, carving them out of existing and often underutilized spaces.

Creating Classrooms for Myriad Teaching Modalities

The common classroom remains the educational workhorse for direct knowledge sharing between teacher and student and for peer-to-peer discourse. As such, the classroom must still allow for the traditional mode of teaching with “teacher in front,” students facing forward, that is still valuable for independent student work, test taking, and lectures. However, classrooms can also be designed maximum flexibility, with the ability to quickly reconfigure teaching, learning, and educational experiences.

We believe flexible classrooms encourage intellectual risk taking, experimentation, and ultimately the understanding that the student and the teacher can shape their own destiny.

By utilizing cutting-edge furniture solutions, state-of-the-art AV/IT equipment, operable partitions, and highly tunable lighting systems, we can create classrooms that can be re-conceived on an hourly, daily, or weekly schedule. Today, a single classroom can support conventional teaching methods, but also flex to accommodate experiential learning, team teaching, student collaborative learning, demonstrations, flipped classrooms, seminars, and group discussions.

Designing Sustainable Facilities to Support Educational Missions

Sustainable design is an essential objective from the early planning stages of any planning study or building. Within K-12 facilities, creating didactic spaces that show students how the building functions sustainably encourages environmental consciousness and contributes to the pedagogical discourse.

From day one, our designers think holistically about the site and the process, including social and historical context, to identify values, make commitments, and develop methods that maintain accountability for these established values and guiding design principles. Throughout the design process, we benchmark sustainability metrics using our Design Performance Opportunities checklist–an internal quality assurance document for tracking metrics in key performance categories. Prioritizing sustainability approaches into the design process is a fundamental value in our practice, and we will continue to evolve as the environmental story unfolds before us.

Public Schools

Our facilities for private institutions often rival those for higher education, with sophisticated learning environments that incorporate cutting edge technologies and design principles. Whether creating a new facility or modernizing an existing building, we design spaces that inspire educators and students and connect to the larger campus context.

Selected Clients

East Harlem Tutorial Program, Scholars Academy High School
Frank Sinatra School of the Arts
Montclair Public Schools
NYC Public Schools, P.S. 22
NYC Public Schools, P.S. 165
NYC Public Schools, Intermediate School 172
NYC Public Schools, Intermediate/High School, District 43
NYC Public Schools, High School for Law Enforcement and Public Safety

Private Schools

Our work for public education often calls upon our expertise in specific building typologies – performing arts or laboratories, for example– to create spaces for specialized K-12 programs. These dynamic, purpose-built facilities fulfill unique programmatic requirements while projecting institutional identities, establishing schools as a vital component of their surrounding communities.

Selected Clients

Branksome Hall
Cathedral of St. John the Divine
Choate-Rosemary Hall School
Grace Church School
The Mercersburg Academy
Solomon Schechter Day School
The Westminster Schools

International Schools

Our facilities for international schools respond to the mission-driven priorities of these institutions. Buildings are shaped by international best practices and the needs of diverse school communities. Designs responds to global contexts, cultural concerns and architectural traditions while incorporating advanced opportunities for collaborative learning and flexible teaching modalities. 

Master Planning

Our master plans provide strategies for long-term growth that support educational goals while accounting for the rapid evolution of pedagogy and advancements in learning technology. Our range of strategic approaches – including analytics, physical planning and visualization – engage stakeholders and create flexible frameworks for growth.

Selected Clients

American School in Japan
The Cathedral School, Cathedral of St. John the Divine
Concordia International School
Oaks Christian School
Sidwell Friends School
Seoul Foreign School
The Westminster Schools