A school or an educational institution is more than just a
functional physical space. It is a community and is, therefore, more than just a cluster of buildings. A school —
we use this as an overarching term to mean any educational institution broadly
— is expected to give shape to the dreams, aspirations, and hopes of the young,
who are the future trustees and custodians of our collective future.
Design is, therefore, central to any human project or idea. Perhaps the most defining feature of design is aesthetics — aesthetics that touch the human spirit in both tangible and intangible ways and leaves it transformed. Therefore, how does architecture influence learning? How does architecture improve academic performance? How does design influence behaviour? How does architecture inform, reform, and transform the young mind? Should educational institutions necessarily embrace an architectural philosophy while designing or creating learning and playing spaces? How do we integrate design and learning?
These, among a host of other ideas, constituted the central topic of the 35th Rajagiri Round Table Conference held at the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies, Kochi on 11 April 2018.
Dr. A. Ramachandran,Vice Chancellor, Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies, Kochi: The essential purpose of architecture ought to be to create an atmosphere conducive to learning. If you were to look at European universities or institutions of learning, I cannot but say that they are very inspiring. I think there is very little emphasis on design here in India. However, I believe it is now changing although I must hasten to add that people are now beginning to think more in terms of distance education. So, to that extent we may not need the same scale of infrastructure that we need now. In 20 years from now, about 90 percent of our students might be engaged in distance learning. Ultimately, we should link architecture and aesthetics to the changing modes of education.
K. Vijayan, Modarchs Architects,Kochi: Architecture is central to learning and well-being, both physical and mental, of our students. It needs to create an ambience for stimulated and stimulative learning. A school or educational institution needs enriched shared spaces to create such an atmosphere of possibilities. In other words, architecture should create spatial variety. In addition, design does not stand in solitary splendour; it is closely related to the environment it seeks to influence.
Jills Philip, Soumya & Jills, Kochi: How do you define an institution? The essence of an institution lies in its shared spaces, the memories it fosters, and, of course, the interconnectedness of those spaces. So, to make learning more meaningful, inspired, and stimulating, architecture should look to build spaces for intuitive learning, which means an inherent intangibility of spaces which adds to the shared experiences and collective memory of the institution. Architecture is also a function of aspiration.
Punen C. Mathew, Design Combine, Kochi: There is by and large a lack of design awareness in our institutions of learning. When it comes to built spaces, design has a specific role to play and has a transcendental purpose. Design, as we speak, becomes secondary to a host of other things. Although design and its impact may not be measurable precisely, the physical and mental connections it makes are tangibly invaluable.
Dr. V.M.Victor George, Registrar, Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies, Kochi: We know that whatever be the environment, a student who chooses to study will study. Now that could be a minority of say 10 percent. So, question is how do we ignite or inspire the remaining 90 percent to study or perform well? Herein lies the importance of the psychology of spaces. So how do we influence those spaces? A space rightly designed creates and generates positive energy. So, If I have an open mind, I can receive those powerful rays of energy. Therefore, the aesthetics of spaces is of the essence here. A better designed space means better educational outcomes.
Father Dr. Varghese Panthalookaran, Professor of Engineering and Director, Rajagiri Media: The essence of the debate lies in the fine blend of both the tangible and the intangible. The tangible can be acquired from the environment. However, I think the intangible cannot be acquired through the distance mode of education. So, there is a certain organicity to the idea of how architecture and an institution of learning interact.
Dr. S.M. Raffi, Assistant Professor (Biological Oceanography),
Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies, Kochi: Our children love open spaces. So, it isn’t
surprising that after classes, they rush out into the open. They create spaces,
say under a tree. That becomes not only a point of reference but also a space
for memory making. Similarly, creating such spaces within built spaces is the function
of architecture. Architecture is not only an art but also an ‘architeacher’.