29th June 2020


In the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic we asked designers to consider what a Covid-aware learning space might look like. What elements would be retained from the temporary solutions that were implemented in the early stages of the health emergency? And what could we learn from the new ways of delivering teaching and learning?

In this entry, James Clarke of furniture manufacturers, Learniture, sought to create distinct learning zones defined by their function meaning that furniture did not need to be moved as this would have created opportunities for cross-contamination. Similarly, circulation around the space needed to be achieved whilst avoiding passing close to other occupants.


“One of the most surprising things we discovered” commented James, “was that whereas previously we’d preferred square spaces to create maximum flexibility, in terms of circulation, narrow spaces worked better”. Within the direct instruction classroom, having just two tables per row means a teacher can circulate the whole room and support individual students without having to venture deep into the space.


To minimise touch points, the design does not have doors between the traditional direct instruction classroom and adjacent break-out spaces. To reduce the likelihood of cross-transfer of sound between the two spaces, therefore, the design uses a ‘chicane’ detail. Similarly, to avoid the teacher having to raise their voice in the classroom space (that would otherwise have been necessary with a long thin space) the teaching position is central to the space, with two overhead display screens for each ‘half’ of the room.


One teacher would still have to supervise 30+ students so the design includes a lot of glass – both internally to the adjacent break-out space, and externally to the covered outside courtyard and amphitheatre to ensure they have clear lines of sight.


Viral transmission outside is significantly lower than indoors, whilst the effect of nature on your mental wellbeing is also beneficial. Not only this, but outdoors is the only space where, whilst the virus remains prevalent, it is still safe to gather together large groups for plenary sessions. So the design includes large terraced landscaping acting as an outdoor auditorium as well as an attractive social, or independent learning space served by good quality outdoor WiFi.


To minimise the amount of time when large groups are together in an enclosed space, it is assumed that classes of 30 will be split into two subgroups: the first 15 would have direct instruction and them swap with the second 15 who would study independently or within groups.


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