Schools “Scaffold” Way to Education

Event: The Global Polis, Workshop 3: Education Infrastructures
Location: Center for Architecture, 07.22.09
Speakers: Urshula Barbour — Co-principal, Pure + Applied; Gavin Browning — Programming Coordinator, Studio X Design Group; Pablo Helguera — Director of Adult and Academic Programs, Education Department, Museum of Modern Art; Prem Krishnamurthy — Project Projects; Damon Rich — Urban Designer, City of Newark, & Founder, Center for Urban Pedagogy; Catherine Teegarden — Director of Programs@theCenter, Center for Architecture Foundation; Rosten Woo — Executive Director, Center for Urban Pedagogy
Respondent: Adam Kleinman — Curator, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council
Sponsors: Center for Architecture Foundation (Underwriter); The Austrian Cultural Forum (Lead Sponsor); Consulate General of The Netherlands (Supporter); Times Square Alliance (Friend)

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“The Global Polis: Interactive Infrastructures.”

Bjorn Wallander

“People learn in different ways,” said Pablo Helguera, director of adult and academic programs in the Museum of Modern Art’s education department. He believes that educational spaces should be both physical and social. In the final of three workshops, two groups of architects, graphic designers, planners, and community leaders debated and sketched their thoughts on how cities can engage their citizens by building publicly accessible educational institutions. The drawings will become part of an evolving exhibition, “The Global Polis: Interactive Infrastructures,” on view at the Center for Architecture through 08.29.09.

Education is not something of worth but something of value, asserted Adam Kleinman of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Rosten Woo, executive director of the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP), noted that government plays a large role in learning, and the educational system is an “incredibly hierarchical one.” Urshula Barbour, co-principal of Pure + Applied added, “People expect to be lectured to. They aren’t as flexible as one would expect.” Helguera suggests a combination of open-ended and regimented structures as a way to build community and identity among students.

Damon Rich, founder of CUP and an urban designer for the City of Newark, shared his experience observing a class at Harvard Business School. It was, essentially, a class on how to take classes at the university. Surprisingly, this structured environment in which students learned what to expect from their courses and how best to manage their time resulted in a lot of interaction, both socially and academically. To foster a better learning and social experience for students, he proposes that designers should hold such “institutional critiques” of educational spaces and how they are programmmed.

“Scaffolding,” a metaphor for supporting students as they learn, is a technique used in education, Rich explained. The design of educational spaces should accomplish the same in more literal terms; the workshop participants agreed.