Post-Pandemic Schools: Redesigning traditional classrooms

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The pandemic pushed us to do work and school at home. It has been more than a year since the pandemic started. For someone in the university and laboratory for most of his time, I missed doing laboratory experiments or chatting with friends. We don't know the exact timeline when we can go back to our routines, but I think we won't go back to normal soon. There are vaccines, but with cases still overwhelm our healthcare, I am sure it is not sooner. When we go back to our offices or school, we will see a redefined space, where our cubicle has barriers or at a distance between each other.

Although going back to a classroom is not immediate, I think later we will go back, and we need new spaces that adhere to the government-mandated health standard. We need to accept that we can't have a crowded cafeteria with students chatting everywhere and don't see kids have lunch playtime. We limit the number of students in the classroom by either building more to accommodate all or schedule them on a different day. The pandemic changes our lives, and we need to confide in it.

One key issue that we need to address is how we redesign our classroom to fit the health standards. We can not have 40 or 50 people in our classrooms. The social distancing limits how many people can occupy in a time. Going for a smaller class size means more rooms to build, which may raise the overall cost of education. If schools choose to defer class time, more classes mean higher operating costs. The pandemic creates a design problem where architects, designers, and engineers should balance health and business in designing classrooms. Here are some design proposals and concepts for a post-pandemic school.

Curl la Tourelle Head Architecture's Outdoor Tent

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Curl la Tourelle Head Architecture's outdoor tent concept (Archdaily)

The outdoor tent is a design concept by Curl la Tourelle Head Architecture for a pop-up school in London that prioritizes social distancing among teacher and student. They introduced it in Manorfield Primary School in Tower hamlets. The outdoor tent has a size of 6 meters by 18 meters, which has at least 25% more social distancing than a regular classroom.

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Curl la Tourelle Head Architecture's Handwashing tent concept (Archdaily)

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Curl la Tourelle Head Architecture's Outdoor tent interior concept (Archdaily)

It helps in mitigating restrictions of movement of teachers, staff, and students within schools. It maintains the required social distancing measures. The school will utilize the pop-up tent until the end of the school term. The pop-up tents enable better spacing between students and can take on further pupils due to the tent's spaciousness.

UNIT Fabrication's Social Distancing Furniture

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(Dezeen)

UNIT Fabrication is a UK furniture company that conceptualizes mobile screens for a primary school in London. It helps students to maintain social distancing after the lockdowns. The screen is a plywood panel which they laminated on both sides and painted with vibrant colors. Each screen has wheels for ease of mobility to divide the internal spaces in the school. The designer created the screen at a height where the teacher can maintain visual contact with the students.

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UNIT Fabrication's Social Distancing Furniture (Dezeen)

The designer deliberately chose plywood over the plastic screen. It gives more warmth than the sterile feel of plastic screens. The lamination enables the screen for easy cleaning. They associate each color with a year level to make it easier for students to stay in their bubble.

Soup International's PlayDaze

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Soup Internaltional' PlayDaze Concept (Frameweb)

The PlayDaze concept aims to reminisce a playful learning experience where the classroom has multiple play areas like corridors, tunnels, bridges, and open classrooms. The design aims to allow children to engage with others outside their bubbles through contactless play. The classroom is a playground that encourages students to have a playful experience; hence the doors are repurposed windows. The walls extend into the classrooms, which divides the classes up into two bubbles.

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Soup Internaltional' PlayDaze Concept (Frameweb)

Tatiana Garcia Bacca, Beth Hooper, Himani Harikrishna Ravuri, Ed Chelsea Rimando, and Aysha Farhana designed the PlayDaze. They get inspiration from Aldo Van Ayck and Charles Forberg Cypress Hill Playgrounds. They adapted the concept of minding with social distancing required during the Covid-19 pandemic. They also considered the works of Sanaa, RO/LU, IOU Theatre, and AAM Architects, which heavily influenced people to engage by employing sensory manipulation, tricks, and games.

Brooklyn Laboratory Charter School

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One of Situ's proposals for a covered porch to shelter students during arrival. (Architect Magazine)

Brooklyn Laboratory Charter School is a network of public schools in downtown Brooklyn. The school collaborated with five architecture and design firms to reimagine the post-COVID-19 schools. The WXY Architecture + Urban Design proposed to have arrival checkpoints as outdoor classrooms. The design addresses how adults and students to be socially distanced while in line to take temperatures. Situ presents another plan on how the school measures the temperature and sanitizes their teachers and students.

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One proposal from WXY Architecture + Urban Design (Architect Magazine)

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An arrival sequence diagram from Situ (Architect Magazine)

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PSF Projects considers several different proposals for a front porch to shelter students during arrival. (Architect Magazine)

They planned to have a front porch that serves as a shelter for the incoming teachers and students while queuing for temperature and health checks. Situ proposed a scaffolding design with other intricate features that keeps the students and teacher entertained while in a queue. The school board tries to have the most suited design that enables them to deliver education to all children, including those under the Special Education program. They also consider the teacher-to-student ratio in each room by considering social distancing measures. PBDW conducted space planning to see how many students, teachers, and aides can fit in a single classroom. They have two proposals: without barriers and with barriers.

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PBDW Classroom Design(Architect Magazine)

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PBDW Classroom Design (Architect Magazine)

When the schools reopen, many schools need to have classrooms that suit the required health measures. Again, it creates a design problem where architects, designers, and engineers should balance health and business in designing classrooms. Architects, designers, and engineers answer the call and design ingenious and feasible classrooms that address the needs for socially distancing in schools. They were able to present concepts that let the students interact but still following the social distancing measures.


Note: The cover image of this post is created by the author using Canva.

References

  1. Curl la Tourelle Head Builds First Socially Distanced Tent for a London Primary School
  2. CLTH Proposes Adaptive Design for Schools post COVID-19
  3. UNIT Fabrications builds social-distancing furniture for London primary school
  4. Post-Pandemic Schooling: Seeing the playground as an extension of the classroom
  5. The Back To School Facilities Toolkit Helps Visualize School Design After COVID-19
  6. Before-and-after photos show how the pandemic has changed classroom setups
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