Schools architects likened to oxen
Schools architects in the brave new world of standardisation have been likened to oxen after the invention of tractors
Simon Lucas, head of education and children’s services at cost consultant EC Harris, urged the profession to be realistic about the future of school design.
Shortly before he was due to speak at the BSEC education conference which opens at London’s ExCel today, he told BD: “This is terribly provocative but if there’s not an increasing role for architects – well, OK.
“After the invention of the internal combustion engine there was no longer a role for oxen-pulled ploughs. No one said, ‘Should we keep on as we are because we’ve got lots of oxen?’ That’s an incredibly unkind analogy.”
His vision of standardisation is for the buildings to be essentially kit-built so that the lion’s share of the money could be invested in creating genuinely clever interiors.
A former teacher, he said classrooms needed to be capable of reconfiguration in minutes to be truly flexible.
He said there would be a role for architects here – but also for product designers, interior designers and engineers.
Architects would also be needed to fit schools into tricky landscapes and conservation areas, he said.
“It’s not the complete removal of a role but a change of role,” he said.
“We’ll see a bigger focus on design and less on architecture.
“What you are not doing is spending a large proportion of the budget on the shell. You still have to make it fit in the landscape, do what it does and look attractive, but the focus will be a lot more on what happens inside.”
But he also warned that standardisation done badly could dictate the curriculum rather than the other way round.
“The question is where does standardisation stop and imposition begin? I increasingly believe there’s a role for very clever engineering design,” he added.