Transforming Learning Environments: award-winning space design
Nanjing International School, China
Posing the question “Does space help or hinder learning?”, we worked with NIS and their architect to design a brief for spaces that would confidently reflect their school’s forward-looking strategy for success.
From this seemingly simple question, a dedicated design team at the school (teachers, school leaders and students) worked with NoTosh to identify what they understood as ‘space’, what kinds of spaces were needed and what was then needed in those spaces. By exploring different types of learning, seven types of space emerged – Secret, Group, Publishing, Performing, Participation, Data and Watching – and it became clear that although all these activities were taking place in the Library Commons and Early Years classrooms, the spaces themselves weren’t fit for purpose.
Focussing on the three most influential spaces – Secret, Group and Data – NoTosh and the Design Team worked with the students to re-design their learning in a new space. For the Library Commons, this inspired discussion around inclusivity and the need to provide space for both independent learners and those with additional support needs, while for the Early Years classrooms the incorporation of natural lights, colours and materials were seen as essential, as was the ability to work quietly and independently as well as collaboratively in noisier groups.
The voice of the learner was paramount to the process and the recommendations that emerged allowed a clear architectural brief to be drawn up. By working closely with EIW Architects, a fantastic space has been created – one that supports visibility, choice and flexibility, with ‘campfires’ rather than fixed classrooms, with soft, snug spaces for quiet learning, and with furniture that meets the needs of teachers and pupils alike.
The NIS Early Years Space was recognised in the annual Learning Environments Australasia Awards in 2020, with the project winning the Renovation/Modernisation Under AU$5m category.
"There were never barriers when sharing ideas with EIW, who were very aware of the NoTosh influence which puts the client, the learner, at the centre… there was a profound convergence of belief in allowing dreams to become a reality.” Laurie McLellan, School Director< See all Insights