School Building Architecture

Doris C. C. K. Kowaltowski

An examination of the various aspects of school buildings design and their relationship with educational theories and teaching methodologies, the book also explores the influence environmental comfort has on learning.

School Building Architecture explains the different methods for project evaluation and the most important patterns and elements to be considered when designing school buildings.

The author presents and amuses the reader with a little bit of history and trends in school building architecture all over Europe, in Brazil, and in the USA , among other countries, as she provides readers with  illustrations,  examples, and case studies.

The author also addresses current concepts and trends in school buildings architecture and their application on new projects and as a way to improve existing ones.

Original title
Arquitetura escolar
Year of publication

About the authors

Doris C. C. K. Kowaltowski

Doris Kowaltowski graduated in Architecture at Melbourne University, later obtaining her Masters and Doctoral degrees at University of California. She is currently professor at University of Campinas.

Author's CV (in portuguese).

1. Education: pedagogy and the teaching and learning process
1.1 A brief history of the foundations of education
1.2 A summary of pedagogical theories


2. The school environment and its quality components

2.1 Human resources
2.2 Organizational Aspects


3. School Architecture
3.1 School Architecture in Europe
2.3 School Architecture in the United States of America
3.3 School Architecture in developing countries
3.4 School architecture in Brazil: aspects of its history and deployment
3.5 Default projects: experiences and meanings


4. Performance and comfort of the school environment

4.1 Desires and preferences
4.2 School environment evaluation
4.3 School environment performance considerations


5. Concepts and trends in school architecture
Design Parameter 1 – Classrooms, learning environments and small learning communities
Design Parameter 2 – inviting entrance
Design Parameter 3 – student work Display areas
Design Parameter 4 – Individual Storage Space for materials
Design Parameter 5 – sciences and arts laboratories
Design Parameter 6 – Art, music and performing arts
Design Parameter 7 – PE Area
Design Parameter 8 – Cafeterias
Design Parameter 9 – Transparency
Design Parameter 10 – indoor and outdoor Views
Design Parameter 11 – Distributed Technology
Design Parameter 12 – Connection between external and internal spaces
Design Parameter 13 – Upholstered sitting furniture
Design Parameter 14 – Flexible Spaces
Design Parameter 15 – Campfire
Design Parameter 16 – Watering hole space
Design Parameter 17 – Cave space
Design Parameter 18 – Project for Multiple Intelligences
Design Parameter 19 – Natural light
Design Parameter 20 – Natural ventilation
Design Parameter 21 – Lighting, colors and learning
Design Parameter 22 – Elements of sustainability
Design Parameter 23 – Subscription site
Design Parameter 24 – Connecting with the community
Design Parameter 25 – The Courtyard, school implementation and open spaces adequacy.
Design Parameter 26 – Incorporation of the gymnasium in the volume the building
Design Parameter 27 –Area enclosure
Design Parameter 28 – Integration of external spaces
Design Parameter 29 – Scale and functional aspects
Design Parameter 30 – Acoustic comfort
Design Parameter 31 – Accessibility
Design Parameter 32 – Summary of parameters (“putting it all together”)


6. School architecture and its design process
6.1 The design process
6.2 Design Process for traditional schools
6.3 reference Process of school project
6.4 enriched Design Process


Further Reading


Education carries within itself such importance that it reaches far beyond its pedagogic reach and the formation of people as individuals. It is an object of study and intervention for all areas of knowledge. As the basis and foundation of society, it is also a motto for architects who materialize environments for their further development.

Decades of studies, research, and proposals for Brazilian and international school architecture published have meant significant advances in knowledge and application of technical and qualitative parameters. Such parameters are suitable for the implementation of better school environments in accordance with educational goals; even though, criticism and questions about the proposed spaces are still a reality.
The problem is undoubtedly complex, and its origin may be institutional, as a part of public policies and in the technical and professional spectrum of each agent in each area of science here involved.

In this book, teacher and researcher Doris Kowaltowski gathers current input and valuable information for the design of school architecture, synthesizing years of restless search for the core values that support and praise school environments, showing particular appreciation for education.

As a researcher on virtuous processes and methodologies of architectural environments design and evaluation, Professor Doris has taken on the theme schools as the school community itself has raised questions about the role of institutional buildings and the media has disseminated the unsatisfactory academic performance standards in Brazil in recent decades, particularly in elementary school.

It can also be noted that this type of architecture is still being assigned values with different concepts among architects and educators, students and the community, especially in environment components and school architecture which indicate a lack of consensus among the parts involved with this subject.

Such fact questions the quality of Brazilian education in all its aspects, whether they are intangible, whether they are material, as with architecture. This demonstrates that this fact has multidisciplinary roots, and it requires the attention of all sectors in society.

Professor Doris raises public education to the status of a national priority, thus requiring a careful, sensitive and yet technical and precise effort from areas involved in its formation and development: its social and cultural relevance is pivotal to building a more egalitarian society and to form true individual citizens.

From the standpoint of the school, good architecture expressed by the perceptual aspects of buildings - conceptual, forms, aesthetic - is recognized through its representation and influence in the school surroundings and in its distinction by the community.

Care actions with the historical heritage and institutions represent manifestations of respect and belonging expressed through the school community. The architectural condition here is pointed out and differentiated by society.

However, are these attributes enough to ensure real ownership of such space, and to create favorable conditions for learning experiences and interpersonal relationships?

In this book, Doris Kowaltowski shares the view that the relationship between pedagogy and architecture is fundamental and goes beyond the visible aspects of perception. Other parameters, supported by life experience, are also essential in those environments, such as functionality, usability, pedagogy identities - in theory and practice - culture, environmental comfort, equipment, furniture and construction features, deployment, and facilities infrastructure. Together they collaborate to confer the distinction and recognition of places for those who use them and, above all, the appropriation of those places by the school community.

Professor Doris´ researches gather valuable data and show the complicity between school architecture and the education improvement in the training and educational attainment of complete citizens. Thus, she gathers and revisits studies that have been already undertaken and have led to complete and very detailed programs focused on architectural needs related to functionality and spaciousness.
That seem to correspond to situations where the minimum space standards are met, still it is insufficient to ensure quality environments committed to improving public education.

The author points us to other values and attributes that can, and must be added up in the formulation and development of projects, understanding those values and attributes as mediators among content, pedagogy and subjects and pointing out directions and safe paths for the design of a good quality school architecture. It is up to the architect to understand the complexity of content, pedagogy and, social actions and play the role of an interpreter to design educational environments sensitive to social and educational demands with necessary merits to qualify them, as well as the school as an institution and as an architectural work of art.

The education landscape in this book selects representative works examples worldwide. Such works share the view that the quality of school performance is also influenced by the building and its facilities, as well as its relations with the place and territory surrounding it.
The author stresses the importance of the dialogue between architecture and education through generous and detailed views on approaching values and attributes to the school environment, considering the processes and design methodologies as a fundamental procedure for a leap forward in architecture and school performance.

Among the contributions by Doris Kowaltowski in this book we highlight the following:
- The imperative understanding of the pedagogical knowledge field by the architect, committed to its history and development, and its unique role in shaping a quality school environment which is appropriated to and recognized by society;
- Discussion on the role of program requirements for school architecture, through the educational view point;
- Recognition and assimilation of the architecture technology field, which is evidenced in its scientific, technical and applied aspects, such as the requirements for achieving excellence in school architecture;
- The importance of incorporating complex attributes and parameters for methodology and design process that exceed the current limits of existing institutional program needs, helping to qualify and enhance school architecture;
- The details of methodologies for architecture design that start from the premise of interdependence between quality of the physical and the academic performance.

For me, it is an opportunity to present this book and a privilege to introduce the synthesis of generous basic researches led and undertaken by Doris Kowaltowski in the field of architecture and quality school environments. Undoubtedly, the content herein will contribute to the excellence of architectural projects and the Brazilian education.

Cybele Haddad Taralli
Professor at the School of Architecture and Urbanism of the University of Sao Paulo