Place Versus Space


North Tower- 1st Floor - Garden 3

  • Primary Core Competencies: Design of Educational Facilities
  • AIA CEU: 1. 0 LU
  • Secondary Core Competencies: Educational Visioning


We often spend our time designing schools focused on the Space requirements specified by District standards and guidelines that were created in a time of different needs, greater funding, and different pedagogies. It’s time to shift our focus and create learning environments that reflect today’s goals and empower students and teachers to create their own learning Places. Faced with ever more demanding code requirements, District standards and declining funding, designers must reevaluate what makes for a successful learning environment using less square footage, simplified systems, and simplified methods of construction. By carefully studying the needs of students, evolving pedagogy and technology, and market demands [traditional public schools competing with public charter schools], we examine the trade offs that must be made to optimize the use of district capital investments. By reallocating needs, clients have the opportunity to free up funds for operational needs and increase teacher and staff salaries that are essential for better outcomes for students. We all see that students come to school with ever growing social and emotional needs that the school is called upon to address, especially in underserved communities. This is mainly done through social services provided at the school. However the school building itself can play a vital role in creating a safe nurturing environment that make students feel safe and cared for, allowing them to open up to the support systems within their day to day environment. Many design strategies come into play creating this emotionally safe space including connection to the outdoors, use of natural materials, and creating Places that are spatially supportive for a small learning community. In addition to the addressing the emotional impact of creating a healthy learning Place, a hard look at building systems and costs can lead to a dramatic savings in construction costs without significantly reducing functionality or long term durability. More cost effective structural systems such as the use of wood need to be considered when evaluating the cost benefit of new construction. MEP systems need to be carefully considered as well as natural and electric lighting with a focus on the capital investment. Through a detailed evaluation of Space, we emerge with an understanding of Place. Together we’ll engage in an interactive, 90-minute workshop with the end goal of helping you and your team implement strategies to take back home and find Place within your educational community.

Learning Objectives

OBJ #1  How to create a place that promotes social and emotional security.

OBJ #2  How to create a sense of ownership and comfort to transition a space into a place.

OBJ #3  How to reduce facility costs through efficiencies in planning and reduced square footage.

OBJ #4  How to enhance the sense of Place with connections to the outdoors.

Richard Berliner, AIA, ALEP, LEED AP, NCARB, Principal, Berliner Architects

Ashley Johnson, Associate, Project Designer, Berliner Architects

Darren Shirai, ASLA, RLA, Senior Associate, AHBE, Landscape Architects

Kai Telless, Associate, Berliner Architects