Schools of the Future Will Look and Function in Surprising Ways

UB program invites community discussion with acclaimed architects

Release Date: September 26, 2007 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Buffalo teacher Donna Grace tells the story of a new student who entered Buffalo's Waterfront School, one of the city's stunning new magnet schools, for the first time 30 years ago.

Wide-eyed with awe, the little girl took in the soaring ceilings, stone floors, walls of glass and colorful, open-design classrooms and said, "This for children?"

Studies repeatedly have found that high-quality school environments increase self-esteem, student-teacher and peer interactions, student motivation and discipline. Those that have designs that incorporate complexity, surprise, novelty and beauty encourage exploratory behavior among students, as well as interest and involvement in school itself. Unfortunately, the reverse also is true.

In October, the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning will offer Western New Yorkers an opportunity see and discuss some of the most exciting and beautiful contemporary schools built here and abroad, and to consider the adoption of such inventive architecture by local school districts.

This series of illustrated lectures, workshops, panel discussion and exhibits involving top architects, as well as educators and artists from Western New York, is devised to facilitate community involvement in school design.

The events will be offered in collaboration with the UB Graduate School of Education, the Buffalo Public Schools, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the Western New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

All will be free and open to the public.

Among the work featured will be that of DSDHA, the prize-winning London architectural firm co-founded by Deborah Saunt and David Hills, which has challenged convention with an award-winning portfolio that includes more than a dozen fresh, "intelligent," high-quality school and university buildings, many of which incorporate services beyond the purely academic.

Saunt will present an illustrated lecture on the firm's work, which includes early childhood centers, nursery schools, elementary schools and college buildings, at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 17 in 301 Crosby Hall on the UB South (Main Street) Campus.

One DSDHA design, for the John Perry Nursery in the London borough of Dagenham, took its inspiration from protected garden environments and was conceived as a "studio for children." The building forms the fourth wall of an existing courtyard and has both outdoor and indoor teaching areas. Polycarbonate walls contribute to the studio feel.

Another DSDHA project is the Paradise Park building, located in Islington in London's inner city. The ground floor includes a nursery, day care center and café. The first floor houses a maternity health center and an office for Sure Start (similar to Head Start) staff and other social workers. DSDHA also worked with a green-wall consultant to design the building so that it has a large-scale green wall -- the first in the United Kingdom.

Urban schools designed by DSDHA can be found on the firm's Web site at

Saunt also will participate in a panel discussion on school design with local architects, faculty members in the UB architecture school and educators from the Buffalo Public Schools. During the panel, which will take place at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 18 in 301 Crosby, she will present for discussion some of the newest and most effective architectural ideas for insuring school efficacy, functional design and mixed use.

An exhibition, "Schools of the Future," will take place Oct. 15-29 in the lobby of Hayes Hall, South Campus. The building will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. A related exhibit, "Williams + Tsien/Art + Use," is being held in the Hayes Hall lobby through Oct. 19.

Todd Williams and Billie Tsien are the critically acclaimed husband-and-wife team known for innovative, lyrical and humanizing modernist designs; creative use of materials, and expertise in creating vibrant spaces in school buildings, including school libraries.

Williams' and Tsien's work in the academic realm includes The Johns Hopkins University's Mattin Student Art Center, Skirkanich Hall at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Cranbrook School's stunning Natatorium in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Williams and Tsien, recently elected to the Academy of Arts and Sciences, have been named the architects for the $100 million Reva and David Logan Center for Creative and Performing Arts at the University of Chicago.

Images of their selected works can be found at their official Web site at

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