Rewarding the Least Surprising Work

Some pull-outs from Stephen Heppell’s talk, Learning Spaces, Working Places.

Description of the talk from the RSS feed: There is a revolution in the design of learning spaces all round the world and inevitably this is now impacting on the design of corporate space too. As corporations aspire to become learning organisations and move away from their training rooms and training culture they’re increasing looking to designs for schools to inform their transformation. At the same time the design of schools and universities has much to learn from the radical new ways that people organise their working lives : for example in the new media industries. This talk explores how, in designing spaces for learning and working, there is a need for dialogue.

at 1:02:55

To get a first class honors degree in 1920 you had to astonish your professors. They’d look at what you produced and said, “Blimey! Have you seen what Bill’s done? Have you seen what Mabel’s done? Astonishing stuff!” (I’m assuming everyone was called Mabel in the 1920s.) Now to get a first class honors degree, you produce the least surprising paper. There’s a tick box [rubrics] and they say, “Yes, we expected that, we expected that, and that… Well, by golly, he’s got everything.” That is madness, absolute madness.

He goes on to comment about the type of architecture that promotes this type of thinking.

…buildings that allow students to not surprise anybody, is about putting them in egg boxes, is about the cells and bells model. [a little later:]

New approaches are open, open, open, as is the architecture. If you go away from here, promise me one thing: never build another corridor in your lives. Why on earth would you spend 20% of an institution’s budget on places that move people around between the boxes that you didn’t need to build? If you do nothing else but abandon your corridors, suddenly you’ve got a generous budget, suddenly you’ve got collegiality, suddenly you’ve got community, suddenly you’ve got agility. Just don’t build the corridor. If you’re a naughty kid in a school the best thing that could happen to you is that you’re put out in the corridor. Second best thing is getting to the toilets.

What would happen if we designed learning spaces for conversations, community, interaction, discussion–for surprises? What would that place look like? Where would it be? How would it look like in cyberspace? How would it support what’s happening in meatspace– and vice-versa?

Posted on October 12, 2010 at 2:45 pm by admin · Permalink
In: Alternative Ed, Design, Participatory Culture · Tagged with: , , , ,

2 Responses

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  1. Written by Charlieroy1977
    on October 14, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    @ Bill
    You'd like the work of Fielding and Nair on in terms of school design.

  2. Written by wfarren
    on October 20, 2010 at 8:06 am

    Thanks Charlie: Never heard of it. Will check it out.

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