• Ongoing coronavirus / COVID-19 discussion: how is the pandemic affecting your community, workplace, and wellness? 🦠

    Working from home? So are we. Come join us! Cyburbia is a friendly big tent, where we share our experiences and thoughts about urban planning practice, planning adjacent topics, and whatever else comes to mind. No ads, no spam, no social distancing.

Why are schools the worst buildings? (Kunstler Jan 04)

Wannaplan?

Bounty Hunter
Messages
3,198
Points
28
Mayor (or School District Supervisor) for a Day

I'd like JHK to be a mayor for a day. I'd like to see how he'd do putting out fires all day and then have to deal with dwindling revenues to pay for new educational facilities. Yep, that's a yucky building. But before ya crticize, figger out why the design is the way it is. I figger the windows are so small is because dat's energy efficient and cheaper in the long-run.

(P.S. I've been to Pflugerville. Weird.)
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,463
Points
29
Of course, you're right, Wanigas. There is always a reason for bad design. But, too often, bad architectural theory chases dwindling resources, and the train wreck of modern school design results. :)
 

GeogPlanner

Cyburbian
Messages
1,433
Points
25
i thought that schools were built for maximum security these days. and every architect has to put thier signature into the design...there is no such thing as conventional design...
 

Seabishop

Cyburbian
Messages
3,838
Points
25
I live near a juvenial detention center and unfortunately he's right about that comparison. Of course, Wanigas is also right about having the budget for nicer designs.

No matter the design, elementary schools are going to be much bigger than the one's in Kunstler's head, and harder to fit in an existing neighborhood. Most states require acres of land to site a new school with all the recreational amenities and parking. The little red school house of years past didn't have thousands of kids being driven in for miles around.
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,463
Points
29
And, in answer to Kunstler's question about what kind of future citizens are being produced by the megaschools mentioned by Seabishop: perfect employees for WalMart and other large corporations (which was one of the reasons for standardized urban schools to begin with :) )
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
13,689
Points
53
I might agree with you Wanigas?, to a point. But, more and more, I get the feeling that the 'tight bugets' argument is a cop-out argument. We have a lot of wealth in the US, maybe it's being spent poorly.

How much more does better design cost? The fee for a better architect, is all I can think of.

Most new schools are very large, so the costs of labor and materials for better spaces and detailing (subjective, I know) would surely be negligible compared to the entire project cost.

the size of required land area for new schools has no real bearing on the design of the building itself. You could have 70 acres of land, and still build a nice building.

As for JHK's pic, we are only seeing a segment of the building and this pic may be of the worst part of the building. The buidling's architectural aesthetics are probably just supericial, the important element is whether the interior functions well.
 
Last edited:
Messages
5,352
Points
31
mendelman said:
The buidling's architectural aesthetics are probably just supericial, the important element is whether the interior functions well.
Are you speaking of the school's administration and the students' learning aptitude or just the interior physical characteristics of the building?
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,463
Points
29
Interesting quote (from the New Colonist) www.newcolonist.org:

In the Deep South, Republican Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina last summer signed a neighborhood school bill, which rescinds school acreage requirements and will speed the construction of new schools in existing neighborhoods.

The new law, said Mr. Sanford, ''makes sense from a learning standpoint, an economic standpoint, and it makes sense if you want to have schools that are part of a community's fabric as opposed to part of its sprawl.''

I agree with Mendlement, though, that bad design is a cop-out. A much poorer America produced beautiful schools.

The situation also reflects the major problem with "modernist" architecture-modernism doesn't provide a very good template for mediocre designers to develop attractive and functional everyday buildings. And, most architects are mediocre (just like most planners or most everybody :) )

I'm not sure I totally agree with you, Mendleman, on one point. Aesthetics are NOT unimportant. If you send kids to a "functional" concrete prison, I would have to believe that it does negatively impact their school experience.

Or, to get "artsy" on you-might not ugly public buildings contribute to the impoverishment of our common culture?
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
13,689
Points
53
BKM said:
I'm not sure I totally agree with you, Mendleman, on one point. Aesthetics are NOT unimportant. If you send kids to a "functional" concrete prison, I would have to believe that it does negatively impact their school experience.
Well, the aesthetics may be important to those that know what they are looking at/for.

I went to highschool in a 1967 vintage modernist school building built to house 1500 kids. Most students, myself included, probably never thought about the exterior aesthetics, but definitely complained when there were congestion points in the halls.

It didn't have a classical ordering to the exterior elements, but had a decent layout (three one-story 'commons' with several 2-story 'houses') and lots of windows with lots of natural light.

The small windows in JHK's pic is the element that I dislike the most, and see everywhere.

Or, to get "artsy" on you-might not ugly public buildings contribute to the impoverishment of our common culture?
Yes, unadorned concrete is nasty (in most instances)
 

jordanb

Cyburbian
Messages
3,232
Points
25
I think asthetics are very important, up to the point at which they become subjective. Building schools to look like prisons will have a negative impact on children and should be avoided.

The problem with Kunstler et al is that they think that asthetics is the most important consideration in the construction of a place or building. To do so ignores the complex array of considerations that go into the built environment and results in places that may look good, but are functionally exactly the same as an uglier product. That's the primary problem with new urbanists, I think. They attack sprawl because it's ugly, so the only "solution" to sprawl they have is to build good-looking sprawl.
 
Messages
5
Points
0
My school building was in an architectual magazine for being one of the best designed schools. I'll have to find it, the've got copies of it at our school. Needless to say the leaks in the ceiling of this fairly new, multi-million dollar school really proves that it is worth the tax dollars.

http://cmhs.cabe.k12.wv.us

Gosh....

JW
 
Top