On the Same Page: Designing for the Future
Posted April 1
"The future belongs to those who give the next generation reason for hope." - Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Inspired by the historical significance of improving the learning environment of the entire Laboratory Schools' campus, representatives of the faculty and administration have joined the architects to help forecast the future. Beginning on March 31 and continuing on April 6 and April 8, members of this team will conduct interviews with nationally known experts, by telephone or in person. Their responses to teacher and architect-generated questions will likely influence the design of both renovated buildings and new construction.
The planning process being used is supportive and comprehensive. Having participated in numerous school construction projects prior to arriving at Lab, I am particularly gratified to have the support and expertise of the University of Chicago. Steering Committee meetings led by a project manager and the University's Vice President of Strategic Initiatives are held bi-weekly to keep the focus on educational quality and fiscal responsibility. The idea to "pick the brains" of experts in the field came from one of our bi-weekly meetings.
Questions to be asked of the experts range from broad-based inquiries about how to design facilities that support our emphasis on early childhood play to specific questions regarding technology, on-line learning experiences, and year-round schooling. The interviews are expected to last approximately an hour and will be attended by members of the faculty, architects, the University of Chicago Steering Committee, and Lab's Board of Directors.
Twelve experts will be interviewed and include artists, early childhood specialists, library consultants, sociologists, technology specialists, and scientists. Three of those being interviewed are members of the University of Chicago faculty. The interviews are being taped, and transcripts will be made available for all who have participated in the process.
In addition to the interviews, members of the project team have begun site visitations to schools identified that have outstanding features, such as a library or outstanding early childhood facilities. During the spring break, schools in Washington, D.C. and the Philadelphia area were visited, and a west coast trip to six additional sites is planned for April.
Finally, the architects, faculty members, and administrators completed a review of the literature pertaining to the future of education. Combined with the interviews of educational forecasters and site visitations of exemplary practices, our architects will have a wealth of information to inform their work.
Our Lab+ Campaign is alive and moving forward. Collecting this additional but extremely important information has only minimally delayed our planning. We anticipate presenting the architectural design to University of Chicago Trustees by March 2010. By that time, we are hoping that the financial markets will be more stable and that the necessary credit will be available.
So that we don't lose any time or momentum, this summer we will begin a critical infrastructure improvement. Bids will soon be received to replace the eastern side of the roof on Blaine Hall while school is not in session.
I am confident that the process we are initiating-looking at what has succeeded in the past, acting on what Lab needs now, and planning for the needs of future generations-is a process that is so Lab-like. We are giving the next generation of students a reason for hope!