Home 2.0 Blog Archive

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


Rethinking the 'Schoolhouse'

This past week several of my colleagues at SHP Leading Design were in Austin, Texas at the annual SXSWedu Conference to launch the '9 Billion Schools' movement, which was conceived as a way to inspire discussion, innovation and action to help create a world where everyone benefits from learning that is personalized as well as life-long, life-wide and life-deep. You can learn more about '9 Billion Schools' and how it got its name by watching the video below and visiting 9billionschools.org.

So what does this have to do with the Home 2.0 Project? I say everything because there is no place where learning is more personalized than at ones' home. It is the place where we spend the most time, where we develop our most valuable life skills, and where we have the most control of our immediate surroundings. The key is being able to optimize spaces to facilitate learning in the most effective way for us, designing our own personal 'Schoolhouse'. As an architect who not only designs school buildings, but also designed my own house, I want to share some examples of how learning has been incorporated into the various spaces of my personal residence as well as the Oakley Home 2.0 project I am working on that is set to start construction next month.
A Place for Reading (Good Weather): The Porch | Elevated high above street level, the front porch of my Pleasant Ridge home has the feel of being on a balcony or urban roof deck connected, yet distant from the surrounding neighborhood. Shaded from the sun and cooled by the passing breezes, the porch provides a serene setting for immersing myself in a book on a warm summer day.
A Place for Reading (Cincinnati Weather): The Couch | Unfortunately, Cincinnati's climate is often not conducive to porch sitting, which means most of my reading moves indoors to the comfort of my couch, which is still a pretty great spot. Flooded with an abundance of daylight and views of the outdoors, my living room makes for another inviting place to relax with a book and discover all the literary world has to offer.
A Place for Creating: The Office Studio | In addition to reading, another form of learning I make space for in my home as a daily habit is creating. Whether it is creating content for my blog or website, working on building projects, or experimenting with different piano chords, the cozy confines of the office studio provides a place where I can practice my crafts of writing, designing and playing music with minimal distractions in a learning by doing environment.
A Place for Expression: The Living/Dining/Kitchen Area | In a digital age where everyone is constantly plugged into their personal devices, our social skills and interactions with others (even our own families) are on the decline. For this reason it is important to have spaces in the home that facilitate conversation and emotional connections with others. This is one of the advantages of the open plan living/dining/kitchen layout where those in the living area can freely interact with those in the dining and kitchen area and vice versa.
A Place for Mindfulness: The Meditation Room (a.k.a. guest bedroom) | A morning ritual I developed last year and have practiced daily for the past 9-months is meditation facilitated by the Headspace App. It has been an incredibly positive development in my life and gives me a sense of clarity and perspective heading into each day that had previously been lacking. The space I have adopted as my meditation room is the guest bedroom (except for the days when I have guests staying over), which with its soft carpet, quiet acoustics and comfortable size, makes for an excellent place to be mindful.
A Dynamic Learning Place: The Nook (Oakley Home 2.0) | One of the new kinds of spaces I've incorporated into the design of the Oakley Home 2.0 project that I'm most excited about is the Learning Nook. Imagined as a place for multiple types of learning to occur, the Nook features bench seating (sized to accommodate standard patio cushions) with built-in storage below, dimmable task lighting, a plethora of places to plug-in, and markerboard wall panels for art and creative problem solving. Located adjacent to the front roof deck, the Nook also provides easy access to the outdoors for additional learning opportunities for kids and adults alike.
In closing, I would like to point out that while the homes I have designed for myself are full of learning spaces, the manner in which the places became associated with different activities was very much unplanned and only became clear over time through experimenting and experiencing. Coincidentally, this evolutionary process is quite similar to what happens with the schools I have helped designed in the way the furniture and classroom arrangements shift and adapt over time. Oftentimes, the key to success as designers of learning places, both at home and in schools is recognizing that the only constant we can account for is change and that building in the flexibility to accommodate this the best we can is what creates truly sustainable learning environments in which inhabitants can flourish.