Lights, Camera, Learning!: Turning High End Performance spaces into High Performance Educational Space

When you walk through a school during a typical day there is always a rhythm accompanying you. Every building is different, but there is always a rhythm. Dropped pencils, scurrying footsteps, bells and tones and the din of youthful exuberance populate the symphony. This score gives learning environments a unique pulse. Great learning environments have a score that builds excitement and decrescendos into quiet reflection.

Sadly the daily symphony rarely continues into the dedicated performance areas. Performance spaces are typically locked behind soundproof doors and unlit, except for the occasional exit sign. These lobbies, stages, and seating areas sit quiet and empty waiting for their solo.  But it doesn’t have to be that way…

The lobby, a critical space for pre and post function activities, is often one of the best environments in a modern school. Filled with technology, flexible and comfortable seating, and wonderful daylight, these spaces are archetypes for 21st Century learning spaces. When teamed with creative programs they create the collaborative spaces missing from 20th century schools.

One of the other greatly underutilized school spaces are often the cafeteria and dining spaces. They serve a great number of students for a brief period of the day. Teaming them with the event lobby leads to higher use and greater energy.

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At Knoxville High School, the auditorium is adjacent to the main entry and dining commons, providing both visibility of performances throughout the day and additional seating for formal performances. If needed, it can be closed off via soundproof operable walls.
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At Meridian High School a small fixed seating house was on the “dream list,” for this small high school. By teaming it with retractable theater seating, the expandable house can seat 450 for that once a year event, but provide dining and collaboration space for the rest of the year for adjacent spaces.

Or you can bring life to the evolving 21st century library to allow the high technology and flexible space, available most days, to evolve media centers into Information Commons. This approach harnesses the video screens and wifi that performance spaces need to augment media spaces. The comfortable and flexible seating lobbies offer, makes for great collaboration and break-out space in the media center.

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At Geneseo High School the Performing Arts Lobby will replace the casual seating and collaboration areas formerly located in the library. It will host classes and study halls M-F and be supervised by the library staff in the adjacent Information Commons.
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At Eisenhower High School there is an informal stage that is found in the middle of the school commons. This not only makes it a great gathering spot before and after events, it also becomes the center of student life throughout the school day.

The House: Other programs have chosen to make portions of the audience seating areas into flexible learning environments. Due to the large areas needed to house the audience, the house, there are many opportunities to create learning space. Some of the most dynamic learning studios in our buildings are the collaboration and break-out spaces in reconfigured audience areas.

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At Eastview Christian Church their Foundry Performance space uses movable seating and alcoves in the mezzanine to allow small group learning and collaboration to happen everyday.
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At Macarthur High School portions of the renovated auditorium were recaptured for flexible classrooms space. These created large multipurpose rooms that can open for additional seating when the performance calls for a bigger house. The rooms are used for large group instruction, team practices, and testing.

Coupling desirable secondary uses for our performance space designs allows for high utilization and impacts the entire educational experience. These outcomes transform performance spaces from desirable amenities to essential educational space.

 

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