The conversation continued…
The design approach of Vittra School in Stockholm appears to be a positive attempt to simulate a ‘micro-village’ of interwoven work and recreational spaces providing a platform for creative and educational adventure.
The school itself is modelled around a series of classrooms hugging the perimeter of the building which form the borders to the more fluid ‘micro-village’ environment in which pupils (presumably at given times during the week) are free to explore work at a place of their choice.
This arrangement means that instead of being under constant supervision by teachers and peers, pupils are ‘free to roam’ and decide for themselves where to pursue the tasks that they have been set. This has a number of relational implications and I have briefly commented on them according to the five dimensions of relational proximity.
If pupils behave differently in different environments then the depths of multiplexity will be improved since the variety of spatial contexts in which pupils develop their friendships and learning experiences, and therefore their knowledge of each other, are significantly increased.
Designing for Directness
It could be argued that levels of directness between the teacher and pupil would be reduced if the pupils are not all within the same classroom. Yet, if prolonged periods of time are spent in isolation from the teacher when direct contact does happen again between pupil and teacher perhaps this time would be enhanced by the pupil perceiving that the teacher is meeting them in their place of choice and in a more intimate setting free from the distractions of other classmates.
By establishing small, ability based working groups, the continuity of relationships will be similar to the same working groups that are formed around a traditional classroom group table. Yet having a shared purpose for these working groups which are provided with a relatively high level of autonomy to explore and resolve the task at hand within an expansive environment is likely to greatly reinforce the depths of commonality.
There is always an appropriate imbalance of parity between the pupil and teacher but the ability for a teacher to provide a relatively high level of autonomy to the pupils in the ‘micro-village’ does change the parity dynamic between teacher and pupil. However, even if a temporary change in the level of parity is experienced the increased autonomy could positively flavour the rest of the teacher-pupil relationship.
If pupils behave differently in different environments then the depths of multiplexity will be improved since the variety of spatial contexts in which pupils develop their friendships and learning experiences, and therefore their knowledge of each other, are significantly increased. This appears to be the most significant relational change that the design of the Vittra School in Stockholm provides.
Multiplexity – building shared context through the context of a shared building
Multiplexity (or the knowledge of someone in multiple contexts) is understood to be improved if an individual or group are able to interact with their others they are in relationship with in different social or work settings in order to improve their understanding of them. Perhaps this is best seen when work colleagues would meet each other in the pub where different aspects of their personality will emerge. Similarly it is understood that a relationship is improved if either party is able to meet the persons connected to the other party. For example, I may have a friend who I have known for some time but my understanding of them is substantially improved if I were to meet their sibling or spouse.
Perhaps there is also an application of the first principle of multiplexity that whilst staying in a work or educational environment the relationship dynamic changes depending on the places of interaction. In one sense this is obvious but it is simply giving a name to the way relationships and by extension learning experiences are improved by working or studying in different spatial contests.