Education

This broadsheet from The British Land Company PLC considers some of the ways in which EDUCATION has developed in this country, by studying the different kinds of buildings that have been used as schools and colleges. At first, most were adapted from existing structures - almost anything would do, it appears, so long as it had a large open space where lessons could be held. It was not until the early Victorian period - as with so much else - that an architectural language specifically matched to the needs of education began to emerge. In the present century, some of the most gifted architects in the country have applied their talents to commissions to design suitable buildings. Viewed in sequence, these structures show how far attitudes to education have changed over the centuries.

Though their original purpose may no longer be served, each one of these buildings, no matter how ancient its fabric, continues in one form or another to be concerned with teaching. Purpose-built schools are a comparatively recent phenomenon and, in designing them, architects have rarely been afforded a completely free hand. In any commission, the wishes of the client exert a strong influence. This is particularly noticeable in the field of education, where powerful external forces (most noticeably ideology and money) are at work. The priorities tend to change with the passage of time - sometimes subtly, sometimes more dramatically. Even when we are simply looking at the outside of a building, we can be very aware of these shifts in policy. Do the prevailing orthodoxies encourage architects to design a structure in which an atmosphere of openness and accessibility can be nurtured, where learning becomes a pleasure and creativity is valued? Or do they direct them towards a closed-off, heavily controlled environment where words such as 'discipline' and 'duty' become over­emphasised? Do architects themselves fully recognise the needs of the people who will use the buildings they design?

Having looked at the outward faces of these structures, we might ask further questions. What was taught in these places? What was it like to study there? The architecture of education is, obviously, only one level of a very complicated and multi­dimensional subject, and we can only allude here to some of its broader ramifications. Nevertheless, we hope that talking about the school and college buildings on this broadsheet will inspire a broader understanding of the progress of education in this country. Few other subjects so markedly affect our lives.

The British Land Company PLC, (Educational Publications), 10 Cornwall Terrace, Regent's Park, London NW1 4QP The text and illustrations are copyright but may be photocopied and circulated for classroom use.
British Land Broadsheets

1600 - Grammar School