The School Building – exhibition

7pm – 8.30pm, 9th November, 2022

The Space, Nottingham Contemporary

Weekday Cross, Nottingham, NG1 2GB

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Contemporary school architecture reflects social interests and shifting theories of learning.  The school building: Speculative models, sensory envelopes, and socio-semantic maps  presents cutting edge research from the ‘Mapping spatial practices and social distancing in smart schools.’ Funded by The Economic and Social Research Council, this interdisciplinary two-year project brought together architecture, design and educational researchers to map the building as a living structure. Using sensory and digital ethnographic methods, we ask: How do students enter, traverse and inhabit school spaces? What kinds of embodied and sensory engagement shape the spatial experience? How does speculative modeling help us re-imagine and redesign the school building to incorporate these other dimensions of experience?  

The exhibition features architectural documents, ethnographic interview data and sensory-digital data collected in collaboration with a group of students in relation to a secondary school in a large urban area of England’s Northwest, designed and constructed with fundings from the national program Building Schools for the Future. The data is processed, connected, and layered through a series of mappings and visualisations that re-imagine the building not as a fixed and completed object but as a living map and resonant milieu. The show explores the power of digital sensors and models to rewire the senses and pose radical questions about the forms of dwelling, living, moving that become possible and impossible through school design.

School life is made up of rhythms, transitions, intensive flows, and feelings of containment. A quiet school fills with noisy pupils entering through multiple access points, bodies in a whirling motion, traversing various stairs and hallways, rushing to or away from class. Smells of coffee and toast from the kitchen pervade the air, pushing in through the doors of open classrooms. Is that the voice of someone still chatting and messing around in the hallway? Time is tracked and packaged, the bell rings and pupils set off again, pushing, shoving, avoiding, packs of moving bodies. Can I help you, where are you going? Teachers, dinner ladies, facility staff, eyes everywhere watching. Daily data documents attendance and sensors continuously monitor and modulate school life.