10 Books On School Design

Advice and Plans for Building Better Schools

A student reads on a dotted carpet where students often sit for class
Reading Pod Spaces at Harlem Success Academy, a Free, Public Elementary Charter School in New York City. Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Boards of Education who plan schools, public officials who build schools, and architects who design schools all face many challenges. Educational architecture must provide safety, facilitate learning, accommodate new technologies, and incorporate ever-changing theories about how students learn while remaining safe. For important concepts, construction advice, photographs, and plans, explore these books on school design.

Author and architect Prakash Nair, REFP, has been described as "one of the world’s leading change agents in school design." Co-founding partner of Fielding Nair International, known the world over for visionary school design, Nair gives a "Blueprint for Tomorrow," thoroughly explaining how today's education dollars can best be spent for tomorrow's successes. Subtitled Redesigning Schools for Student-Centered Learning, this 2014 book is published by Harvard Education Press.

The 1991 book by criminologist Timothy D. Crowe (1950-2009), subtitled Applications of Architectural Design and Space Management Concepts, became a standard textbook for school design. This practical guide discusses ways to minimize crime in a variety of settings, including playgrounds. The general concepts have helped architects design more secure schools for many years. The Third Edition (2013) has been updated and revised by Lawrence J. Fennelly.

Researchers and academic Mark Dudek examines both the practical requirements for school design and the subtle psychological needs of students. Twenty case studies illustrate the connection between architectural design and educational theories. This is one in a series of research publications by Mark Dudek Associates.

Subtitled Leadership, Architecture, and Management, this book examines the impact and role of the physical environment of the school on teaching, learning, and educational outcomes. At over 400 pages long, the 2005 text is marketed as "both a reference and textbook" written by Professors Jeffrey A. Lackney and C. Kenneth Tanner.

California-based architect Lisa Gelfand, AIA, LEED AP has decades of experience to call upon as she focuses her attention in 2010 on Design for Elementary and Secondary Schools. Published by Wiley, this 352 page book is not all about lower operating costs and a healthier environment for the education sector. "School construction is a large market on its own," Gelfand says in Chapter 1, "comprising approximately 5% of all construction in the United States in 2007. Sustainable practices in schools would have a measurable impact on energy and resource consumption for society as a whole." Think global warming.

Colorado-based architect Alan Ford is best-known nationally for his work on the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California and the Swan and Dolphin Resort he designed with Michael Graves at Walt Disney World Resort. Don't tell that to the hundreds of children who have learned in the many schools he's designed. Designing the Sustainable School takes a case study approach to describing what he believes are the important elements in school design. Ford is also co-author of A Sense of Entry: Designing the Welcoming School, which focuses on getting the kids through the door. Both books are from The Images Publishing Group and published in 2007.

Authors Prakash Nair,‎ Randall Fielding, and Jeffery Lackney propose "that there are certain recognizable patterns that define healthy spacial relationships both at a micro and macro level." Inspired by the classic book A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction by Christopher Alexander, the authors suggest 29 design patterns for school spaces, from a welcoming entry to home-like bathrooms. "Unlike Alexander's ambitious work, which encompasses human environments at every scale," write the authors, "we have limited our focus to the design of learning environments." The book gives stakeholders a language to express ideas about learning, even if it lacks more pragmatic realities associated with costs.

Written by educators and for educators, this book is slight in volume at 128 pages, yet it may be just the right graphic presentation to get you through another school year in a new way. Their premise is that we're all designers of spaces, so we should "think like a designer." It may have been a stronger book had an architect been involved, too, but the art teacher does just fine.

 

The Pacific Northwest architect R. Thomas Hille, AIA, has taken an historic approach to school design by examining an array of buildings. The designs of over 60 architects, from Frank Lloyd Wright to Thom Mayne, are brought together in this 2011 book by Wiley publishers, appropriately subtitled A Century of Design for Education.

This 368-page construction manual published by Wiley has become an essential reference for school architects. Authors L. Bradford Perkins and Stephen A. Kliment have included project photographs, diagrams, floor plans, sections, and details. Copyright 2001. For some reason, the 2nd Edition of this book has not received the same accolades as this 1st Edition.