Four School Buildings That Foster Cutting-Edge Learning

For the past decade, Finland has churned out some of the top students in the world. The reason: excellent architecture.

Okay, so it’s not the only reason, but it can’t hurt that students practice their multiplication tables ensconced in glittering, light-soaked buildings that could out-swank most corporate offices. “Learning is invariably influenced by the environment in which it takes place,” the Museum of Finnish Architecture in Helsinki writes on its website. To show it, they’ve mounted an exhibition about the nation’s best and brightest new school architecture.

The show lasers in on seven schools (four of which are pictured above) built between 2001 and 2010. Among them: a timber-clad nursery and primary school set among the open fields of rural Finland; an elementary school in an old machine engineering workshop that the principal helped design; and a devastatingly hip school for kids 7 to 15, complete with a loft-like communal area and yellow Panton chairs.

The buildings are more than just shiny vessels, though. They’re designed to foster new learning methods that favor flexibility and experimentation over the strict, autocratic educational style of yore. Layouts feature a litany of spaces: homerooms, small-group settings, workshop rooms, designated zones for autonomous work, and schoolwide communal areas. And, of course, they incorporate hallmarks of Scandinavian design like warm colors, durable materials, spaciousness, and tons of sunlight. In the end, it’s not especially ground-breaking stuff, just common sense. So what’s America waiting for? Oh, right. Social democracy.

Lots more details in our slideshow above.

[Images courtesy of the Museum of Finnish Architecture]