This School’s Shape-Shifting Walls Let It Adapt Throughout The Day

A Seoul, South Korea, elementary school’s architecture adapts to the lesson plan.

Before Daniel Valle Architects renovated the DSSI Elementary School in Seoul, South Korea, the first- and second-grade classrooms were nothing to write home about–two adjacent, disproportionately sized rooms that opened into a shared hallway. But after the architects intervened, the school became better equipped to teach and mold young minds through a shape-shifting design that lets teachers get creative with lesson plans and activities–and ensures students never get bored with their environment.


Now, instead of being fixed in a closed-off, static layout, the 1,600-square-foot space is more fluid. The architects–who have offices in Madrid and Seoul–gutted the space and built two equally sized horseshoe-shaped classrooms with communal areas between them. Instead of opaque, floor-to-ceiling, stationary walls, they placed sections on pivot hinges and incorporated windows on the top half to let in natural light. When the teachers open all the walls, they transform the two classrooms into a single space that encourages group activity.

“The new school’s philosophy has to do with sharing spaces to study and providing a diverse number of possibilities to educators to perform new pedagogical practices,” the architects wrote in a project description. “The two rooms in the existing condition were duplicating spaces for playing, studying, meeting, [and] sharing.”

In redesigning the school’s layout, the architects also found room to add storage benches and coat hooks for the students’ belongings outside of the classrooms. They also cleverly found a way to store floor cushions by hanging them on the walls, which are upholstered in soothing mint-green fabric.

Creating transformable architecture makes sense for schools that are grappling with fluctuating class sizes and teachers want to experiment with new educational styles and approaches. There are health implications, too: A recent study stressed the importance of increasing movement in school settings in combating the childhood obesity crisis. Another study suggested that “the obesity epidemic may reflect the emergence of a chair-enticing environment to which those with an innate tendency to sit, did so, and became obese,” and argued that finding ways to engineer movement into school, work, and home activities was one solution. Designing environments that let people regularly switch up how the spaces are used is one option. Plus, what kid wouldn’t be excited by the magic of a door “hidden” in a wall?

[Photos: via Daniel Valle Architects]


About the author

Diana Budds is a New York–based writer covering design and the built environment.