Center for Architecture Announces Two Exhibitions On Cutting-Edge School Design

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“Edgeless School” on view in New York beginning Oct. 1, 2012 – Jan. 19, 2013; “Best School in the World” on view Oct. 1 – Oct. 31, 2012

Edgeless School

The Ethical Culture Fieldston School, Bronx, NY, is one of 19 schools featured in the Center for Architecture's "The Edgeless School" exhibition, now through January.

How does school architecture actually accommodate today’s digital natives, and how do new pedagogical theories influence the design of learning environments?

School's been in session around the country for just about a month, but the discussion on K-12 architecture is just beginning at the Center for Architecture. Two exhibitions, “The Edgeless School: Design for Learning” and “The Best School in the World: Seven Finnish Examples from the 21st Century,” which open October 1, 2012, are jump- starting the dialogue between contemporary educational needs and school architecture.

“Designing schools for 21st-century pedagogy has many challenges,” says Joseph Aliotta, AIA, LEED AP, 2012 AIA New York President. “School design is also one of the most important building types in many architectural firm portfolios, and this exhibition makes a valuable contribution to the profession by elucidating excellent examples for architects, policy makers, clients, and the public.”

With rapid changes in technology being perhaps the defining feature of our time, this exhibition brings a new perspective to the digital revolution's effect on education and how architecture is, in turn, adapting to these changes. “Perhaps in no other building type do broad societal concerns about the future and the needs of today's techno-savvy children coincide with design issues more than dramatically than in K-12 schools,” says the exhibition's curator Thomas Mellins. “’The Edgeless School’ looks at 19 architecturally distinguished schools nationwide within the broader context of what educators are thinking about now." (A list of these schools is included at the end of this release.)

Government agencies, communities, and architects are thankfully rising to the challenge. In the past few years, K-12 schools of all kinds—public, private, parochial, urban, suburban, and rural—have built some of the most technologically sophisticated, sustainable, and architecturally distinguished facilities in decades.

Edith Ackermann, the exhibition's Senior Research Consultant and a Visiting Scientist at MIT, says, “There is much talk about 21st-century skills these days, and much research being done to redefine what today’s youngsters ought to know in order to be active and successful in tomorrow’s world. What is less clear, however, is the built environment's role in helping children find their ways—and grounds—under the conditions of this uncertainty.”

In other words, how does school architecture actually accommodate today’s digital natives, and how do new pedagogical theories influence the design of learning environments? When weighty Britannica gives way to wireless Wikipedia and our children have unprecedented access to raw information, what does education on an iPad look like?

Exhibition Content

“Edgeless School” answers these questions through the presentation of 19 new school buildings: 8 in New York City and 11 across the United States. To provide an appropriate cross-section, 10 institutions are public, 9 are private, and 2 schools are for students with special needs.

Projects are further sorted by their illustration of “edgelessness” inside and outside the school building. The Ethical Culture Fieldston Middle School in the Bronx, NY, for example, dissolves the distinction between the built environment and nature by embracing outdoor space and using a connection with nature as an educational tool. The L.B. Landry High School in New Orleans, LA, projects edgelessness outside the school by blurring conventional distinctions between constituencies. It achieved this by encouraging students, educators, parents, and architects to work together to create a building that is designed to further the school’s pedagogical goals.

Voices of key educational theoreticians underpinning much of this century's educational dialogue will also be included through 6 videos on view, 5 of which will be on-view in a full-scale, cutting-edge classroom environment furnished by Waldner’s/Steelcase and Shaw. Hanging in Center's double-height mezzanine gallery will be 9 old-fashioned desks, creating a visual juxtaposition between a staple of last century's classroom and those of today. Six models of schools round out compelling architectural photography and descriptive wall text.

The Edgeless School: What Is It and What Does It Look Like? (Excerpt from the exhibition's Gallery Guide available at the Center for Architecture) While edgelessness does not translate into a specific architectural style or building program, several characteristics emerge. Often glass walls blur interior and exterior space, a distinction further modulated by the treatment of exterior spaces as outdoor classrooms. Edgelessness can manifest itself in a single space, or a series of interconnected spaces, where multiple educational activities occur at the same time, reflecting the attention patterns and organizational skills of “digital natives” who have grown up surrounded by technology. Edgelessness can also be expressed in the design of flexible, multiple- purpose spaces, often used in different ways throughout the course of the day. For example, school lobbies and hallways, once considered only in terms of circulation, are now taking on greater significance as meeting places for groups large and small, planned and spontaneous.

“The Best School in the World: Seven Finnish Examples from the 21st Century”

This related exhibition being shown at the Center for Architecture is produced and organized by the Museum of Finnish Architecture. Finnish students have been top performers in recent international learning assessments, but what is the secret behind the success of Finland’s education system? “The Best School in the World” explores this question from an architectural perspective: in what types of environments do learning take place today and which are the most conducive for successful learning? The exhibition also examines how contemporary Finnish school architecture addresses the varied needs of today’s learners and multiform teaching methods.

“The Best School in the World’s” New York presentation and related events are part of the New Finnish Design CITY campaign, produced by the Consulate General of Finland and the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York. The exhibition has been traveling internationally and was most recently seen at the Embassy of Finland in Washington, DC.

The exhibitions and related programs are organized by the AIA New York Chapter and the Center for Architecture Foundation in collaboration with the AIANY Committee on Architecture for Education.

Curator: Thomas Mellins Senior Research Consultant: Edith Ackermann, Visiting Scientist, MIT School of Architecture Exhibition Design: Sage and Coombe Architects Graphic Design: Hyperakt

Special thanks to the sponsors of “The Edgeless School”:


For over 45 years Duggal has provided complete visual solutions to the world’s leading image-makers. Duggal Visual Solutions, Inc. is a leading supplier of printing, computer imaging and multimedia, wide format graphics, and display services. Duggal was incorporated in 1963 and is widely considered the nation’s top photo/imaging facility. The company’s clientele is widely spread among top retailers, Fortune 500 corporations, museums and graphic designers. Duggal’s vast array of cutting-edge production equipment, 24-hour facilities and team of knowledgeable technicians stand ready to complete projects on time and on budget regardless of size or complexity. From design and production, to shipping and installation anywhere in the world, the Duggal team is dedicated to providing the highest level of service and quality.

Hyperakt is an independent New York City design firm that helps change-makers tell their stories. Our clients are organizations that address the most important social issues of our time and innovative businesses that empower people through social entrepreneurship. Hyperakt has created brand identities, websites, printed communications and data visualizations for clients like UNICEF, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation, TED, Acumen Fund, Thomson Reuters Foundation, U.S. Federal Government, GOOD Magazine, The New York Times, and Google among others. The Harvard Business Review recently wrote: "By having a bigger purpose, it just might be that Hyperakt's building a 21st-century design studio: the crucible of big, world-changing ideas." Visit to learn more.

Shaw Contract Group is a global design leader, manufacturing high performance cradle-to-cradle flooring products ideal for any learning environment. We believe design goes beyond aesthetics. Our education studio focuses on the needs of students, teachers and maintenance experts, designing flooring solutions for maximum comfort, ease of maintenance, durability and performance. Shaw Contract Group’s EcoWorx carpet tiles are completely recyclable and PVC-free, making product reclamation and recycling easy and allowing customers to reduce their environmental impact. Shaw Contract Group’s Light Series collection was inspired by the role that color and light play in student achievement. This collection, which is highlighted in “The Edgeless School” space, infuses pattern and light to influence attitudes, engage students, and stimulate minds.

Waldner’s Business Environments, Inc. is a full service Office Furniture Dealership. With over 70 years of experience, Waldner’s excels in working with clients to create environments that support their business activity, engage their unique culture and inspire performance. Proficient in project management, design, reconfiguration, move management, inventory and asset management. Its expertise extends to anything related to workspaces, such as the use of integrated technologies – collaborative solutions that merge furniture and the latest technology products. Waldner’s acts as the single source for this wide range of services, in addition to providing top quality products from manufacturers like Steelcase. Steelcase Education Solutions is focused on helping schools, colleges and universities create the most effective, rewarding and inspiring learning environments. We are a dedicated group within Steelcase focused exclusively on education. We are research and insight-based and are driving innovation in furniture, tools and technologies for active learning spaces.

Ennead Architects F.J. Sciame Construction Co. Levien & Company

Bonetti/Kozerski Studio Lutron Electronics Turner Construction Company

List as of September 10, 2012
The Edgeless School is made possible in part through the generous support of Joseph J. Aliotta's 2012 AIANY Chapter Inaugural Fund:
Beyer Blinder Belle Forest City Ratner Companies Mancini Duffy|TSC New York City School Construction Authority Perkins Eastman STV Group, Inc. Thornton Tomasetti
List as of September 10th, 2012


Opening Reception

Monday, October 1st, 2012, 6-8pm Also opening, “The Best School in the World: Seven Finnish Examples from the 21st Century,” produced and organized by the Museum of Finnish Architecture. The New York presentation and related events are part of the New Finnish Design CITY campaign, produced by the Consulate General of Finland and the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York.
Guided Exhibition Tours@theCenter

Thursday, October 4, 2012, 6-7:30pm: The Edgeless School & The Best School Friday, November 16, 2012, 12-1pm: The Edgeless School & Building Connections Monday, January 7, 2013, 6-7:30pm: The Edgeless School & Building Connections

Building Great Schools: Finland to New York
Tuesday, October 9, 2012, 6-8pm

Nurturing Minds: Educational Design Policies, Finland/New York
Tuesday, October 16, 2012, 6-8pm

CAt: A Japanese Lesson for Progressive School Design
Monday, October 29, 2012, 6-8pm

Organized by the AIANY Architecture for Education Committee. With support from Okomura Corporation, Japan; TOTO USA; The Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership.

Making a School: Principals and Architects in Conversation
Tuesday, October 30, 2012, 6-8pm

With support from The Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership.

FamilyDay@theCenter: Design a School of the Future
Saturday, November, 3, 2012, 11am-1pm or 2-4pm

Outside the Classroom: Design for Experiential Learning
Wednesday, November 14, 2012, 6-8pm

The School Building as Community Center: Policies, Paradigms, and Challenges
Tuesday, December 4, 2012, 6-8pm

Learning Environments for Special Needs: Places that Comfort and Challenge
Thursday, January 10, 2013, 6-8pm

Adapting Historic Schools for 21st Century Learning
Thursday, January 17, 2013, 6-8pm

The Edgeless School: Design for Learning Symposium
Saturday, January 19, 2013, 11am-5pm

About the AIA New York Chapter

AIA New York is the oldest and largest chapter of the American Institute of Architects with almost 5,000 architect, allied professional, student, and public members. AIANY is dedicated to three goals: design excellence, public outreach and professional development.
About the Center for Architecture Foundation

The Center for Architecture Foundation is an award-winning architecture and design education organization dedicated to promoting public awareness and a broader appreciation of the important role architecture and design play in our daily lives. It engages students, families, and adults through educational programs at the Center for Architecture and in schools around New York City.
About the Center for Architecture

The Center for Architecture is a destination for all interested in the built environment. It is home to the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter and the Center for Architecture Foundation, vibrant nonprofit organizations that provide resources to both the public and building industry professionals. Through exhibitions, programs, and special events, the Center aims to improve the quality and sustainability of the built environment, foster exchange between the design, construction, and real estate communities, and encourage collaborations across the city and globe. For more information, please visit
Press contact: Daniel Fox - 212.358.6114, dfox(at)aiany(dot)org, or Chris Sullivan - 914.462.2096, chris(at)ccsullivan(dot)com.

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