Young designers will be given the chance to redesign their own school environment today (6 April) at an event at Highgate Wood School in London where design practice Bisset Adams is running as part of the Design Council's Design in Education Week. Along with Haringey Business and Education Partnership, Bisset Adams is inviting year 13 students to design an auditorium for a prototype Performing Arts block by the practice.
This is one of a range of design-related activities. Students will be issued with throwaway cameras and asked to create a photomontage of the school and highlighting the building's good and bad points. Another group will be making and editing a digital video film recording students' views on their environment and their ideas for its improvement.
This is the second year that the Design Council has run the week, which this year has three distinct strands: the launch of Creativenet (www.creativenet.org.uk) which builds on research published by Demos in The Creative Age and aims to bring together those involved in innovative educational activities for developing creative skills; partner events, organised by the Design Council in partnership with major influential organisations such as the dfee; and a number of accredited fringe events around the country, such as the one at Highgate Wood.
Architect Melanie Brunning is organising the event at Highgate Wood along with Bryan Pearce, head of cdt, and hopes to offer design and music students the chance to participate in what could become a 'live' project. Pearce comments: 'It's a great opportunity for our Year 13 students, to be working on a project like this. We have some design software, but a professional practice can offer the type of thing we can only dream of. We're dividing our students into teams, and the winning design will be transformed into high quality computer-generated graphics by Bisset Adams.'
Highgate Wood is applying for Arts College status, and a new arts and media block with performance space is seen as essential by Richard Arnold, head of a thriving music department currently housed in long-term temporary accommodation. The whole project is divided into two strands: research and understanding of the needs and opinions of the end-users, a task to be carried out by performing arts students and others; and the creative design process which evolves as a result of this research, to be carried out by A-level design students.
Bisset Adams has already developed links with Highgate Wood (which two of director Roger Adams' children attend), offering work experience places to gcse students - earlier this year a Year 11 design student, Ebru Aslan, spent a week learning the basics of various cad programs, and researched and designed an interior for the proposed media block. Many of her ideas originated from the idea of interaction between the three arts departments. In her proposal she notes: 'The cafe could be designed and decorated by the three departments to allow them to work together and mix together.' Further links between Bisset Adams and Highgate Wood are planned, with a series of workshops and seminars after the Design in Education week event - this will come under the auspices of the London Accord scheme, where businesses forge links with schools, and the latter become eligible for additional funding.
Bisset Adams has developed its own research into environments for learning, on the back of work done for Tower Hamlets libraries. Roger Adams explains: 'we've developed the concept of putting a new heart into failing public institutions. In a school, this heart could be a cyber cafe and homework club, it could be an arts block - such as at Highgate Wood. A period of research, consultation and analysis is essential to identify the perceptions. Ultimately we believe in the importance of the school having a clear branding - or identity - which pupils, staff and the local community can relate to and respect.'
If appropriate funding is forthcoming, the role of the Arts and Media building will be central to Highgate Wood, both as a high-profile resource for a school which prides itself on its excellent arts and music provision, and as a source of external funds from the local community. Highgate Wood is currently raising money in support of its appeal - music students are planning a re-run of the 60s Woodstock festival as a fund-raising event this summer, with help from Bisset Adams for publicity and graphics. Featuring Richard Arnold's own band of old rockers as the Beatles, it should be worth a visit.
Design in Education Week is a Design Council scheme and runs from 3-7 April. Sarah Godowski can be contacted on tel 020 7250 0440