Principles of Primary School Design

Collaborative film-making design research project with Cathy Burke and others

‘Designing for 21st Century Learning and Teaching: Back to the Future School’. Short visual stories of three post-war primary schools designed by Davis and Mary Medd.

Why look back to imagine the future? What consistent principles emerge over time and that are particularly relevant today? What can a new emphasis on the views of children and their participation in design bring to the relationship between past, present and future in designing for education?

This research intends to stimulate interest among local authorities and others engaged in school new build or re-design, in the principles and processes of design that were established in the past when primary schools in the UK were the envy of the world.

In this exercise, a team of educators, historians, architects and associated academics headed up by Catherine Burke from the University of Cambridge education faculty made studies of primary schools designed in the 1950s by David and Mary Medd, of the Architects and Building Branch in the Department for Education.

The output was a small booklet and short stories in film, made by the team during visits with David Medd to three Hertfordshire schools he designed with his wife Mary some fifty years previously, Finmere, Malvern way and Woodside.

Authors were:

Dr Catherine Burke, Senior Lecturer in Education, University of Cambridge

Dr Peter Cunningham, Fellow, Homerton College, University of Cambridge

Rachel Sayers, Architect, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

Dominic Cullinan, Architect, SCABAL

Rob Walker, Researcher, University of East Anglia

Alison Clark, Senior Lecturer in Childhood Studies, Faculty of Education and Language Studies, The Open University

The films sponsored by The Ace Foundation, covered:

Craftsmanship and first-hand experience,

Eating, cooking & learning,

The heart of the school,

Children’s perspectives,

The school we’d like,

Enduring themes and a common vocabulary of design past & present.

The book with CD was launched at Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios on 27th July 2010

To Live In   To Learn In   To Work In   To Play In