A flexible outdoor classroom designed to enable schools and community groups to meet, learn and collaborate in the fresh air.
Glasgow-based architect O’DonnellBrown developed a prototype for an outdoor Community Classroom, constructed entirely from timber and designed to be adaptable, demountable and portable.
Designed to support and promote creative and independent learning, it was developed in line with the Curriculum for Excellence and the National Improvement Framework, to support inclusive learning and mental wellbeing.
O’DonnellBrown was inspired by the practice’s own studio space, the Greenhouse, which is a simple timber structure with a direct connection with nature. Having realised the profound positive impact the space was having on the team’s wellbeing, the architects wanted to take that learning into the community.
One of the practice’s aims was to help schools to deliver progressive outdoor learning experiences – so that every pupil can have the emotional and wellbeing benefits of spending more time outside.
The architects designed the classroom to be an accessible, simple and demountable kit of parts which would be straightforward to construct but was still an architecturally engaging space.
An easy to follow manual includes modules for seating, shelving, worktops and presentation surfaces, so that hosts may choose the elements they require.
A lightweight, translucent sheet provides a waterproof layer on the roof, and can also fold down to create additional weather protection around the sides where necessary.
With a commitment to community engagement and learner-led activity, O’DonnellBrown worked with the national children’s charity Barnardo’s Works to identify a small group of young people to help build the classroom prototype. Further support and sponsorship was provided by the RIAS, Design Engineering Workshop, Three Four Five Furniture, Saint-Gobain, BMI Icopal and International Timber.
To date the prototype has been the venue for a number of community-based workshops and events, demonstrating its flexibility and suitability as an outdoor learning, gathering and collaboration space.
The architects chose to build the Community Classroom with timber for its availability, environmental and wellbeing benefits.
Designed using standard lengths of timber which are available from local timber merchants, the Community Classroom can be put together quickly and easily. Moreover, the structure is simple to dismantle so it can be relocated to continue its life elsewhere.
The structural frame is built from European or Siberian larch, making it both durable and easy to maintain. External grade plywood was chosen for the structural deck and furniture modules, again the architects wanted a material that was both readily available and straightforward to work with.
The architects developed standard cutting patterns for the furniture modules, so that they could be easily fabricated to suit each organisation’s specific needs. The modules allow for a variety of user led configurations with a standard fixing size throughout.
Modules can create entire walls, all simply bolted into place by slotting between columns. Similarly, they can create desk spaces and shelving at a variety of heights. Meanwhile, unfixed modules can be used as steps, stools or tables making the Community Classroom a truly flexible and adaptable space.