Learning Environments: A Discussion

Adesola Akinleye, Catherine Burke, Nils Norman and Sol Perez Martinez

  • Whitechapel Gallery Old Palace Big Selection-133

    Learning Environments: A Seat at the Table, Whitechapel Gallery Creative Learning Programme Residency, 2019. Photo Rob Harris

Past Event

This event was on Sat 15 Jun, 2pm

Alternative, democratic and self-led education models, and the architectural responses associated with them, are the subject of this talk and panel discussion led by architects and academics Aoife Donnelly and Kristin Trommler from Kingston School of Art.

Their research and teaching in the Department of Architecture and Landscape at KSA looks to radical and alternative education models to consider how architectural space can be designed or adapted to promote a more democratic learning context that supports agency, ownership and flexibility. References draw on the practice of 20th Century radical pedagogues such as Ricardo Dalisi and the progressive post-war schools movement in the UK.

Guest speakers include Dr Catherine Burke, Reader in History of Education and Childhood, University of Cambridge, artist Nils Norman, Dr. Adesola Akinleye, dancer and PhD artist-scholar with Middlesex University, and Sol Perez Martinez, PhD researcher at UCL, who will each bring their research and practices around alternative pedagogies and the built environment into the conversation.

Part of the London Festival of Architecture

About the Project

This event follows a 10-week residency Learning Environments: A Seat at the Table, in which Aoife Donnelly and Kristin Trommler collaborated with 19 pupils from Old Palace Primary School, East London, as part of Whitchapel Gallery’s Creative Learning Programme.

The project title A seat at the table is a phrase to describe a privileged position, reserved for those who are considered to have both the influence and power to make decisions and effect change. The children were invited to build their own ‘seat’, a school chair, to assert their place and contribution to their own learning environment. These handmade functional objects then became props for a series of actions, led by Dr. Adesola Akinleye, dancer and PhD artist-scholar with Middlesex University, using movement to physically and critically explore sites both within and beyond the school. A selection of objects and documentation from the project will be showcased as part of this event.

About the Speakers

Aoife Donnelly & Kristin Trommler are registered architects and educators, based in London. Their research and practice focus on the generation of sensitive and carefully composed projects, that engage with questions around the democracy of place or space and value the experience of the user. They seek solutions that resonate with cultural, historical and physical contexts and that try to simultaneously be inventive, playful, structurally and materially considered, and moving. Together, Donnelly and Trommler have a broad experience of the public realm, arts/ cultural and educational projects. They practice, research and teach in parallel, having co-lead a design unit at Kingston School of Art’s Architecture Department since 2012. There, they have introduced and embedded an enabling culture of live projects, engaged in collaborative and participatory design processes, that serve community/ arts and play situations.

Catherine Burke is a Reader in History of Education and Childhood at the University of Cambridge, and is currently engaged with cultural and material histories of educational contexts. Her research examines the relationship between innovation in teaching and the design of formal and informal learning spaces, the view of the child and young person in the design of education; the history of 20th century school architecture and its pioneers. A major focus of the research is bringing a historical awareness to current initiatives to ‘transform’ education via school building renewal.

Nils Norman is an artist working across the disciplines of public art, architecture and urban planning. His projects challenge notions of the function of public art and the efficacy of mainstream urban planning and large-scale regeneration. He is the author of An Architecture of Play: A Survey of London’s Adventure Playgrounds, 2004; and The Contemporary Picturesque, 2000. From 2007-2017 he was Professor at the the Royal Danish Academy of Art and Design, Copenhagen, Denmark, where he led the School of Walls and Space, successfully experimenting with a series of approaches to pedagogic structure and how it might engage with the city.

Sol Perez Martinez is an architect, researcher and educator. Currently, she is a PhD candidate at UCL in joint supervision with the Bartlett School of Architecture and the Institute of Education. Sol also works as an architecture consultant in London and Santiago and as a researcher at UCL. Before living in London, Sol lectured in Universidad Catolica de Chile and ran an architectural practice, developing projects for private clients and the Chilean government. The practice’s most recent public building was a school in the South of Chile that encouraged Sol’s research into environments, engagement and education. Sol is interested in creating awareness of how spaces affect the way people live, considering ways to encourage citizen engagement in the construction of the environments that surround them.

Adesola Akinleye is the artistic director of DancingStrong, an organisation encompassing arts-in-education, performance, and choreography. A strand of this programme explores the interrelationship of architecture and dance, stating, ‘architecture and dance share the same language of shape and form – both drawing on texture, colour and rhythm, both manipulating solid (body or brick) and space to define themselves.’ Adesola trained at Arts Educational School, London and The Rambert Academy. She began her professional career as a dancer with the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Since then she has danced with companies in North America and Europe. Adesola teaches dance and receives choreographic commissions internationally. She is an PhD artist-scholar with Middlesex University and works in university settings, schools and private dance academies, as well as in community based projects.