The fundamental idea behind the new world of work: New learning

By Christa Schwandtner, 30.05.2018

In many schools and universities, we still orient ourselves according to an old image of the working man: you are tested, a profile is created, your competences are determined, your weaknesses defined and a school programme is set up which is the same for everyone. But work has transformed. New requirements have been set, independent working required and team building demanded. ‘New work’ isn’t just outside the door, but in the middle of the office. The education system is adjusting to the new world of work very slowly, and with it, also the architecture education institutions. We asked Gerhard Wittfeld, managing director of the renowned kadawittfeldarchitektur, about his experiences.


If we look at your references in more detail, we see that you have planned and implemented many building institutions, among other things.

Wittfeld: We work in architecture, interior design, city planning and urban projects, so educational buildings aren’t a conscious focus in our planning spectrum. In fact, as well as education institutions, you can also find various typologies such as office and administrative buildings, residential buildings, projects for commercial buildings and trade fairs, buildings related to health and research, sport buildings as well as culture and industry constructions. We still see the planning of buildings for young people in our society, who spend a large part of their youth in nurseries and schools, as a particularly responsible undertaking, however.


What sort of things in particular have stayed in your memory regarding these educational buildings?

Wittfeld: People learn and teach in educational buildings, knowledge is developed, the fundamental questions of our life together are hopefully answered. These Buildings are not a homogenous typology at all. Lecture theatres, research laboratories, libraries and the related service buildings are fundamentally different from each other. The one thing that unites these diverse building types is the balance between openness and concentration – both have to connect educational buildings, just to meet the requirements of its social significance and a concrete function.


What did you pay attention to in particular when restructuring education institutions?

Wittfeld: The architecture of educational buildings must be inviting and protective, structured in a pragmatic way and at the same time remain open to the future. Schools are not just places of learning, but ‘life places’, which must fulfil different needs with its spaces. It’s about creating a place where knowledge is imparted, yet contributes to the individual progress and further development of the pupils. In comparison to earlier concepts, today, spaces are required to support new teaching and learning formats and make alternative lesson concepts possible. In addition, the architecture of educational buildings itself can fulfil a “teaching assignment” and make a very essential contribution to the early development of spatial consciousness and spatial understanding in children and young people.

Schools are not just places of learning, but ‘life places’, which must fulfil different needs with its spaces.



What education institution projects are you working on at the moment and what have you finished recently? What expectations did you have to meet?

Wittfeld: At the moment, we’re working with the Deutsche Sporthochschule in Cologne on the new construction of a biologically and medically equipped laboratory building on the Sportpark Müngersdorf campus, which is just to be completed. As Cologne’s Sporthochschule enjoys a very good reputation in Germany, and even partly across Europe, this is a project with a lot of appeal. here, it was important for us to establish a central place of communication on the campus, in addition to the room plan that was requested.

Another project completed and covered in the last year is the HC faculty building of the Bergische Universität Wuppertal. This is a new expansion construction of the faculty for architecture and civil engineering at the Haspel campus in Wuppertal. The building was given an open ground floor area which allows access to the campus under the building structure and forms a striking entrance to the university premises. Exhibition space, mensa and lecture theatre form the public “campus” level on the ground floor, while the overlying seminar and working rooms can also be used for inter-faculty projects. For us, the special feature of this project is that we could plan for architecture students – for the future of our own craft.


Are students and teaching staff involved in the planning process?

Wittfeld: Ideally, yes. A needs analysis of the starting point and the execution of participation processes make a significant contribution to communicating the wishes and needs of the users, from sponsors and other involved parties, as well as communicating the functional and educational requirements of the education location.


What does “new learning” mean to you? How can architecture support new learning and even bring it forward?

Wittfeld: Architecture offers many possibilities and creates spatial foundations to support the new ways of the educational system. Independent working of pupils, individual support, inter-class lessons and lessons with mixed age groups as well as alternative lesson models describe the paradigm shift in modern schools, where a specific spatial offering is demanded. In introducing whole-day lessons, aspects such as freedom, movement, relaxation and rest as important components of everyday school life are taken into account in the planning of educational buildings. In contrast to conventional classrooms, today, spaces are also demanded which allow and support these “new learning” formats.


You completed the project IMC University of Applies Sciences Krems in 2012. What is special about the technical college extension?

Wittfeld: In our eyes, the project was to work on the very high-quality IMC University of Applied Sciences Krems campus, which was based on a master plan from Dietmar Feichtinger. That’s why we were very happy about the chance to contribute another element to the campus. For us planners, the special part of this was the combination of strict building guidelines and a really small site with a very complex room plan. The challenge here was organising the room plan in such a way that high-quality recreation spaces would result, in spite of the high spatial density. We extended the middle area as a vertical foyer which can be seen through the wooden slats covering the walls from all floors and which allows diverse views through air spaces and large windows.


© Photo: Werner Huthmacher, Berlin

© Photo: Carl Brunn

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