School buildings are often nondescript, lacking distinct features or characteristics that make them feel part of the local community ethos. Going beyond beautification and branding, designing with local signatures has the opportunity to make schools more connected to the communities they serve, making learning more relevant and authentic to all.
Incorporating local signatures into the architecture of a school can take on many forms. It can be a unique architectural aesthetic to be incorporated in the design (i.e. local building material, architectural style, lighting, etc.) or it can be elements within the design itself. These elements include integrated/shared spaces with local industry partners (like an ag lab in a farming community), native plants and trees throughout the campus, specific places for student-built projects, a mural or piece of artwork celebrating the history of the community; these are just a handful of ideas to bring in a local signature.
Local signatures serve multiple functions. Principally, it reinforces and celebrates what makes the school a valuable asset to the community at large – it makes the physical environment a place of belonging, inclusion, and authentic community-connected learning. Each school can take a contextualized look at its own history, people, economy, climate/natural environment, and potential community partners in developing its unique Local Signature.
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