Hawken School approached us somewhat timidly with a need - “We would like to make a place of innovation where students will explore complex ill defined problems and engage in non-sequential iterative processes to solve essential questions” - a perfectly terrifying start to a Monday. Fortunately, we have been working for the last ten years with a variety of clients implementing places of innovation that allow students to develop skills in brainstorming, exploration, critical thinking and collaboration. The opportunity for students to define a problem, organize a solution, prototype, test, fail and repeat are critical 21st century skills and develops resilience and leads to true innovation.
Similar challenges were encountered by our design team, the space the client had in mind was an underutilized 1930’s era brick walled gymnasium. Our team met with educators and students in a series of discussions and sketch exercises to develop a set of design criteria focused on designing a learning environment that would engage students and foster a culture of playful but rigorous problem solving. The main activities required were a place to prototype, a place to collaborate, and a place for the students to present their ideas - definitely more program than the gym was able to support. The design team utilized the height of the gym, adding a mezzanine to create the collaboration and ideation area overlooking the fabrication and making equipment. studioTECHNE supported school leadership in the development of the project through open communication, developing inspirational drawings and images of the space that effectively conveyed the schools vision to their donors and the school community. The completed Innovation Lab met the curriculum + educational goals of the school, and students are excitedly engaged in hands-on learning and making.