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Laurie designed several schools during his professional life. He was always astounded by the uninteresting rectangular sheds that made up the government schools in Kerala. His ideas about schools and education were different as one can see in one of his notes:


`Education has repelled and fascinated me from the age of three. My much older sister had cooking classes at her grammar school, and every Tuesday, she brought home what she had cooked. I vividly recall the day she brought home what she said was a cake. My brothers and I got hold of it and used it as our football, (we used it for over a year). When I went to school, I was not at all impressed. No cooking classes at this age of 5, and never for boys! Our surroundings were drab and dreary, and had teachers to match! One very rude lady teacher wrote in my yearly report, 'Laurie is trying "VERY TRYING!" the only worthwhile education I enjoyed came from visits outside. E.g. We went to the gas works, huge clouds of smoke, everything black, great caverns of roaring, glowing red coal, and men only in dirty trousers, poking it to make it roar louder. It was of course all spoiled, for when we returned to those green and brown colored classrooms, we had to write a composition on `My visit to the Gas Works'.


Going to the School of Architecture was an incredible relief. In those days we spent half the time going out sketching and measuring, and taking part in actual building construction work. Furthermore; next to the school was the Town Hall, where there were mid-day music and organ recitals. All this was much nearer to my idea of education.


Now coming to the point of constructing and designing a school. Who is our client? The Government? A committee? A Head Teacher, or the Principal? The Teaching Staff? Or the Children?, What is our attitude to be? Do we ask for a written brief and venture into our office and try to fulfill it? Or do we turn into dictators and tell them they've jolly well got to accept our interpretation of what space a school needs? Or is there middle course? We get our brief; we ask them for their ideas, (yes! Including those of the children,). We ask them when necessary, the reasons for their wanting this, or not wanting that. Then we can offer our suggestions and experience and advice, but only implement our ideas after they have understood and accepted, and after we have understood and accepted their view of what educational space is.


Another set of queries arises concerning the site for a school. There may be no option. A site already has a school, or it is a site on which a school must be built, the Government says so, and it may be a difficult site. We have to think of and make it clear to the clients concerned, that there are a few really vital requirements both for the site, and the school to be on it. Water, where will it come from? Is it good water? Following water is the need for drainage. One school I was educated in had a playing field, but whenever we had more than a couple of showers, the playing field became a marsh, and before long it was underwater, and the water took days to drain away, or be evaporated. Then, there is sanitation, what sort can be provided? Where will it be provided? How will waste disposal be made? Is there sufficient water for it? Don't think you can just say 'Septic tanks'. We've seen hundreds of sites with solid rocks, a foot or two below the surface, and a foot or two is not enough for a septic tank! All this of course leads on to the fact that just classroom teaching space is only part of education space. What about out-door space and shaded outdoor space? What about inside-outside combinations?


Finally I want to ask, ourselves just what we mean by space? The dictionary says a continuous extension viewed with or without references to the existence of objects with it. The interval between points or objects viewed as having one, two or three dimensions. I think of space as the area and volume, which can be enclosed by many types of building or architecture, or it is a space or volume of openness whose limits are the sky, hills and trees, rivers, and (unfortunately) nearby architecture built to enclose other people's space requirements, but which effectively forms part of my space surrounds! I think we have to remember that the converse is our responsibility- that is our ideas of forming spaces for education may well be the boundary or limit of our neighbour's space requirements! Then I think we actually need to think of spaces in relation to functions, in relating to creating drama and effect. To me it is exciting to go into the small low entrance space, only to progress through into a high dramatic space! The childhood experience of going into a cathedral in course of construction, but already being used, the drama, the scale, the light streaming down in sharp shafts, through clouds of incense, onto the brilliant reds and gold's of religious uniforms. I can still get thrilled at the mere thought of that experience of space, when I was not yet five years old. I have even developed a private system of planning, not just floor area suitable for a particular function with walls round it, with doors and windows etc. on the walls, but rather I try to visualize the space, a specific space that I am going to create and enclose. I've never lost that childhood excitement at my first realization and appreciation and excitement of discovering the excitement and thrill of space.


Another word that can be applied to space is 'atmosphere' we don't mean air, the dictionary describes atmosphere, as "mental, moral, artistic, emotional, environment."! Now, I think this is what I want education space to be, mental, moral, artistic, emotional environment. Environment doesn't just mean tress and grass and ornamental water. It means that which surrounds us, and not just physical, tangible surroundings, but conditions such as war and famine, weather and so on. So I come back to the word 'atmosphere'- mental; moral, artistic and emotional environment. Next there is architectural planning. Concerning mental atmosphere, this must be done with both children and young people, and with those who are to educate them, in mind, all the time. I was oppressed by spending everyday five to six hours enclosed in a large square cube with dark brown and green walls and straight rows of wooden desks, and dingy old charts and blackboards hanging on the walls. I used to envy other children who got measles or whooping cough and had to stay at home for three or four weeks. I only had these childish diseases during the holidays. Even when we were let out to play and relax for ten minutes, it was into a large, barren asphalt square, bounded on two sides by rows of class room walls, on a third side by the lavatories and on the fourth side by a dirty 9ft. high brick wall. All the time I knew that behind this wall there was a sloping field bordered by a belt of trees and a stream at the bottom. I was once caught and punished for climbing up into the washbasins in the lavatory in order to look out through high plate glass ventilators to see the space outside. All this was the very antithesis of my experience of space that I experienced in that half furnished cathedral.


So all of these are very much at the back of my mind, when I'm planning a school. My reward is when I see children, really enjoying the spaces I've created, watching them enjoy the place and the spaces round the place. All that is the excitement of space, but there must be spaces that encourage thinking and study and learning. There must be organized space for particular functions and there must be inspiring spaces. You are quite right, not always are we allowed to experiment and express all this into our work, and even when we are asked to do these various spaces we don't always succeed, and things are a flop! Then there is the moral side of space; moral means the concern of establishing what is right and what is wrong. I think that the school I spent several years in, was wrong. It certainly was not right for me. I doubt if any other child enjoyed it. I'm sure now, it is wrong to confine a child to being enclosed in a dull dark cube. I think also everything to do with an educational space should be truthful and honest and transparent. You instill wrong ideas in a child (or any one) if there is a fine architectural façade and mere boxes for spending the day in behind it.


And these days, we see architectural lies and deceit. A concrete frame structure, with brick in-fillings, and then an applied skin of stone or marble or glazed tiles and so on. So our space buildings must be truthful. Some aspects of morals are inborn, or come from within us, but many aspects have to be taught or learned. I don't think I have to elaborate on the emotional side of our subject of atmosphere, space, feelings, and mental state, leading to excitement. We can't and don't want to cut emotions out of living, nor should we cut it out of learning. Such emotions can come from our architecture, our allowing light to dance in, or darkness to be a prelude to space and light. The emotions of discovery of mathematics, science, drama, and music, the personality of our teachers, and they, the teachers, in turn are also mentally and morally and emotionally controlled by space and atmosphere.


I've also used the word 'artistic environment'. I couldn't think of the right word. I don't mean pretty pretty decorations and prints of Van Gogh's paintings on the walls, but the space containers of walls, roofs, floors, windows and materials that make these containers, all have to be good and well designed. Just as one example, the art teacher in my early school days was keen on patterns and designs and we were always drawing, painting and modeling different forms and patterns, and unconsciously understanding the wonder of form, (shapes again). Now as an architect I often go into a building, partly built, the bare brick work visible and immediately any variation of pattern of say, a Flemish bond brick wall hits me in the eye, and I am grateful to that art teacher of over 70 years ago. I'm not going to analyze or expand on my ideas of what education is, or should be. It certainly does not stop at learning tables and grammar and formulae etc. throughout the whole of our lives, we are, if we want, continuously being educated. That also expresses my feelings about the necessity of affordable space for education for all. ALL means ALL.'