My Architecture Design Journal is a new resource for schools from the Irish Architecture Foundation, supporting teacher-led or architect-led projects for 14-16 year-olds. The resource is centred on a bespoke Student Design Journal, available as a printed copy or to download, which guides students through a design project based on their school. Students record their investigative and creative work in the journal, following the step-by-step project guidelines.

This website provides supporting information for each section (Briefs 1-10), which will be added to as the projects develop. The website is also interactive – participants are also encouraged to send in images and descriptions of their projects which will be posted up on the blog.

A free Teachers’ Handbook containing project planning guidelines and learning supports is available directly from the IAF to teachers or architects leading school projects. Printed copies of Teachers’ Handbook and Student Design Journal are available to addresses in Ireland while stocks last. PDFs available to all. Please email the Education Curator at the Irish Architecture Foundation — education@architecturefoundation.ie — for a copy.

The case studies are all from A Space for Learning, the IAF’s first architects in schools project which inspired this resource. Architects collaborated with Transition Year groups across Ireland on an ideas competition about school design. 120 architects collaborated with 90 schools in 23 counties during this hugely successful scheme, with the resulting exhibition touring Ireland in 2011-2012.

The ‘A Space for Learning’ blog was a very active part of the project, engaging students in the process of sharing and displaying their research and project development. My Architecture Design Journal aims to capture that enthusiasm, learning and creativity through an engaging and freely available school resource.

Students from Santa Sabina SS Sutton, Dublin with certificates for completing My Architecture Design Journal.

Templates for student certificates available from IAF. Please get in touch to request: education@architecturefoundation.ie


My Architecture Design Journal is a new resource for schools from the Irish Architecture Foundation, supporting teacher-led or architect-led projects for 14-16 year-olds. The resource is centred on a bespoke Student Design Journal, available as a printed copy or to download, which guides students through a design project based on their school. Students record their investigative and creative work in the journal, following the step-by-step project guidelines.

This website provides supporting information for each section (Briefs 1-10), which will be added to as the projects develop.
The website is also interactive – participants are also encouraged to send in images and descriptions of their projects which will be posted up on the blog.

A free Teachers’ Handbook containing project-planning guidelines and learning supports is available directly from the IAF to teachers or architects leading school projects. Printed copies of Teachers’ Handbook and Student Design Journal are available to addresses in Ireland while stocks last. PDFs available to all.
Please email Rachel McAree, Education Curator, Irish Architecture Foundation: education@architecturefoundation.ie

The case studies are all from A Space for Learning, the IAF architects-in-schools project which inspired this resource. Architects collaborated with Transition Year groups across Ireland on an ideas competition about school design. 120 architects collaborated with 90 schools in 23 counties during this hugely successful scheme, with the resulting exhibition touring Ireland in 2011-2012.
The blog was a very active part of the project, engaging students in the process of sharing and displaying their research and project development. http://www.aspaceforlearning.blogspot.ie/

My Architecture Design Journal aims to capture that enthusiasm, learning and creativity through an engaging and freely available school resource.


Students from Santa Sabina SS Sutton, Dublin with certificates for completing My Architecture Design Journal.

Templates for student certificates available from IAF. Please get in touch to request: Rachel McAree, education@architecturefoundation.ie

Case Study 1: Parkland for Learning

St. Dominic’s Secondary School, Ballyfermot

with Greenan Red Architects


Parkland for Learning

Project Summary

The team identified the school grounds as a potential site for re-thinking learning spaces and maximising use of available space at the school. They created designs for “learning cubes’’ as alternatives to the conventional classroom, each one adapted to a specific learning activity.


 “It opened up the whole world of architecture for the girls, an opportunity which wouldn’t otherwise have been available to them. It made them much more aware and reflective of space and how it is used and designed by people. It also presented options which influence their career choices”

Mary Daly, Principal, St. Dominic’s Secondary School, Ballyfermot

Engagement process

Initial workshops centred on discussions and exploration of the school with a focus on its expansive yet under-used grounds, along with wider research on parklands and architecture. Some of the group made models and montages of the school spaces while others used photography, film and writing to explore and record the school environment.


Development Process

The team developed the concept of the school grounds as a landscape of imaginative structures for learning, a “parkland for learning”. Their aim was to maximise educational use of the school environment while experimenting with the form and function of spaces. The team based their learning parkland on a suite of “learning cubes”, conceptual spaces relating to specific subjects and activities. They made experimental models of themed cubes in a variety of materials.

For example the Science Cube is designed with graph paper walls for making diagrams and calculations with display spaces for samples and experiments.

Other “learning cubes” include:

Body Cube: with hand rail and floor markings to compliment dance and exercise

Nature Cube: lined with shelves carrying a hydroponic system for cultivating plants

Art Cube: views of nature via windows; storage for art materials: lighting

Mind Cube: a thought provoking space inspired by puzzles.



Skills: Research, photography, model making, presentation, sketching and technical drawing

Curricular links: Art, Geography, Construction, Design and Communication Graphics, Technical graphics

Presentation: Exhibition of “learning cube” models, displayed with site plans, photographs and a short documentary film.  A display cabinet for the exhibition was designed by the architects as a “Cabinet of Ideas” for the national touring exhibition of “ A Space for Learning”.

Themes: Learning spaces, Outdoor space, Sustainability


Further information:

Architects’ Perspective

Description of “Parkland for learning” project by Greenan Red Architects

Brian Greenan, Cathy Murray and Eoin Reddington



The idea evolved and was generated through discussion and realization by the students of the space surrounding the school, the hidden external spaces, thinking of ways to remake their own school and simultaneously create new types of learning spaces as an alternative to the classroom. Beginning with an awareness of the wider physical and historical context the students could be connected to an imagined world of parkland, gothic tales and mysteries. The school and its grounds are conceived as parkland for learning, a space for the imagination. It is transformed into parkland that is structured by various landscape devices or themes that each describe different spaces for the students to escape the conventional classroom. The new spaces become occupied by physical learning structures – units, pods, hides, caves, huts, nests – space both carved into and added to the existing school landscape.



The project developed further through workshops with the students. These included making models of the school grounds and exploring possible ideas for the learning units. Some students made montages of the spaces around the school while others used photography, film and writing to record their school environment. In another workshop the dimensions of a learning cube were mapped out onto the school hall floor (with tape). The students were asked to occupy this imaginary cubic space and then react to the comfort levels and possible uses.


Cubes in the parkland

Our finding and ideas throughout the course of the project are documented in drawings, models and images in our exhibition cabinet, conceived of as an ‘idea collector’. As a development from the pod we came to use the cube as a spatial generator, setting up a recurring framework that is filled in. The learning cubes are sited across the school grounds in their ‘subject fields’ of nature, art, city, science, body and mind. Each cube was imagined both as an expression of its subject and as a ‘container’ of related ideas. An intervention in a disused courtyard of the school becomes the nerve centre – a communal student hall – and is the hub from which ideas are transmitted and received to and from the parkland cubes (and ideas are shared!).


School Participants

Margaret Casey, Sarah D’Arcy, Sarah de Lacy,

Sarah Gaffney, Sasha Haughton, Victoria Johnson,

Rebecca Johnson, Edel Kelly, AmandaHughes Killeen,

Gina Mc Mahon, Lindsay Moore, Rachel O’Reilly,

Gemma Leahy, Gemma Shannon

©IAF/alice clancy

Exhibit for “A Space Learning” exhibition by
GreenanRed architects with TY students from St. Dominic’s Ballyfermot


Case Study 2: Amphi-Theatre

Beara Community School, West Cork

with Mark Gallagher of Magee Creedon Kearns Architects.



Garden, Social and recreation space

Project Summary

Scoil Phobail Bhéara is a co-ed community school situated in Castletownbere in the southwest of County Cork. The students worked with architect Mark Gallagher towards a design for a series of outdoor learning spaces arranged around a newly created garden, social and recreational space. Their proposed intervention allows the school to break out of the existing confines of the building and connect with the surrounding landscape of maritime views, natural amphitheatre and Martello Tower.

“A fantastic opportunity for the students. Our architect could not have been more helpful…It was beneficial to students by raising awareness of architecture, increasing confidence and communication skills with peers and adults and increasing skills such as presentation and model-making”
Kathleen Dwyer, Beara Community School, County Cork.

Engagement process

The first step was a visual presentation of global & local architecture which generated a lot of discussion about buildings and environment. The students were taken on a tour of the local area followed by an in-depth study of the school. “After looking around our school in more detail we all presented our idea for the project to the class in drawing, map and written form. There were many ideas and we discussed and chose the best ones to submit”

“During the term we had a field trip to Cork City. We were given guided tours of Cork County Hall and the Glucksman Gallery at UCC. We also visited the offices of Magee Creedon Kearns Architects offices and Cork Centre for Architecture. There were lots of different models of buildings to inspire us.”

Development process:

“We identified a number of parts of the school that could be improved:”

  • lack of suitable outside space
  • all corridors internal and no views to the landscape
  • school building surrounded by roads
  • more teaching out of the classroom
  • more links with the local community


The group designed a series of multiple-use outdoor pavilions to address issues raised by their research.

Amphitheatre space: Formal use for graduations, assemblies, masses, concerts. Everyday use as outdoor social space.

Enterprise: A mobile unit for business links and projects to be placed at school or in town centre, designed to double as informal café space, attractive to students and general public.

Entrance: New open layout with wall graphic to give school a clearer identity.

Create: Teaching Pavilion for humanities subjects

Martello: Combined teaching space and viewing tower, inspired by nearby Martello Tower.

Student Zone: Dedicated area where students can “ do their own thing”,

The team made a variety of drawings of their designs, including sketches, measured drawings, plans and elevations They made multiple scale models of the proposed leaning spaces, using collage and painting to add details, texture and colour. A site contour model of the school grounds was constructed in wood.  The students also wrote descriptions of their research and design process for the exhibition display panels.



Skills: Observation, team discussion, mapping, drawing, sketching, scale model making, writing, public presentation, community connections

Curricular links: Art, Geography, Construction, Design and Communication, Technical Graphics

Presentation: The models and information panels were exhibited as part of the national tour of A Space for Learning. The group also presented their designs and ideas to an audience of schools, architects and public at the Triskel Arts Centre, Cork during the national tour.

Themes: Community/civic space, Learning spaces, Social space, Outdoor space


Further Information

Students’ Perspectives:

When I was told that our class was taking part in an architecture project I thought, ‘Oh great maths …I’ll never be able to do this, it’s going to be so boring’. But… in fact it was the total opposite. It was one of the most enjoyable projects I had taken part in and it was well worth it. I learned new skills while doing architecture such as making models to scale. I have really benefitted from it and it was an enjoyable experience. I would recommend it to anyone and maybe think of it as a career option. Michelle McCarthy, TY student.

We were told about the architecture project at the beginning of TY. It sounded really interesting. At the start we all took part in it and came up with ideas on what we would improve. Then twelve of us were taken out to work on the project more. It was really fun and we all enjoyed it. We came up with ideas for the project and then made them into models. It was a great experience and I’m sure we would all like to do it again. I loved it and would recommend it to anyone. Alison Elphick, TY student.


School Participants

Kathleen Dwyer (TY Coordinator), Jack Thomas Creedon, Dominic Sean Doellken, Alison Elphick, Aoife Gleeson, Ciarain Harrington, Kelvyn Harrington, Leanne Harrington, Sheona Harrington, Dean Robert Hegarty, Dean Henshaw, Hal Lewis, Jacqueline Anne McCarthy, Michelle McCarthy, Aoife Catherine Murphy, Andrius Norkus, Eoin O’Brien, Freya O’Brien,
Eileen O’Driscoll, Aidan Joseph O’Neill, EricO’Neill, Paul O’Shea, Aine Geraldine O’Sullivan, Leanne Rose O’Sullivan,
Sean O’Sullivan, Kevin Power, Laura Sheehan, Damien Sullivan, Diarmuid Sullivan, Jason Walsh, Sean Whelan.


Beara Community School TY group and architect Mark Gallagher
with their architecture exhibit at Triskel Arts Centre, Cork


Case Study 3: Plotlines

Castleroy College, Limerick

with Donoghue Corbett Architects



Project Summary

The students were encouraged to think about their own experience of the school architecture and analyse where the untapped potential lies within it. Workshops and discussions revealed that the “in-between” spaces had most potential for development. The project focused on the process of design including hands-on workshops to investigate materials and form. The students shared their discoveries with the rest of the school by creating and distributing a zine.

 “We are really pleased to be working with such energetic young adults. The interrogation of their experience of school spaces has been inspirational and has lead to some very creative ideas from the group. With our guidance and help, it is moving towards presenting some interesting student reinterpretations of their own spaces for learning. We will continue to work with them to develop a fresh and relevant response to the question of ‘what is a space for learning?’” DonoghueCorbett Architects


Engagement process

The students analysed their school environment through discussion and exploratory tours. They also made a variety of drawings including sketches, plans and building details. “over a couple of sessions we made drawings of the school to help us understand clearly what we liked and disliked about it.”

Development Process

They decided on the central courtyard as a site for design improvement and created a graphic zine to tell the story of their project. They focused on creating innovative designs for walls, floors and ceilings in their proposed new version of the courtyard. Workshops took place in experimental model making, drawing and paper folding “ some students cut, other folded and came up with some great ideas for roof and ground surfaces”.

Hands–on workshops in concrete and plaster casting emphasised the importance of materials in architecture and provided inspiration for surface and shape.  “We made some interesting discoveries that we could use in the design of the courtyard space –great surface textures and some of he shapes could be used too, in different scales.”

Production of the zine encouraged students to use photography, writing and graphic design to tell the story of their architecture project.  It included cut-out and fold sections so that all students could make their own model of the courtyard. The zine was distributed to the whole school with vouchers for casting materials so that any student could try their hand at creative plaster-work.



Skills: Research, discussion, drawing, graphic design, model-making, paper folding and cutting, casting, writing.

Curricular links: Art, Design and Communication Graphics, English

Presentation: The zine, students’ models and casts were exhibited as part of the touring exhibition “A Space for Learning”. The final exhibit included models and examples of students’ work in drawing, paper folding and casting, all exhibited in a pair of clever display cabinets made by the architects.

Themes: Social Space, Learning Space

Further information:

Architects’ Perspective

Donoghue Corbett Architects: Maria Donoghue, James Corbett, Eamon Kelly, Jennifer Kingston

We came to this project with an open mind. We had never worked with Transition Year students on an architectural project and had no expectations or preconceptions about the experience. Quickly after meeting our group of students for the first time we realised that neither did they. It was as much our Space for Learning as theirs.

This was an opportunity. We could be loose and free with the how and what and where of learning through an architectural method of design. It became apparent that the process was the most important factor of all and this is what we wanted to record as part of our exhibition.

We encouraged the students to think about their own experience of school architecture and analyse where the untapped potential lay within it. Through a variety of initial workshops and discussions, we discovered that this potential lay not within the formal organisation of classrooms, but in the inbetween. The residual spaces, the corridors and the empty courtyards became places where the potential for architectural experiment could be examined. The students came to see that these in-between places had layers of possibility that had yet to be realised.

Throughout our time with the students we concentrated not so much on the product of architecture, but the process of design, of revealing the layers of possibility discussed. We used workshop classes to look at how we could make surface as wall, roof or ground; the relationship of orientation and light; the scale of things and texture of material.

Texture was made using a concrete casting workshop where the students could make their own formwork and, using different materials, moulds and concrete mixtures. Once the moulds were struck the students could first-hand experience the results of their experiment. The results of some of these are shown in the cabinets that are part of our exhibition.

Surface was investigated through cutting and folding card and paper to make enclosure through this simple manipulation. We were able to examine the quality of light through these explorations and investigate proportion and relationships.

The exhibition display cabinets contain not only copies of Archizine, but also portions of the resulting models and casts from the workshop experiments with the students. Some of the work was developed further by ourselves and is on display to demonstrate that the students ideas were valid and feasible as proposals for in-between space.

Archizine was conceived as a strongly visual document. Its function is to inform the other transition year students, and the wider school body, and indeed other schools if required of the documented process of the how and what and where. The format was chosen as a photo-story most often seen in teen magazines, including ‘cut-out-and-keep’ models and vouchers for material samples so students could carry out the workshops in their own homes if they wished.

We felt that Archizine is a democratic, accessible and inclusive methodology of communicating some of the essence of architecture without recourse to the perceived notion of ‘architecture as exclusive’ that continues to pervade our society. It is a transportable Space for Learning.

School Participants

Jude O’Flynn-Murphy (TY Coordinator),

Richie Feeney and Brendan Colleran (Woodwork and Technology Teachers),

Cillian McMullen, Jack Cunningham, Niall Walsh, Laoise Fitzgerald, Orlaith Magnier, Grainne

Harrahill, Alan Cunneen, Julie Doheny, Laura Donovan, Jessica Tuite, Caroline McMahon,

Leah McNamara and Kerrin Hick

©IAF/alice clancy

TY group from Castleroy College Limerick discuss their exhibit with DonoghueCorbett architects.


Case Study 4: School (E)scape

Dundalk Grammar School

with idir architecture

School (E)scape

Project Summary

The students of Dundalk Grammar & idir architects investigated their school spaces by drawing maps and making a film which showed the confined spaces of pre-fab buildings and narrow corridors. They had brainstorming sessions to investigate spaces for learning and decided to create a map which showed that the whole town was their real “space for learning” including the schools which they highlighted in yellow. They invited visitors to write or draw on a gigantic map of Dundalk, sharing memories and ideas about the town’s school buildings and other favourite places. http://aspaceforlearning.wordpress.com/

“I thought architecture was just about construction. I never realised it could be so creative and about different ideas” TY Student at Dundalk Grammar.

‘As an educator I was particularly struck by the way (the architects) emphasised the process as much as the product…They engaged the students in a way that was both meaningful and creative… The key to this was undoubtedly the way the project was designed to engage local expertise and support through involving local architects”,
Cyril Drury, Headmaster, Dundalk Grammar School


Engagement process

The group explored the school inside and out through walkabouts, photography and film.

As an experiment they took chairs and tables outside, marked out the shape of a classroom on the ground to see if the outdoor area makes a good learning space. This gave them the idea that space outside the classroom, even outside the school, could also be a learning space.


Development process:

The group had brainstorms to generate ideas and decide on the project’s direction.They also created a project blog and posted up their own creative work and interesting links from web research.

The students drew their daily routes on a large map of the school and wrote comments on the qualities of different spaces at the school. They also made a stop motion film of their experience of moving around the school.

The group studied their commuting routes to school as well as their movements around the school grounds during the day. They found that the there was a strong relationship between their experience of school and of the whole town and decided to map the whole town of Dundalk to see how everything connects up


Skills: writing, sketching, photography, mapping, filmmaking, teamwork, debate and presentation.

Curricular links: Art, Design, Technical Graphics, Social Studies, Geography: town planning, transport systems

Presentation: The group presented a giant map of the whole town of Dundalk, with all formal learning spaces (schools: primary, second level, colleges) highlighted in yellow. The map represents the idea that the whole town is their real “space for learning” as they grow up together. They also showed the stop motion film they made.

Theme: Community/Civic Space, Learning Space

The students explored their school’s connection to the wider community and looked at how important the education spaces are to themselves and their town. The project helped them to explore their role as citizens.


Architects’ Perspective:

idir architecture: Ryan Hamill, Eoin McElroy

‘Only that which does not teach, which does not cry out, which does not condescend, which does not explain, is irresistible’ William Butler Yeats.

Intrigue and influence from the above quote made aware to us that the aims of “A Space for Learning” would be best addressed through an open and recorded dialogue. Workshops, discussions, brainstorming and spatial experiments between IDIR and the Dundalk Grammar School students took place and were maintained using an online weblog ‘Learning Space’.

Initially ‘Learning Space’ was created as a platform for exchange and to gain knowledge of each-others perceptions and understanding of existing architecture and space. As our conversations developed we began to reactively explore design issues raised. These issues varied from aesthetic, spatial efficiency to environmental and economic concerns. A result of this was the creation of the ‘Post-Fab’ Learning Bubble the conceptual antithesis of the learning space that is the ‘Pre-Fab’.

At best utilitarian but unarguably mundane and uninspiring, the pre-fabricated building proliferates across educational facilities throughout the country. Often proposed initially as temporary solutions, built to design principles that establish a lowest common denominator (one size fits all), they can sometimes remain in use as classrooms for anything up to 10 years, or the entire life-cycle of a typical students attendance at school.

Although we perceive buildings as the longest lasting manifestation of human activity, these too are constantly changing and at great cost because they are created using a process that requires deconstruction before construction can take place once more. This is wasteful in building resources, ecologically damaging and inefficient in terms of placing the facility out of use for substantial periods. Nevertheless, this method of responding to change has become the norm, virtually without challenge.

The ‘Post-Fab’ Learning Bubble is to provide something light and stimulating allowing an inherent flexibility with regard to site placing and internal usage. Learning Bubbles can be easily erected, deflated, moved, stored and inspire a consciousness of building. Society exists through the collaboration of individuals sharing skills and resources. Continued progress in society occurs when new ways of working together are found. Therefore perhaps the most important architectural spaces outside the home are the places that have been established where meetings between individuals occur. We should demand this of our learning spaces and aspire to an irresistible architecture.

During the second stage of A Space for Learning students further developed discussions towards developing a national exhibition completing a stop-motion film based around their ideas and reactions to the Pre-Fab in their own school while sketching potential alternative ideas of Post-Fab bubble spaces.

The ‘Learning Space’ Map (Scale 1:1000m// Abstract) is the beginning of a departure beyond the confines of the Dundalk Grammar School. The large map creates a physical and perceptual space to further ones understanding of their own context, scale and make subsequent connections. Students both past and present were encouraged to overlay their own thoughts, ideas, impressions and memories of learning spaces in Dundalk.

This contextualized dialogue, together with the students stop motion video, will initiate further open recorded discussions as part of the national touring. We are inviting participants to respond with their thoughts on the concepts raised in ‘learning space’ by making these on the paper and in turn forming these into paper planes to accumulate as part of the exhibition dialogue, collected and displayed as the tour and conversation develops.

The familiarity people have with the ‘paper plane’ and its use as a device to continue the participatory, engaging, and open source response is fundamental to the ongoing ‘learning space’ process. The

Paper Plane embodies the liberation of ideas, reactionary nature and flexibility inherent in the concepts emerging from this project. We look forward to hearing your comments and seeing your paper plane(s)…

School Participants

Sharon Brown (TY Coordinator), Cyril Drury (Principal),

Thomas Campbell, Barry Faulkner, Kaleb Honer and Lucy Van Dijk

©IAF/alice clancy

Dundalk Grammar TY students drawing on their exhibit -a gigantic map of Dundalk


Case Study 5: Inside Out Centre

St. Mary’s Secondary School, Mallow

with Paul O’Brien of Chora Design Studio

Inside Out Centre

Project summary

The team of TY students and architect chose the ‘Human / Nature relationship’ as the central theme of their ‘space for learning’. In design terms the team took on the challenge of going beyond the normal limits of school building design, creating a design that explores how humanity and nature could productively coexist. Their design proposal translates this relationship into 3D design form, with the architecture as close to a living organism as possible.

The students have developed a concept which explores the type of learning that goes beyond general classroom teaching. They have designed a place where all students, and the public, are welcome to come and learn about sustainability. This place is both an inside space and an outside space, a true reflection of how we live in the world.” Paul O’Brien, Architect


Engagement process

The group began their project with research and discussions about their ideal learning environment. They chose nature and sustainability as the theme for their project and used creative experiments combined with research into sustainability to develop their design ideas. The students made creative collages representing their design ideas, which combined writing and drawing about different aspects of their design along with samples of colours and materials.

Development Process

The group researched and illustrated a variety of sustainable technologies that could enhance the human/nature relationship at the heart of their design. They also considered the sensory impact of their design, considering touch, smell, taste, sight and sound.

The students worked collaboratively to create a physical scale model of the building and gardens, accompanied by collages and architectural drawings. They also had hands-on workshops to model prototypes of design elements such as a cast resin floor tile with embedded autumn leaves, a tree-hung wicker seat and a wind turbine.


Skills: Observation, team discussion, mapping, drawing, sketching, scale model making, writing, public presentation, community connections

Curricular links: Art, Geography, Construction, Design and Communication Graphics, Technical graphics and Science.

Presentation: Student created models and professionally rendered information panels were exhibited as part of the national tour of “A Space for Learning”. The use of these two very different mediums created a stark contrast, showing how a simple model can lead to a viable real time design proposal.

Theme: Sustainability, Habitat, Outdoor space, Learning spaces


Architect’s Perspective:

Chora Design Studio – Paul O’Brien

Many elements come together to create architecture but it can’t begin its journey without a brief. The title of this competition was well considered in that sense. If you want to pull down walls to see what’s outside then this is how you define a brief.

The challenge was to mark the boundaries to remain within while working with a title that contained the words ‘space’ and ‘learning’, two words that can be defined as expansive and unlimited.

In the spirit of this challenge, it felt only right to translate this into the thought process used to create the ‘Space for Learning’. The students were encouraged to go outside the rigorous framework of the ‘school’ environment and explore the world of learning, with no limitations. And if any group could do it, it would be the TY students. They rose to that challenge with vigour and enthusiasm, producing a design that explored how humanity and nature could coexist in a harmonious, interactive and fruitful relationship.

This Human/Nature relationship is a fundamental one that we all inhabit, regardless of whether we recognise it. This design proposes to inform visitors of this relationship, past and present, positive and negative, so that the relationship can be explored and continue to evolve and manifest into its full potential.

The architecture itself is designed as a ‘living organism’ in as much as a building can be. It is a way of merging Nature with Technology, the medium through which we translate the assets of nature into functional use.

The essence of this design is that it’s ‘potential’ is only limited by the programme for the building. It has great flexibility in this sense and can therefore adapt to its environment.



Moira Hunter (teacher), Aga Bojdol, Ciara O’Callaghan, Órla Walsh, Audrey Notter,

Suzanne Weedle, Aislinn Glynn, Naomi Flynn, Jessica Brady, Órlaith Meaney, Katie Murphy,

Kellie Nunan, Laura Manton, Julie Long, Eleanor Crowley, Sarah Priestley, Elizabeth Gayer,

Sophie Casey, Ruth Linehan, Aisling O’Hanlon.

©IAF/alice clancy

TY students from St. Mary’s Mallow with their exhibit for the “A Space for Learning” exhibition.


Case Study 6: Living Room

Mercy College Coolock, Dublin

with Architects Laura O’Brien, Faela Guiden and Helen Kelly

Living Room

Project Summary

A vacant courtyard in the centre of the school was the focus for the student’s design project. Through discussions and model making workshops they created designs to transform the space into a sheltered forest glade, suitable for gathering, resting and eating lunch.

 “The Space For Learning project has given our students a pathway to the understanding of architecture as a significant aspect of everyday life and challenged them to analyse shape and space so as to produce a  permanent installation at the centre of the school. It has brought them face to face, in a practical manner, with questions about their  experience of architecture which might otherwise never have been asked.” Donal O’ Mahony, Vice-Principal, Mercy College, Coolock, Dublin

Engagement process

The project began with discussions to determine the specific issues at the school, leading to development of the central courtyard site as “a space for lunch”. The idea of a forest clearing influenced the students’ designs, explored through models and collages using simple materials such as paper, cardboard, lollysticks and sugar cubes.

Development Process

This project was developed by the architects into a permanent installation in the courtyard: a pair of timber roof structures among a forest of birch trees. Students also planted a garden around the structures.


Skills: Discussion, teamwork, model making, drawing, presentation

Curricular links: Art & Design, Geography, Science, and Technical Graphics

Presentation: Models and architectural drawings from the project were displayed during the touring exhibition “ A Space for Learning”. In the school, the transformed courtyard space has inspired a new school gardening club.

Theme: Social space, Outdoor space, Sustainability

Further information:


Architects’ Perspective:

Faela Guiden, Helen Kelly & Laura O’Brien

The project began with a two day workshop in which transition year students were asked to develop a brief for the courtyard site in the centre of their school. Through discussing the specific issues in their school, students began to design ‘a space for lunch’. The idea of a clearing in a forest was explored through models. At a scale of 1:50, students employed prescribed materials to construct and test their designs within the limits of the 9.5m x 19.8m courtyard site. Our role was restricted to photographing and cataloguing student work.

With the support of Mercy College, Dublin City Council and the Irish Architecture Foundation, we undertook to develop the student work into a built project in order to give the students a complete exposure to construction. We set about developing a full set of working drawings and a strategy for the courtyard which would reflect the students’ own ambitions for the space.

The idea of a garden and forest clearings was explicit throughout student work. We proposed to plant silver and downy birch trees and build two timber roof structures amongst the trees. The roof structures would provide shelter and gathering spaces in the courtyard.

It was important that students were involved in all stages of the design process. The scheme was presented to the students and staff last May, outlining the intention to build in the courtyard. Students also took part in a second workshop on site during the summer with three landscape architects from Dublin City Council. Grasses, wild flowers and herbs were planted and students learned how to maintain their new garden.

The timber structures were constructed offsite and brought to the school for assembly.

100mm x 100mm timber lengths were halved to form wedge-shaped sections out of which frames were fabricated. Each corner of the frame is alternately supported by a 100mm x 50mm timber section which is bolted to a single column. This column is spliced onto a steel upright, which is in turn bolted onto a 1500mm x 1500mm concrete pad.

The exhibition piece is a record of the work that has taken place in the school. A collection of student models and collages are displayed alongside working models and drawings. The footprint of the armature retains the same proportions of the courtyard. The exhibition piece is manufactured from Douglas Fir, the same timber used in the timber canopies. The idea of the garden has taken root in the life of the school and is testament to the engagement of the staff and students with the process from beginning to end.



Donal O’Mahony (Technical Drawing Teacher), Carol Rooney (TY Coordinator),

Nayla Abdulla, Amy Blake, Gillian Byrne, Jade Casey, Rachel Ellis, Charlotte Dwyer, Rachel Ellis,

Vanessa Flood, Amy Fowler, Kirsty Fox, Siobhan Hyland, Orlaith Keenan, Lisa Kelly, Jennifer Kennedy,

Naomi Keogh, Siobhán Loscher, Jessica Maden, Danielle Maguire, Aoife McGowan, Helen

McLoughlin, Anna Nguyen, Áine O’Connor, Rebecca O’Hara, Christina Olwill, Sarah Purcell,

Natasha Rickaby, Gemma Ryan, Beth Valente, Niamh Walsh and Elizabeth Warren.

© alice clancy

Display of models by Mercy Coolock students made during A Space for Learning workshops.


Case Study 7: Here Today Green Tomorrow

Sandford Park School

with architect Federico Scoponi


Here Today Green Tomorrow

Project Summary

Students of Sandford Park School and architect Federico Scoponi were very interested in how the spaces we use everyday influence our lives and how we can improve schools to make them more sustainable. They looked at two aspects of sustainability, how the school connects to the whole community, making it a useful resource for everyone, and how to use green technology and natural light to make buildings more environmentally friendly. They designed a plan for an Education Park which is social, sensitive and sustainable.

To the question “What did you learn from the project?”, students replied “To work in a team” and “ How much of a difference natural light makes in a building.” Federico Scoponi

Engagement Process: The group began their project from the perspective of the wider community, thinking about how a school could be welcoming and useful for everyone around it.

Planning game: This challenge was to design an imaginary city and work out the best location for the school to serve the needs of the community. They also had to consider roads, housing, business, recreation, green space & water. It was a team exercise using collage and drawing techniques, using internet research on cities across the world and plenty of imagination…

Brainstorm: The group decided to create a model of an Education Park with a school at its heart. It was important to the group that the school has lots of natural light and sustainable features.

Development Process: The team used models to develop their ideas for school design,  combined with drawings to show how light gets into the building and how rainwater is collected. They also made a model from card to show their design for the Education Park.


Skills: collage, model making

Curricular links: art, design, tech graph, geography & history

Presentation: The team presented the models with the planning game collages to show how they developed their ideas and to emphasise three important elements of their project: community, sustainability and natural light. They learnt that the role of an architect includes planning, decision making, designing and being productive.

Theme: Sustainability, Community and Connection


Further information:

Architect’s Perspective:

Federico Scoponi (Italy)

The art room and the people inside became tabula rasa. Previous experiences, age and qualification did not matter: we all became part of a learning experience which grew meeting after meeting in a natural way. The time spent together was an opportunity to discover, develop and improve. The process went beyond the traditional relationship between teachers and students: everyone was crucial in this work in progress. Everyday choices brought us to a and that was unexplored some hours before.

This continuous surprise, fresh inspiration and free imagination, driven by architectural principles, led to the definition of our scheme. The enlightenment of new values and the recollection of the needs hidden among the school desks were at the core of this experience.

The result, more than the architectural scheme we produced together, has been an enrichment based on a shared learning experience.

To the question ‘What did you learn from the project?’, one of the students replied: ‘The psychology of architecture and how spaces affect your life/environment’.

The exploration of the relationship between human beings and the surrounding architecture, the understanding of the environment, buildings and spaces as living organisms, and how the life of spaces can affect our experiences, especially in the case of learning spaces where the intellect and the mind reach maturity, was the legacy of this project. A sixteen year-old boy who understands that the built environment and architecture have their own psychology which affects our everyday life is the first real step towards a sustainable architecture.


School Participants

Maire Brennan (teacher), Mark Murphy, Jordan Huysmans, Jack Plears, Colm Mulryan, Luke Dulea, Alex Dolan,

Andrew O’Donoghue, Neil McShane, David Griffin, Rory McDonald, Omid Ghaedizadeh, Fraser Hocking,

Brian Rigney, Niall Campbell, Lorcan Clarke, Michael Burton, Orla Doyle and Shane Cull.


“Here Today Green Tomorrow” exhibit for A Space for Learning touring exhibition


Case Study 8: Forum

St Angela’s Secondary School, Cork

with O’Donnell + Tuomey,



Transforming a forgotten space into a space for learning.

Project Summary

The architects were engaged to design new buildings for the school when “A Space for Learning” began. They began a parallel project with the student group based on designs for the art room and outdoor spaces.

‘There was a real sense of togetherness, the freedom of sitting in the long grass allowed

us to talk together in a relaxed environment. It was easy to concentrate and to listen,

think freely and be creative.’ Student, St. Angela’s


Engagement Process:

The ‘brief’ was to explore the school site, specificly the ‘possibility for these outdoor (school) spaces to become places for learning.’

The Architects introduced the project by giving an overview of the concepts for the new design of the school, a real-time parallel development by ODT to design a new school for St Angela’s.

This was followed by a walking tour of contemporary and historic architecture by the students and Architects. The exploration led to the idea of outdoor space in the school as a potential place for learning. The Victorian walled garden behind the Convent became a temporary outdoor  space for learning, a site for discussion, artwork and contemplation.

Development Process:

The students responded with design ideas for the steep and stepped outdoor spaces around their school, incorporating viewing points and amphitheatres into drawings of the spaces. An art class held outdoors inspired discussions about the future Art Room, revealing the students’ ideas about combining old and new materials, the importance of light and the power of nature.

In the proposed scheme an art room revitalises this space, transforming a forgotten outdoor school space at St. Angela’s into a space for learning.


Skills : writing, sketching, investigation and experimentation skills, photography, mapping, visual-spatial observation, debate and oral presentation skills.

Curricular links: History, Art History appreciation, sustainability, Geography, town planning, Visual art

Presentation: The team recorded their conversations on film and displayed their drawings. Each student  group presented their ideas in a ‘forum’ environment to each other.

Themes: investigated the relationship between historic and contemporary town planning, outdoor spaces in schools as places of learning, relationship between school learning and self development and nature, architecture professional practice conciousness raising excercise


Further information:

Architects Perspective:

Paul Durcan, Sarah Jane Mc Gee and Henrik Wolterstorff,

O’Donnell + Tuomey Architects

St. Angela’s College is nestled behind the Georgian houses of St. Patricks Hill in Cork with magnificent views across the city. Perhaps the steepest school in Ireland, it’s collection of historical buildings step down the steep slope, interweaved with outdoor paths and gardens. A Space for Learning was an opportunity to explore the possibility for these spaces to become places for learning.

Kick-starting with an architectural tour of Cork City and culminating with a guided tour of the Glucksman Gallery, a group of transition year students participated in a series of design workshops.

The workshop began inside a typical classroom, in what is traditionally conceived as a space designed to learn in, however the student’s mindset seemed constrained by their surroundings. We decided to move the workshop outdoors. A walled Victorian garden behind the convent became the classroom. Each girl found a place in the long grass to draw using natural inks from the flowers and twigs from the apple trees.

The sunny day ended with a collective conversation, an outdoor ‘Forum’ or place for learning, with discussion centred on the role of the past in architecture, the importance of materiality, and the powerful ability of nature to inspire and free your mind.

This project runs in parallel with the design of a new school for St. Angela’s by ODT. In the proposed scheme an art room re-vitalises this space, transforming a forgotten place into a Space for Learning.


School Participants

Janet Ellis (Art teacher), Louise Birmingham (Art teacher), Geraldine Quilter (Principal),

Riona Coleman, Niamh Daly, Deirdre Green, Jennifer Griffin, Molly Hurley, Amber McElroy,

Stephanie McKenna, Siobhan O’Connor, Faye Ormond, Emma Porter, Charlotte Smith, Beth Walsh and Fiona Walsh

Case Study 9: Palace of Rooms

St. Patrick’s College, Cavan  

with Noel J Brady, NJBA A&U

Palace of Rooms

Project Summary

The student/architect team decided to completely re-think the classroom space based on their current learning needs. The group designed a new kind of learning space, which enables individual and collective learning. Their design introduces personalised study areas around a flexible central space.

“The learning space that has been created would be good because it has been created by lots of different types of people.” St. Patricks College Student


Engagement process

Following a scene setting presentation on ideas about educational spaces each student used a small sketchbook to record their first thoughts and ideas about what a space for learning might entail. Common words and themes were collected to form the basis for the next workshop, when students created collages to help visualize new kinds of spaces. The group also investigated learning spaces in terms of light, proportion, access to nature and connections with the wider community.


Development Process

The group developed a design for a new kind of learning environment based on their findings, a space for individual & collective learning; a space which makes the community feel welcome; a space with natural light and access to nature. They created models of their new classroom design with study pods arranged around a central space complete with prototypes of their personalised desks.



Skills: Individual research, collective discussion, drawing, sketching & collage, model-making. Peer presentations

Curricular links: Art, Geography, Construction, Design and Communication Graphics, Technical Graphics

Presentation: The final exhibit “A Palace of Rooms” included a book of students’ collages, a model of the new classroom design and prototypes of the personalised student study areas.

Theme: Social Space


Further information:

Architect’s Perspective:

NJBA A&U – Noel J Brady

Secondary Thoughts

It became clear by the end of the collaborative process that the world we live in is exactly what we deserve. We are forgetful that just because we have what we have does not mean it should be as is. Without any aesthetic objective or object oriented goal the project was set up to explore the world of students at the coal face of what we call learning. In creating the space to think about the world as it might be more than mere space emerged. What was clear that the focus on space, light, form, shape, material and accessories was merely skimming the surface.

At the very end of the process I conducted a ‘mind map’ exercise to see if we could devise a new curriculum for this space. By asking the students about their own future, their own path, it was clear that under the current curriculum, taking subjects for examination had little bearing on their desired destination.

Did the design process encourage this late epiphany? I am not sure, but certainly the design has provided for a very important change; the support of individual learning. In a group the tendency to work to common (usually lower) denominator belittles everyone. The space at the heart of the learning experience has been excavated to allow many things while allowing for the individual. By a roundabout journey we have arrived at St. Jerome’s study. It is perhaps timely that this occurs at a time when in the UK a Swedish model of personalised learning is being introduced on a trial basis. This would be akin to providing the missing maps.


Gwen Brady (Teacher), Kevin Brady, Darren Conaty, Donal Cooney, Cathal Crowe, Cian Donohoe, Glenn Farrelly, Brian Flanagan, Tony Galligan, Peter Hand, Eoghan Martin, Thomas McMahon, Andrew O’Brien, Fionn O’Donoghue, David O’Keeffe, Cian O’Rourke, Padraig Reilly, Liam Sharkey, Adrian Smith, Conor Truyan, Sean Van Haaster, Colin Burke, Conor Connolly, Cathal Cronin, Pauric Donnelly, Brandon Dunne, Sean Finan, Gary Galligan, Conor Gormley, Alan Kelly, Simon McCaffrey, Stephen Murray, Craig O’Callaghan, Daniel O’Neill, Sean O’Reilly, Precious Okpaje, Padraig Sexton, Cathal Sheridan, Philip Smith, Gareth Tierney and Joseph Weritz.

(C) IAF/alice clancy

TY students with their final exhibit


Case Study 10: A Model for Design

St.Paul’s College, Raheny

with Robert Bourke Architects


A Model for Design

Project Summary

The group analysed their school and its users in detail and developed designs for two architectural features which would improve school life – a canteen extension and a new common room. They made a short film to document their discoveries and a model of the school showing the new features.

 ‘What was most rewarding was seeing the progress of the students through the course of the project. They now speak with greater confidence and articulation about their physical environment.’ Robert Bourke, Architect

Engagement process:

A series of workshops were held to fully immerse the students in the architectural design process. They analysed their school building and its users by looking at structure & materials, light and space, environmental design and user habits and patterns. Their analysis revealed a lack of eating space and social space.


Development Process:

Students presented their analysis to school management, teachers and students and discussed design solutions together. In response to their findings, the team developed design ideas for a common room and canteen extension.

The common room design provides a space for TY and senior cycle students to study, socialise and relax. Situated in the school courtyard, an exterior wall of coloured panels and “green” roof enliven the whole school.

The canteen extension  is designed to accommodate the whole school, including teachers and uses coloured light wells to maximise natural light.

Both designs indicate the students’ awareness of the importance of informal activities (eating, playing, socialising) as a vital part of their school learning experience.



Skills: Research, presentation, model making, drawing, film-making, writing, photography

Curricular links: Art, Design & Communication Graphics, Geography,

Presentation: The group made a short animated film documenting their project development and created a large model of the school incorporating their design ideas.

The team exhibited their model and film in the IAF touring exhibition “ A Space for Learning”.  The architect and students also gave a public lecture about their project.

Themes: Sustainability; Social Space


Further information:



Architect’s Perspective:

Robert Bourke Architects

In order to fully immerse the students of St. Paul’s in the architectural design process, a series of special workshops were held at the school over three months. The students were taught how to carry out a detailed analysis of their school buildings and its users. Through these investigations, the team identified ways to dramatically improve their school through relatively small changes in its design. The exhibition piece describes this work through a short film and scale models, all of which were designed and made by the students.


Building analysis

The students spent the first few weeks of the project closely examining their school buildings under the headings of structure and materials, light and space, environmental design and user habits and patterns. They were taught how to observe and record their findings through measuring, sketching, physical and computer modeling, video, photography and user surveys. At the mid point in the project, they made a presentation of their analysis to the school management, teachers and fellow students, which led to a discussion about how their findings could translate into built designs.

Throughout the project, the students’ work was published on an internet blog  which provided additional learning resources for the team and allowed outside viewers to follow their progress online.


Design proposals

The team discovered that although the school was well equipped for formal teaching, there were very few places for students to gather and socialise between classes, during break times and after normal class hours. Armed with this knowledge and equipped with their new set of skills, the students set about designing and modeling new social spaces for learning by enlarging and transforming their existing canteen into a new social hub of the school and creating a common room for senior students to gather, study and rest.


Exhibition piece

The exhibition piece presents this work in the form of a display table containing a laser-cut model of the central area of the school. Scale models of the students’ designs are placed into it, offering the viewer glimpses into the transformed canteen and purpose-designed common room. A film, reflected in a mirror suspended from the table, documents their work and guides the visitor through a digital model of the existing school campus, showing how it could look if the students’ designs were implemented.


Lessons learned

The observations made by the students at St. Paul’s highlight the need for welldesigned spaces in schools for gathering, playing and general social interaction. This is in line with current thinking in school design, which recognises the importance of such informal activities as a vital part of one’s school learning experience.*


The project undertaken at St. Paul’s is a model that could be adapted and used in any project requiring the design and improvement of a school or other buildings with complex user requirements. Through such a model, the participants, as building users, provide an invaluable input into the design process, develop a deeper appreciation of the importance of good design and gain a greater sense of ownership through their involvement in the design.

Given the need for improvements in many Irish school buildings, it is hoped that such a model could be used as an effective way of creating spaces that stimulate learning, and bring enjoyment and delight to those who use them.


School Participants

Mary O’Hanlon (teacher), Sean Walpole, Stephen Mannion, Sam Wilson, Robert Reynolds, Chris Ryan, Luke McMahon,

Timmy Moriarty, Shane McMahon, Adam Hoban, Sean Deery, James Keyes, Seán Colley, Shane Re Gazzoli, Leo Farrelly,

Andrew Kinlay, Philip O’Gorman and Michael Suttle.


Model in progress – St. Paul’s Raheny TY students with architect Robert Bourke


Teacher Training

Although My Architecture Design Journal is intended as a resource that teachers can use independently, we appreciate that it is highly beneficial to teachers to provide opportunities which will enhance the potential of the project.

The IAF is currently piloting an Architect-led Teacher Training Course with the NCAD Art Teacher in-service CPD programme. (April/May 2013) We aim to develop further opportunities for teachers in partnership with Education Centres and Teacher Training Colleges.

Art teachers attending CPD course at NCAD based on My Architecture Design Journal

Art teachers attending CPD course at NCAD based on My Architecture Design Journal


During the exhibition tour of A Space for Learning (2011-2012), IAF  Teacher Training sessions were delivered by Architects with experience of school-based projects.

Art and Construction Studies Teachers attending CPD session in Donegal with architect Robert Bourke

Art and Construction Studies Teachers attending CPD session in Donegal’s Regional Cultural Centre with architect Robert Bourke during exhibition tour of A Space for Learning.


Weblinks and further reading

The IAF’s Architrek guides were designed for younger children but have proved popular with Second Level teachers as a fresh and stimulating way to encourage architecture observation.
* Project Idea:  Students could create an Architrek for their own area, combining architecture, local knowledge and Design and Communication Graphics.

There is a list of useful  research links in Student Section, (Brief 1, Be Inspired / Search tools and Links)


Get In Touch
For more information contact: education@architecturefoundation.ie

Irish Architecture Foundation
15 Bachelors Walk
Dublin 1

+353 1 874 7205
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