An introduction to modern architectural design styles for schools

Modern architectural design is transforming learning spaces, with aesthetics and functionality working together to create environments that promote student success. In this article, we explore some of the school architectural design styles available.

What is architectural design?

A drawing of a building

Architectural design is the creative process of designing and fabricating concepts for buildings or structures. This requires a combination of aesthetic and technological tasks to work alongside construction rules. Three elements constitute architectural design:

  • Intention
  • Design objects
  • Technical and aesthetic details

When understanding architectural design, it’s important to understand the difference between architecture and architectural design. Architecture is the holistic approach to designing buildings or structures. Architectural design, however, focuses solely on the design element.

While aesthetics and function will play a significant role in architectural design, other components must be considered. Legal considerations, building regulations, and knowledge of engineering are also necessary.

Why is architectural design important?

A close-up of people discussing a project

Architectural design plays a crucial role in building construction, including school buildings. All buildings need to provide certain functions and meet certain standards. Architectural design also considers aesthetic appeal, durability, safety, and function.

All these factors play an important role in architectural design for schools. Buildings must be safe and durable, and their design and aesthetics can significantly impact learning. The aesthetics of a space must create the right learning atmosphere and achieve a positive vision.

Research conducted by the University of Salford found that learning progress can be improved by up to 16% in a single year when taught in well-designed classrooms. The features and components incorporated into a school’s architectural design can make a significant difference.

Some of the key features for improving learning in architectural design include:

  • Integration of technology.
  • Comfort and aesthetics.
  • Classroom environment.
  • Integration of nature.
  • Creating multi-purpose spaces.

Prioritising these factors helps to improve the success of a learning space while also ensuring that learning progress is maximised. When it comes to implementing design features, there are several modern architectural design styles to consider.

Modern architectural design styles for schools

Modern designs will exhibit a range of factors that set them apart from traditional design styles, including:

  • Open floor plans.
  • Minimal ornamentation.
  • Indoor and outdoor connection.
  • Rectangular forms and clean lines.
  • Large horizontal windows or curtain glass.

Here are a range of modern architectural design styles for schools to consider for encouraging deeper and richer learning:


A building in the Bauhaus architectural design style

Bauhaus is an artistic style created by Walter Gropius in Germany around 1919. It is considered one of the most influential art styles of the 20th century. The style originated from a school of architecture and arts.

After the school closed in 1933 due to political pressure, the founders and students helped spread the Bauhaus art style worldwide. Nowadays, Bauhaus is widely used in many designs, from buildings to chairs.

A lack of unnecessary ornamentation distinguishes the Bauhaus architectural design style. Instead, Bauhaus designs will focus on the building’s practicality, functionality, and craft. Common features include geometrical forms, design regularity, and minimal ornamentation.

When applied to school architectural design, Bauhaus exhibits several features that help develop aesthetic and beneficial learning environments. Examples include glass curtain walls, smooth facades, focus on simple geometric forms, and functional design.


A building in the Constructivism architectural design

Constructivism is another modern architectural design style. Originating in the 1920s, It was to some degree influenced by the Bauhaus design style. While the art style didn’t stay around for long, its influences still exist today.

Constructivism is categorised by its design style of combining various forms, such as rectangles, cubes, and squares, with straight lines. As a result, buildings with a constructivist style will exhibit minimal, spatial, geometric, and architectonic elements.

Some constructivist architectural design features can be applied to schools to improve learning. For example, windows often cover a significant portion or entirety of a building supported by steel frames, use of glass curtains, and exposed joints.

As a result, buildings with a constructivist design allow much more natural light while being more realistic. Other features of constructivist school design that benefit learning include flexible spaces, collaborative spaces, and the creation of personalised learning areas.


A building in the Eclecticism architectural design style

The eclectic design style originates from the 19th century and focuses on mixing elements of previous historical styles to create something original.

Any design with a neo-prefix typically indicates an eclectic design, such as the neo-gothic design of the Palace of Westminster and Big Ben. Since eclectic design takes its inspiration from existing structures, it offers greater flexibility than other design styles.

As a result, this makes it ideal for creating unique and appealing architectural school designs. Incorporating modern features with classic designs allows for greater flexibility. Some features of eclecticism designs include accent walls, patterns and textures, unifying colour, and use of objet d’art.


A building in the international architectural design style

Another modern architectural design style for schools is international. Popularised in Europe and the US during the 1930s, International architectural design became a dominant style in the 20th century. This design style favours volume over mass.

International designs use lightweight, industrial materials that forgo repetitive modular forms, colour, or ornamentation. Many buildings with an international architectural design exhibit features such as flat roofs, rectangular-formed windows, and a lack of colour.

School buildings with an international architectural design approach will have large, airy rooms, minimal interior ornamentation, and prominent use of glass and steel with clean design lines.


A building in the postmodern architectural design style

Postmodernism is another modern architectural design style that can be implemented in schools. Originating in the 1960s, postmodernism grew from a growing criticism of the calcified modern design style, which discouraged historical reference in architectural design.

Instead, postmodern designs sought to implement individualistic and varied designs. As a result, many postmodern architectural designs of the time incorporated symbolic and playful stylistic references, leading to many abstract and creative designs.

While many postmodern designs of the past may now look dated, the influence and impact it’s had on modern architecture cannot be overlooked. Some characteristics of postmodern architectural designs include contradiction, asymmetry, humour, and fragmentation.


A building with a sustainable architectural design

Sustainable architecture is a more recent architectural design style that attempts to reduce buildings’ environmental impact. This style, sometimes called green or environmental architecture, focuses on improving efficiency and moderating material and energy usage.

Unlike other architectural design styles, designers must consciously approach ecological conservation and energy. Building construction and features must help maintain or improve the environment.

The LEED certificate classes sustainable buildings. Only buildings with this certification are considered sustainable. Some characteristics of green buildings include indoor environment quality, sustainable use of materials and resources, and reduced energy consumption.


A building with a contemporary design

Contemporary architecture is another recent design style that encompasses a range of different design approaches and styles. Considering the architectural style of the 21st century, contemporary architecture doesn’t have a single dominant style.

Contemporary architects may work with high-tech, postmodern, and reworkings of traditional architecture. Contemporary design should not be confused with modern design, which was prevalent during the 20th century.

Unlike the other design styles covered, this style is not a movement, so most designs will reflect current trends. However, some common features in contemporary buildings today are open floor plans, large windows, flat roofs, and sustainability.

Space is a crucial factor in developing effective modern learning environments. New-build schools or developments on existing sites can benefit from choosing an architectural design style that meets the needs of your school while benefiting learning.