An institution is envisioned for a long time to come; it is the legacy of the founders to posterity. A lot of thought goes into articulating the philosophy and values in the formulation of an institution, which defines how the culture of the institution will develop.
The architect gives a form to the buildings that embody the values while taking care of all the functional considerations. Typically an institution has a hierarchy of spaces. There are spaces that relate to the outside world – the entrance, the lobby, the appearance of the building. There are spaces for the congregation – lecture halls, auditoriums, playgrounds, assembly areas, and cafeteria. There are places for specific events – classrooms, laboratories, libraries. Then there are the circulatory spaces – corridors, wells, atriums, alleys. How these spaces come together, how they are laid out, the materials they are built with, the volumes they have – all these add up to create the unique feeling of the institution.
While the architectural vision creates the institutional shell, what makes it come alive is how the interior environment is further perceived; the layout plans of the school furniture, lab furniture and interior elements, creating the flexibility of furniture elements that some spaces require; the colour schemes, the furniture, the storage; how these elements integrate with the lighting, the data cabling and other technologies and services.
An institution is built to last – but sadly, the same is rarely true of the furniture and storage elements. Therefore we have well-designed buildings populated with school furniture that starts wearing out badly while the building is still in good condition. Table-top edges are chipped, metal frames break down, chairs collapse – cupboards have doors that do not close properly, laboratories look boring, libraries look dreary.
This happens either because the same care in designing buildings is not given to designing the furniture, or because a short-term trade-off in costs results in buying cheap furniture that eventually has to be repaired or replaced in a few years. On the other hand, a long-term approach to good furniture design gives two tangible benefits – it ensures that the same values that create the building continue to be expressed in the furniture, and also because the furniture wears well over time the internal environment looks and works better. Government regulations and institutional initiatives together can draw attention to the seriousness of the scenario and bring about a change.
The furniture industry over the years has given shape to environments that are uniquely suited to the vision of educational institutions and have evolved significantly in accommodating their needs and specifications. It is in the spirit of being open to learning and in sharing what is known that has resulted in unique and lasting institutional spaces.
While the importance of user-friendly ergonomic furniture in educational institutes cannot be stressed upon enough, a good beginning can be made by ensuring that people at the helm of these institutes think about the extensive value addition to the life of students. It also needs parents to wake up and pay attention to smaller details of their children’s health like never before.
This article was originally published on HTS portal.