Skip to main content

Democratic Spaces: School Architecture and Democratic Education

What & why?

In recent years, the interdependence of space and pedagogy has been frequently discussed within the discourse on school development. But what does this mean for the field of democratic education? What role does the spatial design of school buildings play in the formation of a democratic school culture? How can it promote a sense of belonging for all its members? Is there perhaps even such a thing as a „democratic school architecture“?

The complex nature of these questions necessarily requires a nuanced answer: buildings in general and school buildings in particular may often have been created for specific political purposes and shaped by specific political intentions, but their subsequent use is often remarkably flexible in relation to their original purposes and intentions – which is why there cannot be such a thing as a „democratic school architecture“ per se. On the one hand, this becomes apparent throughout the varying and shifting usage histories of prominent monumental buildings. On the other hand, there is the fact that many of today’s school buildings still date back to the late 19th century, i.e. to a time when principles of democracy and cooperation between teachers and students were rarely at the centre of school life. However, even in such historic school buildings it is yet possible to conduct contemporary democratic education today. 

Nevertheless, schools buildings and their interiour spatial arrangements strongly influence if and how schools can become democratic spaces.