Jayne Harrison on designing resilient learning environments through community engagement

As a leading advocate for resilient and responsible architecture, particularly in education, Jayne Harrison, Founder and Principal of JDH Architects, believes in engaging people and communities to achieve great design results. design.

Instructional design

Having worked on billion-dollar infrastructure projects in Hong Kong and London, Harrison’s entry into designing learning environments was quite accidental – an introduction to Catholic education through the principal of his daughter’s school. Since founding JDH Architects in 2003, she and her team have helped multiple schools deliver lasting learning outcomes with solutions that are “informed by research, inspired by context, and guided by human-centered design”.

“Instructional design has advanced, especially in Australia, and the learning environments are very different from what you and I have experienced,” says Harrison. Moving away from the traditional architectural approach, the JDH team engages with teachers, students and schools, and develops ideas around human-centered design.

“We really get to build deep and meaningful relationships with the people we work for, and that really fuels my curiosity and we’re able to get insights that I don’t think a traditional methodology would actually uncover” , she explains.

Gender Equality in the Architecture Industry

As a female architect, what does Harrison think of the situation of women in architecture and construction from a gender perspective?

Observing that the architectural profession in NSW is not well supported, she believes that women in architecture in Australia need to be supported and encouraged to put themselves forward and have opportunities to come together collaboratively.

Although nearly half (or more) of all architectural graduates in Australia are women, gender discrimination is endemic in the industry, with many female architects remaining in junior-level positions. Although Harrison thinks the situation is changing, she says it’s a very slow and difficult battle.

“I think there’s change, but it’s really not happening fast enough and maybe it’s not happening hard enough in the right direction,” she says. “Many Australians have outdated and harmful views on gender equality. This is a problem that needs to be addressed at the highest level. »

“For me, I usually work on really big projects and whether it’s by design or just a lack of commitment to equality, the play is always male-dominated. There are cultural issues within organizations and I’m talking about national and international companies that employ more than two hundred people.

According to Harrison, while many young women are rising up, it’s really hard when organizations are so biased toward the male workforce. Calling for massive systemic change, she says it will take time and take literally drastic measures to change the way people feel.

So, would more women join the construction and architecture workforce if the environment became more attractive?

Tier 1 builders, says Harrison, build 90% of Australia’s largest public infrastructure projects. New South Wales government projects total up to several billion dollars a year. However, neither the bidding schedules nor the process say anything about workforce diversity.

“There is no reward and there is no penalty”, explains the architect. “So we need to look at how we are making these changes and making workspaces and places more attractive and accessible to women from top to bottom.”

Aesthetics in the Built Environment

Architects understand and appreciate the importance of aesthetics to the quality of the built environment, says Harrison. It’s a known fact that people work more productively in well-designed offices, improve faster in well-designed hospitals, and learn better in well-designed schools.

Good quality design is valuable; however, it is very difficult for architects when placed in a position where their skills are considered a dollar commodity.

Environmental quality in post-pandemic design

Harrison observes that people are becoming much more aware of environmental quality post-pandemic, especially in indoor spaces.

As architects, they are also committed to avoiding further degradation of the planet, which means they focus more on sustainable performance in everything they do and try to educate their clients on this aspect. design.

However, the acceptance of sustainable design remains a barrier due to the cost factor. “No one wants to pay for sustainable design and that’s the unfortunate message that’s being sent out because it’s very, very misunderstood, both by industry and by the general public. So it’s really about getting back to basics by looking at how we deliver quality environments,” says Harrison.

To overcome this obstacle, JDH focuses on designing according to passive house principles, making it a win-win solution for everyone with buildings that are well insulated, constantly supplied with fresh air and cooled with much less energy. ‘energy.

“We are now able to move forward with what we have always believed to be fundamental design principles in designing education for our clients. »

“We usually take inspiration from the people we work with. We have an extremely diverse team here at JDH. We have a lot of European and Asian influences. My inspiration obviously comes from everywhere and everything. Right now, we’re taking a lot of inspiration from nature,” says Harrison.

Taking the example of the Reggio Amelia approach to early education, she explains how the philosophy defines the best way to educate children: the child is the first teacher, the teacher is the second teacher and the environment is the third teacher – the environment referring to the school building.

“It’s that kind of big picture vision that really inspires me, watching how people do things differently is where I draw inspiration from.”

If you want to learn more about Jayne Harrison’s insights into educational design, listen to her podcast here

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