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Q&A with David Clarke dwp Education Sector Leader

For 17 years before working for dwp, David Clarke ran his own private practice creating progressive education projects. For the last ten years he focused specifically on the architecture of “innovative learning environments”, flexible, open spaces in education. Because one degree is never enough for a man passionate about education; David attained a degree in Psychology before studying Architecture. He says: “I know it sounds a little odd but it’s actually very useful because my work is focused primarily on schools and student education.”

Why are you passionate about education?

“At the heart of it, it’s the same thing that inspires teachers. They go to work every day with passion. They know they are doing something useful for society. Teachers believe that education is the key to solving the world’s many problems and that with education we can advance. And I feel the same. Working in the world of Education Architecture I feel I am contributing positively to society. I think that it is the reason I am ardent about it.”

“The other bonus in my job is that, because of their deep beliefs, teachers are wonderful clients to work with. They are selfless about what they are building. They’re much more interested in how the building works for the higher purpose of education than the colour of the door.”

What is Education Architecture?

“In the beginning we look at what a school is trying to achieve educationally – what is the pedagogical vision? Next we try and understand how people connect,how they  form relationships. We ask ourselves: how can the spaces we design support the educational vision and enable the formation of relationships that encourages different types of interaction and creativity? And then, much more broadly, it is how the school design supports engagement with the outside community.

What is the secret of Education Architecture success?

“It is important for Education Architects to be in the conversation at the very start of the design process. When the client is trying to articulate, even to themselves, what the educational and cultural vision is for the school. In the early stages of discussion we can explore the core driving principles of the project to formulate informed plans. (Not when decisions have been made and we are then compelled to retroactively try and make relatively uninformed responses to complex issues). We need to ask and know: what are the anticipated learning outcomes? What sorts of qualities in students are going to be nurtured?”

What principles guide Education Design?

“What we do at dwp is to focus on the culture and the strategic objectives of the schools that we work with. Our motivating and defining principle is: working together to get the right spaces for the right reasons. We dive deeply into what they are trying to achieve from an educational and philosophical perspective. It sounds obvious but is often overlooked: the design has to be holistic and accountable to the students. If the client says: ‘We want to produce engaged and curious citizens.’ We ask ourselves how can the space enable the development of those skills and qualities.”

To get in touch with David and find out more, please contact david.c@dwp.com

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