What a Citizen-Friendly School Can Teach Us About Administrative Teaching & Learning Spaces
Originally published on March 31, 2017 and updated March 15 2019.
We can learn a lot from the built environment.
Buildings designed for educational purposes convey meaning through structure and form, and none more so than the Embelgasse School of Administration.
Located in Vienna City, Austria, this school was built by AllesWirdGut architects to educate future public administrators. I chose to highlight the Embelgasse School of Administration in this blog post because I think as educational administration + leadership researchers, we can learn a lot about how our physical teaching and learning spaces (think: our schools, classrooms, and administrative buildings) match the purpose of those spaces.
I came across an article on this school on the architecture website ArchDaily while searching for an art exemplar from within the field of educational administration. With so few artistic representations in this field, architecture is one of the few aesthetic forms of expression that is cited in the literature around aesthetic administration.
To learn more about aesthetics in the field of educational administration + leadership, check out the further reading recommendations below!
I searched for hours on architecture websites trying to find a building built for the purposes of educating future educational administrators, and found the Embelgasse School of Administration, a school dedicated to educating future public administrators, a closely-related field and one that I thought we could learn a lot from as educational administration + leadership researchers.
Form, Meet Purpose
What first struck me about the Embelgasse School of Administration is how closely the form and design of the building aligned with its purpose. The building’s large windows invite onlookers to view the activities going on within the building, emphasizing the importance of transparency and openness. The building truly sets the “stage” for the performance of administrative praxis.
About the Embelgasse School of Administration
AllesWirdGut Architektur, the successful firm who won the commission with the City of Vienna to build a vocational school in which to train public administrators, was asked to build a school that would "make learning part of public life" (AllesWirdGut.cc). The open concept features of the Embelgasse School of Administration levels traditional power relationships between public administrators and the public.
The large, grid-like windows convey a sense of openness and transparency. The school is enclosed only by the natural perimeters of the block on which it is built; doing away with the physical (and metaphorical) walls that usually separate public administrators from the people they are supposed to serve. A shady inner courtyard and open access to terraces via the second and top floors of the school allows students to have constant contact with the outdoors, which also reinforces the connection between the students and the city.
Learning about public administration in an open and transparent environment prepares students to work under the constant gaze of the public eye. Each design decision made by the architect is intentional and the openness of the school invites a broader dialogue that renegotiates power dynamics between public servants and the public.
The Embelgasse School of Administration demonstrates the importance of context in the built environment. Though I could not find an example of a building dedicated to the training of educational administrators specifically, educational administration is a type of public administration that deals with many of the same criticisms, such as a lack of transparency and a lack of confidence by those of whom administrators are supposed to serve.
Architecture has the potential to teach us a lot about the field of educational administration and leadership and how we can more consciously construct spaces that convey messages of openness and transparency to the public.
The City of Vienna wanted to commission a building that would make learning a part of everyday life, and in my opinion, AllesWirdGut Architektur accomplished this difficult task by building a vocational school in which the building's form beautifully complements its function.
All photos © AllesWirdGut / Guilherme Silva Da Rosa and are displayed with the express written permission of AllesWirdGut Architektur.
What do you like about the Embelgasse School of Administration? Are there design elements that we can incorporate into our own administration teaching and learning spaces?
Samier, E. A., & Bates, R. J. (2006). Aesthetic dimensions of Educational Administration and Leadership. London, New York: Routledge.
Sloane, J. A. (2013). Photographing vampires: The aesthetic absence in educational administration. Educational Administration and Foundations, 23(1), 73-85.