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By : Ashraf M. Salama

Whether in school buildings or university campuses the educational process involves many activities that include knowledge acquisition and assimilation, testing students' motivation and academic performance, and faculty and teachers' productivity. The way in which we approach the planning, design, and our overall perception of learning environments makes powerful statements about how we view education; how educational buildings are designed tells us much about how teaching and learning activities occur. Concomitantly, how these activities are accommodated in a responsive educational environment is a critical issue that deserves special attention. While it was said several decades ago that a good teacher can teach anywhere, a growing body of knowledge-derived from knowledge on "evidence-based design" suggests a direct correlation between the physical aspects of the learning environment, teaching processes, and learning outcomes. In its commitment to introduce timely and pressing issues on built environment research, Open House International presents this special edition to debate and reflect on current discourses on sustainable learning environments. As a guest editor of this edition, my personal interest, acquaintance, and experience of learning environments come primarily from working with Henry Sanoff in the early nineties on a research project-funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and conducted at the School of Architecture at North Carolina State University-addressing environments for young children, in which a number of collaborative mechanisms for understanding and anatomizing the learning environment are developed, while exploring the wide of variety of needs and interests that are mandated by different user types (Sanoff, 1994, 1995, 2002). Such an experience was enhanced by my involvement with Adams Group Architects in Charlotte, North Carolina in a research and consultancy capacity during the period between 2001 and 2004 (Salama and Adams 2003 a. and b., Salama, 2004, Salama, 2007). Several strategic planning projects, pre-design studies, and participatory programming and design were developed for schools in North Carolina. A worldwide commitment to designing responsive environments conducive to learning is witnessed in many academic settings. This is evident in a recent colloquium conducted by Colloquia of Lausanne, Switzerland, and in the recent efforts by recent practices in both developing and developed countries (Knapp, Noschis, and Pasalar, 2007). Notably, in many schools of architecture the subject is being debated through research and design where future generations of architects are exploring possibilities of shaping the future of learning environments. An important example among many others is the studio project undertaken at the Post Graduate Level at Queen's University Belfast and coordinated by Alan M. Jones. In this project and through designing a context- based high school in Belfast, students are developing a deeper insight into the understanding of sustainable design parameters including lighting experience and the distinctive characteristics of the spatial environment and its impact on learning. The trans-disciplinary nature of contemporary architectural knowledge and its epistemological foundations is now palpable in most architectural discourses. Discussing and debating learning environments is no exception. The papers of this issue manifest the trans-disciplinary paradigm where knowledge about learning environments crosses the boundaries of disciplines including pedagogy, psychology, behavioral sciences, planning, and design. Remarkably, reference to the work of scientists and education theorists is so obvious in the work presented (Dewey, 1916, 1933; Friere, 1971; Kolb, 1976, 1981, Kolb and Kolb 2005; Gardner, 1983; Edwards and Usher, 2001; and Stevenson, 2008). The twelve papers included in this issue explore and investigate qualities and characteristics of learning environments at different scales and in different contexts, from classroom typologies to campus outdoor spaces. They place emphasis on emerging paradigms in learning environments that involve a number of underlying issues including the academic house clustering, the school as heart of the community, the rising interest in new classroom spaces and forms, the usercentered processes, utilizing the learning environment as an open textbook, and the impact of recent advances in information technologies and globalization on the future of learning settings. Categorizing the papers, it is noted that five papers focus on learning settings in schools and the processes by which those setting are created, while four papers introduce human centered issues that pertain to university campuses, exemplified by users' perception, socio-cultural norms, and behavioral factors. On the other hand, three papers focus on the spatial environment of the design studio as a unique place for making design decisions. Shared among most papers in this issue are two important aspects, collaboration in planning and design decision making and a continu- not necessarily go along the development of ecological based sustainable environment. He focuses on two major factors that support such a premise: separation of students' sexes and car parking requirements, and presents them as challenging aspects for achieving the minimum level of sustainability. In his exploration of the issue of good design intentions versus users' reactions, Ashraf Salama introduces a multilayered methodology for the assessment of the performance of Qatar University campus outdoor spaces from users' perspective. Such a methodology involves walk-through evaluations and direct observation, behavioral mapping, and survey questionnaires. He juxtaposes the statements made by the architect and the results of his assessment which reveals several contradictions between the "good intentions" and users' responses. He concludes that by recognizing how well university campus outdoor spaces respond to the needs of faculty, students, and staff, it is possible to recommend mechanisms for improving the outdoor environment necessary to facilitate the work and learning experiences of different users within the campus and the desired student- faculty interaction. In a completely different context, Susan Whitmer examines the role of place in three university campuses in the United States as it relates to students with learning disabilities. Focusing on three important elements fundamental to successful learning environments, Whitmer places emphasis on wayfinding, formal learning spaces, and disability learning spaces. Her research concludes by arguing for the crucial need for going beyond addressing the minimum planning and design standards, while effectively incorporating universal design principles. The three papers that focus on the learning settings of the architectural design studio present good examples that relate learning in architecture to the timely issues of experiential learning, information technologies, and globalization. Adopting the experiential learning model introduced to the world of pedagogy by David Kolb, Pedro Serrano Rodríguez and Luis Felipe González Böhme explore the use of outdoor workspaces as catalysts for generating and testing design ideas. They base their work on the typical norm of disassociating indoor and outdoor learning experiences. Presenting cases from the experimental studios they are currently undertaking at the Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María in Chile, Rodriguez and Böhme argue for an effective incorporation of outdoor learning which is integral to a studio culture. Juxtaposing the physical environment with advances in telecommunication technologies, Burcu Senyapili and Ahmet Fatih Karakaya investigate the impact of virtual learning environments on the future typology of studio settings. Based on their investigation, Senyapili and Karakaya propose the use of a hybrid setting for the future setting of studio environment predicting that such a setting will be a learning environment that integrates the physical and the virtual worlds. In a different but related juxtaposition, Michael Jenson argues and debates the issue of globalization through the studio environment. He introduces the notion of learning across the boundaries of cultures and regions, exploring the concept of de-territorialization to emphasize that within this concept, cultural spaces are not necessarily bound to geographical areas. What is juxtaposed in this context is the global versus the local. Taking the discourse further Jenson argues that the old lecture hall and studio configuration must together manifest the new learning environments. While exhibiting different types of commitment to the creation of responsive and inclusive learning environments amenable to creativity and innovation, the twelve papers advance the discussion on the characteristics and parameters of the future of learning environments while at the same time paves the road to continuously questioning norms and practices that ultimately foster the creation of environments conducive to learning. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT Thanks are due to Amira Elnokaly of the University of Lincoln for her editorial and technical support. I am thankful to the authors of this issue for their patience and understanding throughout the review process.

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