Barry Svigals – Designing Learning Spaces and Reimagining School Safety – Stanford Education Series #4

Possible Questions (not all asked in the interview):

  1. First maybe tell me who you are, where you’re from and what you do.
  2. You’ve been designing school buildings since 1996 (is that right?), what got you into that?
  3. What did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
  4. Tell me about how you got into your line of work.
  5. Who has been the most important person in your life? Can you tell me about him or her? What lessons did that person teach you?
  6. What do you do differently than most in your everyday life that you feel others should do? / Your best investment every day/week or month (of time or money). 
  7. What does it mean to value the lines that make no sense?
  8. Create lots of stuff you throw away is a sentence I’ve heard you say. What is the last thing you threw away? And how does that help with the creative process?
  9. Do you have any favourite stories from your work life?
  10. We can’t go and talk about your work life without mentioning the Sandy Hook Redesign. After the shooting in December 2012, which took the lives of 20 students and six adults. The old school, a simple, flat-roofed, brick square constructed in 1956 and configured around a grassy courtyard, was cordoned off. It was a crime scene. The surviving students were sent to a borrowed school building in the nearby town of Monroe. By May 2013, Newtown decided it was best to demolish the Sandy Hook school and erect a new building on the same property. (
  11. Your firm (Svigals + Partners) was chosen to design the new school building to replace the old building and I understand that you said to the people of Newtown, in effect, “I can’t decide how this new school should look. You should decide.” Why was it important to include the community in the design and what came of that?
  12. What were the key theme in your new design of Sandy Hook?
    1. At first, the architects didn’t ask about the design of the school or even its programmatic requirements. “The questions we asked at the very beginning were crucial in setting context,” One of the first questions they asked was, “What do you love about your community?”“At the very first meeting you sat down and went to each person individually, in front of everybody, and said, ‘What did this school represent to you? What does this town represent to you?’ Why?
  13. Tell me about ‘Compassionate listening’ and how you learned that.
  14. What do you think every school building should have, that most are missing?
  15. What about every classroom… What should every classroom have?
  16. Can you tell me about the treehouses at Sandy Hook?
    1. Students designed with you and drew the school they wanted. Community members to. 
      1. Design thinking
        1. Stage 1: Empathize—Research Your Users’ Needs.
        2. Stage 2: Define—State Your Users’ Needs and Problems.
        3. Stage 3: Ideate—Challenge Assumptions and Create Ideas.
        4. Stage 4: Prototype—Start to Create Solutions.
        5. Stage 5: Test—Try Your Solutions Out.
  17. I want to ask you about security because I know that was a concern. How were security concerns factored into the building’s design? How did you meet the challenge of integrating the elements of security into this other vision you had of healing through nature?
    1. To enter the school you have to cross one of three footbridges, a device that also ensures that everyone is forced to approach the building along one of three well-watched pathways.
    2. The classroom doors also lock, whole wings of the school can be isolated, and certain walls and windows have been hardened against gunfire.
  18. What’s the function of nature in healing, and in architecture that heals?
    1. The Importance of Nature in the design.
  19. What did you learn from the process and the biggest takeaway from a project like this?
  20. What can teachers learn from designers and architects
  21. The importance of Play in coming to a solution. 
    1. Why are adults so hung up on being serious?
    2. “If it ain’t fun, it shouldn’t be done”
    3. What happens as we get older and how do we hold onto our child?
    4. “The creative adult is the child who survived”
    5. Sir Ken Robinson
  22. Why are you here at the Stanford / Tell me about what excites you now.
    1. Svigals + Partners 30 person firm in New Haven.
    2. Stefan Sagmeister – 7 year
  23. Where can people go to learn more about you?
Ingvi Hrannar Ómarsson

Creator | Educator | Designer | Everything I produce is work in progress | Stanford Alumni in Learning, Design & Technology Twitter: @IngviOmarsson / @IngviHrannar

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *