The Community Classroom by O'DonnellBrown

O'DonnellBrown promotes outdoor learning with The Community Classroom

Glasgow studio O'DonnellBrown has designed and built an open-air classroom, which will host learning workshops after the coronavirus shutdown is over.

The Community Classroom in Glasgow is an adaptable and demountable wooden structure, designed to encourage both children and adults to reconnect with nature.

The Community Classroom by O'DonnellBrown

Completed at the end of 2019, it had already hosted several community-based events before the coronavirus breakout in Europe. Once the shutdown is over, it will be erected at Operation Play Outdoors, an organisation that hosts learning activities.

There are also ambitions for it to tour local schools, so that as many children as possible can enjoy the benefits of outdoor learning.

The Community Classroom by O'DonnellBrown

O'DonnellBrown co-founder Jennifer O'Donnell believes the project has gained new relevance, as people stuck at home start to reevaluate different aspects of their lifestyle.

"Coming out of this, creating spaces that are connected to nature, and that can bring communities together again, will become all the more important," she told Dezeen.

"We know that learning does not need to take place in a traditional classroom, evidenced by all the children currently learning remote from their schools, and the outdoor environment has massive potential for learning."

The Community Classroom by O'DonnellBrown

A self-initiated project, O'DonnellBrown came up with the idea for The Community Classroom after completing its own studio, The Greenhouse. Occupying a mock Victorian conservatory, this space allows the team to directly experience the changing seasons.

"As a team we quickly recognised the profoundly positive effect that our studio space was having on our collective sense of wellbeing, and seeing the crossover with our education and community projects," said O'Donnell.

"We wanted to push our ideas for what a healthy and inspiring learning space could be further still."

The Community Classroom by O'DonnellBrown

The structure comprises a simple kit of parts, made from standard timber sections bolted together. These form a series of two-column modules, which support the wooden roof above.

O'DonnellBrown has also designed a series of plywood modules that slot in and around this structure, providing seating, workshops, shelves and display surfaces. This makes it easy to adapt the space to different activities.

The Community Classroom by O'DonnellBrown

A lightweight sheet provides a waterproof layer on the roof, and can also fold down to create additional weather protection around the perimeter. This material is translucent, creating interesting lighting effects in the early evening.

Children's charity Barnardo's Works supported the project, helping O'DonnellBrown find young people to help build the prototype structure.

The Community Classroom by O'DonnellBrown

The Community Classroom is one of several recent designs for outdoor learning spaces. Other include Urban Room, built by University of Reading students, and Pinecone, a portable structure by Czech designers Atelier SAD and Mmcité1.

O'Donnell hopes that, as people "collectively find our way through the fog of Covid-19", projects like these will help to bring communities back to together.

The Community Classroom by O'DonnellBrown

"We hope that The Community Classroom can become an adaptable resource to help schools deliver progressive outdoor learning experiences, and with these experiences, give children and teachers the emotional and mental wellbeing benefits that can come from being outside in the fresh air," she concluded.

Photography is by Ross Campbell.


Project credits:

Architect: O'DonnellBrown
Structural engineer: Design Engineering Workshop
Collaborators and sponsors: Three Four Five Joinery, RIAS, St Gobain

More images and plans

The Community Classroom by O'DonnellBrown
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Axonometric diagram
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