Outside Looking In

Cities are fascinating places. When you’re on the outskirts looking in, you can feel like you’re missing out on something. That’s how it felt for this International School located on the outskirts of a vibrant European city. Having long outgrown its facilities, the school’s Board of Trustees viewed its location as an obstacle to serving its students both physically, given travel distances, and programmatically, given the vast opportunities in the city.

Blanchard Group was engaged to identify the needs of a 21st century program, assess the viability of potential real estate acquisitions, and develop a plan for the selected property.

In today’s interconnected world, the learning environment is much broader than a campus.

It became readily apparent that the most satisfying acquisitions lay in the city’s historic core, despite the fact that space was in short supply and far more costly. The challenge? Doing more with less – provide a rich, fully developed student experience with less space.

Many schools recognize that learning happens both inside and outside the classroom. But in today’s interconnected world, the learning environment is much broader than a campus. Schools often play a part in the larger learning ecosystem of museums, libraries, workshops, labs, the outdoors, and even digital space.

To take advantage of this larger ecosystem of opportunities, we worked with the school to develop the “City as Program” concept, where the city’s considerable and dynamic resources offset a number of the school’s space needs. The school’s core curriculum evolved to include authentic learning experiences, interaction with diverse people and environments, expertise of masters in their fields, access to sophisticated tools and equipment, and a connection to the issues and events happening in the city.

This community-based approach allows students to not only become a part of their city’s civic life, but also to increase their investment in its well-being.

While this client story might seem a narrowly tailored response to a particular student experience, programmatic need, and real estate evaluation, it points to a universal challenge. Given the ever expanding gap between the rising expectation for an expanded student experience and the slow rate of facility change, how long can any campus fully satisfy its programmatic needs exclusively within its own borders?