Ralph Ellison Campus, Chicago

Design an Addition for your School

Many schools were designed for the past and don’t reflect the 21st century learning environment. Some buildings need better ventilation or lighting, while others are simply not large enough to accommodate students comfortably.


For this project, you are encouraged to envision an improvement for your school, something that would benefit everyone who uses it. The most successful designs will be ones that identify a specific need and present a strong design solution. The challenge is to add something that changes the footprint of your school building, while addressing a specifically identified need. Projects should include research and development, real world images and information showing why the need exists, in addition to final project design and information.

Collect Info

How do you Collect Info for this step of the design process?

Think About

  • What is the size of your school building? Using Google Earth and other online resources, generate a site plan for your school location.
  • What are your initial thoughts about the building? For example, is your school lacking room for art classes? Physical education? Band practice space? Common areas? Cafeteria space?
  • Talk to someone who has been at your school for a while, like a teacher or administrator. They will most likely have great insight as to what areas could stand to be improved.
  • Has anything like this ever been done in the past? If so, what were the results?
  • For more research, we recommend looking at “The Third Teacher: 79 Ways You Can Design to Transform Teaching & Learning,” by OWP/P Architects + VS Furniture + Bruce Mau. The book is easy to digest with lots of great images and design ideas, meant to inspire readers like you. The website for the book is also a great resource.
  • Search online for newly built schools and others that have been upgraded through similar processes. Do you notice anything in common among newly built schools?

Brainstorm Ideas

How do you Brainstorm Ideas for this step of the design process?

Explore at least three possible solutions, each of which will no doubt help you as you search for the best addition to your school.

  • What could your ideas look like?
  • How would it change the landscape of your school?
  • Who will benefit most from your design solution?

Try to answer these questions visually through sketching, and in words by taking notes.

Develop Solutions

How do you Develop Solutions for this step of the design process?

From the previous step, where you developed multiple solutions to the design problem, you should select one of your designs.

  • What is your favorite design? Why?
  • What aspects of your school would it improve?
  • Who would benefit most from your new design?
  • What materials would you be using, and why?

Ideally you will want to create plans of some kind to communicate your final vision, so start to sketch site plans, elevations, and even a floor plan if necessary.

Final Design

How do you develop a Final Design for this step of the design process?

Present your final design to your class, to get feedback before completing your project. If you talked to other people while working on and researching for this project, show them your design and get their feedback. If they talked to you before, they will want to see what you’ve created! Take notes during these conversations, and try to understand their suggestions before deciding if you wish to make any changes to your final design.

Carefully take stock of feedback from others and do your best to find the information that will help you finalize your project. Someone might tell you something seemingly small, but that bit of information might be the difference between a good project and a great one.