An institution is visioned for a long time to come; it is the legacy of the founders to posterity. A lot of thought goes in to articulate the philosophy and values behind the institution. These define how the culture of the institution will develop. The architect gives a form to the buildings that embody the values, while taking care of all the functional considerations. Typically an institution has a hierarchy of spaces. There are spaces that relate to the outside world - the entrance, the lobby, the appearance of the building. There are spaces for congregation - lecture halls, auditoriums, playgrounds, assembly areas, cafetaria. There are places for specific events - classrooms, laboratories, libraries. Then there are the circulatory spaces - corridors, wells, atriums, alleys. How these spaces come together, how they are laid out, the materials they are built with, the volumes they have - all these add up to create the unique feeling of the institution. While the architectural vision creates the institutional shell, what makes it come alive is how the interior environment is further visioned; the layout plans of the school furniture, lab furniture and interior elements, creating the flexibility of furniture elements that some spaces require; the colour schemes, the furniture, the storage; how these elements integrate with the lighting, the data cabling and other technologies and services. An institution is built to last - but sadly, the same is rarely true of the furniture and storage elements. Therefore we have well designed buildings populated with school furniture that starts wearing down badly while the building is still in good condition. Tabletop edges are chipped, metal frames break down, chairs collapse - cupboards have doors that do not close properly, laboratories look boring, libraries look dreary. This happens either because the same care in designing buildings is not given to designing the furniture, or because a short term trade-off in costs result in buying cheap furniture that eventually has to be repaired or replaced in a few years. On the other hand, a long term approach to good furniture design gives two tangible benefits - it ensures that the same values that create the building continue to be expressed in the furniture, and because the furniture wears well over time the internal environment looks and works better. Working with institutional founders closely over the last 30 years we have given shape to environments that are uniquely suited to their vision, and, in doing so, we have learnt immeasurably from them. It is in the spirit of being open to learning and in sharing what we know that we begin collaborations that result in unique and lasting institutional spaces.
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An Institution is visioned for a long time to come