Great Schools by Design

In 2013, the American Architectural Foundation launched Design for Learning, a national initiative to develop, advance, and promote innovative modes of teaching and learning through architecture and design. Design for Learning builds on the ten-year legacy of Great Schools by Design, which engaged hundreds of local government officials, superintendents, design professionals, parents, educators, students, and the community around the opportunities and challenges facing their districts. 

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AAF established Great Schools by Design in 2003 with the belief that a well-designed learning environment is an important, perhaps essential, contributor to successful teaching and improved learning. AAF also recognized that education leaders are often unaware of the full potential that design and the design process can provide. We expected that empowering these educators with an understanding of the principles of design would support their efforts to serve their students and communities.

During its operation, GSbD engaged hundreds of superintendents, local government officials, and design professionals, as well as parents, teachers, students, and other stakeholders in a far-reaching conversation about what must be done to improve the places where children and young adults learn. AAF has now launched the next phase of that work, Great Schools by Design 2.0 if you will, as Design for Learning.

Great Schools by Design Articles

AAF and the Gates Foundation National Design Summit for Stem Education 

Classrooms with a View: Innovative school design is hard, but it doesn’t have to be.

Voice of the Teacher

Great Schools by Design Videos

AAF + USGBC = Greener Schools

Great Schools by Design: Rosa Parks School 

School of One

Schools as Center of Community: John A. Johnson Achievement Plus Elementary School

Great Schools by Design Institute Reports



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Posted in: Center for the Advancement of Architecture, Design for Learning, Great Schools by Design

The American Architectural Foundation has been dedicated to advancing the role of architecture and design in American society since its founding in 1943 by the American Institute of Architects.

In its 75 years in existence the Foundation’s work has taken many forms — from educational programming and exhibitions in its early years to large-scale design initiatives and programs —all of which serve to create a rich legacy.

As the managing partner of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design for twenty years, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the United States Conference of Mayors, the Foundation helped move the needle on design and cities. And, through its other signature programs like Save America’s Treasures in partnership with National Parks Service, the Sustainable Cities Design Academy, and Design for Learning, the Foundation has provided critical design leadership training and technical assistance to hundreds of elected officials, education leaders, business leaders, and other key decision makers in the design process.

In recent years, cities and civic leaders have embraced design and design thinking in a way that could not have been imagined when the Foundation begin its work back in 1943 — and AAF’s role in this transformation is a source of great pride for the Foundation. With this increased interest in the role of design in shaping our cities came a proliferation of new organizations to support and facilitate this cultural shift. These advances in the role of design in American society and changes in the nonprofit design sector, coupled with the departure of the organization’s longest-serving CEO, prompted the Foundation’s Board to embark on an intensive and lengthy process to examine the ongoing role and work of the Foundation.

As the Board of Regents reflected on the positive changes of the cultural value of design, the accomplishments of the Foundation, and how the legacy of the Foundation’s work is being carried out by its former staff in new roles and organizations across the country, they reached the conclusion that the American Architectural Foundation had accomplished what it set out to do. As a result, the Foundation began to complete its remaining programs and wind down its operations in the Summer of 2018 and the organization’s endowments have been distributed to allied organizations. The Foundation’s research and reports will remain available on its website as a resource to the field.

The Foundation’s work would not have been possible without the incredible talents of its many staff over the decades, the generous support of its funders, and the tireless dedication of its civic & design partners across the country. The Board remains deeply proud of the significant contributions Foundation has made in its 75-year history and would like to acknowledge that this would not have been possible without the efforts, dedication, and support from so many of you.