Design for Learning Holds Leadership Institute in Seattle


In January 2015, the American Architectural Foundation formally launched a partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with an invitation-only national Education Leadership Institute and School Design Workshop in Seattle, Washington. The event was organized by AAF’s Design for Learning program as a catalyst for progressive educators to apply design thinking in the transformation of their school districts into centers of personalized learning.

AAF’s national panel of design experts joined education leaders from six schools districts selected by the Gates Foundation for their initiative in implementing personalized learning strategies in their districts. Leading educators from Texas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia and California participated in either the Education Leadership Institute or one of three design charrettes. Participants explored the role of design, design thinking and change management to create space that more effectively supports innovative, student-centered educational programs.  “Conceptualizing space and the environment as something that improves learning is a big shift from traditional models, and requires strong leadership and change management skills.  In our work with the districts, we sought to demonstrate the indispensable role of design and design thinking in fostering change and transformation,” said AAF President & CEO Ron Bogle, Hon. AIA.

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The Leadership Institute provided a critical introduction to design thinking for superintendents, principals, and other education executives. In the three design charrettes, educators from each district were paired with AAF design experts to tackle challenges that architects, educators and school districts commonly face in creating personalized learning spaces. In the sessions, the designers and educators explored ideas on how to repurpose, reconceive, and retrofit existing school space on a limited budget. “After the charrette, it became freakishly evident that space has to be part of the conversation,” said Rita Vasquez, Director of High School Education at Pinellas County Schools.  Lynn Carmen Day, Chief Academic Officer at Riverside Unified School District, commented, “This was an amazing and transformative experience.

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The Institute and charrettes set the stage for site-based design workshops in each district in early 2015. In these workshops, also hosted by AAF, members of AAF’s design team and district project team members will reunite to develop strategies to redesign selected schools in each district. The redesign of this first set of schools will ultimately drive district-wide scaling of best practices for personalized learning environments.

Design for Learning’s inaugural knowledge partners Steelcase, Stantec, Perkins+Will, New Mountain Learning, DLR Group, FGM Architects and Cuningham Group are nationally renowned leaders in architecture, design, and education. AAF’s partnership with the Gates Foundation positions Design for Learning as leaders in the co-creation of new school models for the 21st century. Bogle continued, “We are all deeply grateful to the Gates Foundation for entrusting us with this most important project, and look forward to introducing design and design thinking as a new asset in our common goal of improving learning outcomes.”

For more information on Design for Learning, please contact AAF at 202.787.1001.



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Posted in: Center for the Advancement of Architecture, Design for Learning, Print

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.