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Laura Wernick FAIA, LEED AP (2014)


"I believe good design has the power to enhance people's lives and make the world a better place, one project at a time."

Full Biography

Laura Wernick FAIA
Senior Principal, HMFH Architects
Women in Design Award of Excellence, 2014 winner

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Recent research gives us, as architects, insight into how humans learn and how the physical environment impacts learning. Simultaneously, educators are using new pedagogy to engage students effectively. As an architect focused on school design, I have dedicated my career to understanding this growing body of research, working with educators to design new types of learning spaces, and moving the practice of school design forward.

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Today, learning involves hands-on experience, student inquiry, student demonstrations, and collaborative activities. Creating project areas/maker spaces encourages different types of student groupings to easily form, provides access to tools and materials, and allows active projects to remain in place over time.

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A variety of spaces supports different activities like presentations, movement, and specialized small group interactions, and allows them to be easily accessible to one another. Getting up and moving from space to space can stimulate thinking; simply moving into a new physical environment can help re-engage our brains, which love to wander.

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Good lighting and good acoustics have an incredible impact on the ability to learn. Young ears simply don't have the context to be able to fill in when a word or phrase is unintelligible the way adults do. They need to hear EVERY word! Plentiful, well-controlled natural light (no glare, please) is also critical.

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Connections to nature have a positive impact on learning. Outdoor classrooms, views, and indoor-outdoor spaces can all reduce stress and improve concentration. Even references to nature through plantings, natural materials, or graphic images have a positive impact.