Seven Unique School Designs That Will Make You Want To Show Up To Class

Some say interesting designs might make a better environment for learning. These schools test that theory.

By Jeff Vasishta October 6, 2016
Courtesy of Nanyang Primary School

You could be forgiven for thinking the architects of some of Singapore’s most brow-raising schools sketched out their blueprints during a lost weekend with Hunter S. Thompson. Gonzo architecture?

Well, Nanyang Primary School in Singapore looks at least like you’ve spent a night out drinking and then drove around Disney World at 100mph (ED: Don’t drink and drive, kids). Color and curves may well describe a mind-altering experience but it also describes the brain bending designs that youngsters are greeted when they show up to class.

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“Color is extremely important. There’s a lot of research being done and theories about how certain colors over-stimulate,” John Dale, the chair of AIA’s Education Committee at Harley Eliis Devereaux (HED) told CNN. “In the U.S., we are more conservative about color, especially in typical public schools. There’s this sense that you can’t have too many bright colors, that they’ll distract the children and that they’ll get hyperactive. But then you go to Europe … and you have some schools that are absolutely saturated with color. They are wonderful, engaging learning environments and they don’t seem to have an issue. So, I think we have a lot to learn still.”


The Learning Hub at Nanyang Technology University (Singapore) looks like several oversized rings placed precariously on top of one another. The tapered teaching facility actually comprises 12 towers, each eight-stories high, built around an expansive central atrium. The curved structure, which is covered in textured concrete panels was designed to foster more collaborative learning.

The Fuji Kindergarten in Tokyo Japan has trees growing through the middle of its classrooms, which allows children to be aware of their environments. Dale says the concept allows “the ability for an instructor to move back and forth between inside and outside and to be able to let children have choices at a given point of time in their learning experience during the day.”

High School #9 in Los Angeles, Ca may look like a bunch of randomly shaped structures thrown together in a large square but there’s a method to the madness. The idea is one size does not fit all. Children can learn in different ways.

High School #9 in LA. Photo courtesy of

There’s a practicality behind the curvaceous Hazelwood School in Glasgow, Scotland. It’s designed for students who are blind and deaf and features tactile walls to help them navigate their way through the building. No truth to the rumor, however that Glasgow’s city planners are thinking of adopting the same idea to help the town’s notoriously hardened drinkers find their way home after a night on the town.

Environment and innovation were in mind when the Health Sciences Education Building at the University of Arizona was built four years ago. The exterior finishes were inspired by the pleated skin of the local Saguaro Cactus and the layers of Arizona’s iconic canyon formations. The serve as a thermal chimney and cooling feature. The designers were said to have prickled at any criticisms of their work. (ED: Oh, boy)

Health Sciences Education Building, University of Arizona. Photo courtesy of
Health Sciences Education Building, University of Arizona. Photo courtesy of

It’s not easy to quietly slip out of class if you attended the Makoko Floating School in Lagos, Nigeria, unless you have your swimming costume. This innovative building was constructed to provide teaching facilities for the slum district of Makoko, a former fishing village on Lagos Lagoon where over 100,000 people live in houses on stilts. It was shortlisted for a Design of the Year Award in 2014 and built by a team of local residents, but was decommissioned in March 2016 and eventually collapsed after heavy rains. Hopefully it will just be water under the bridge and they’ll design something sturdier next time.



Jeff Vasishta



Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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