Design Features of Icelandic School Buildings: How Do They Reflect Changes in Educational Governance and Daily School Practice?

  • Anna Kristín SigurðardóttirEmail author
  • Torfi Hjartarson
Part of the Educational Governance Research book series (EGTU, volume 9)


A recent shift in the design of school buildings in Iceland is apparent, from a conventional classroom setting to a more open and flexible learning environment. The aim of the project related here is to take a close look at this development by identifying significant design features and how they have changed over time to reflect educational policy and affect educational practice. Environmental and architectonic features characterising both older and recently designed school buildings at the primary and lower secondary level are examined in light of challenges involving architecture, educational ideology, school governance and teaching practice. Data was collected by interviews, observations and photography at 20 school sites, review of policy and technical documents, drawings and writings. The school buildings are grouped into three main categories based on their overall design: a traditional design pattern with classrooms of similar sizes along corridors, a cluster design pattern with two or more classrooms with adjacent spaces grouped together and arranged to form units within the school as a whole and finally an open plan design pattern with extended learning spaces for large groups of students and teacher teams. The first design form has prevailed for a long time and is seen by many as the dominant venue for conventional school practice, while the two latter and most recent design forms have been developed to encourage a more dynamic and democratic approach to teaching and learning.


School buildings Educational governance School design Open plan 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna Kristín Sigurðardóttir
    • 1
    Email author
  • Torfi Hjartarson
    • 1
  1. 1.School of EducationUniversity of IcelandReykjavikIceland

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