Geopark: Stavanger, Norway

When an entire school building is covered with astroturf it is a lot more fun. Or when an abandoned oil rig is turned into  a playground.  Architects and educators are finding new ways to engage kids in learning, and the results are out of this world. (Pics)

Gone are the days when schools and libraries were large, impersonal institutions of learning. Today, architects are pushing the boundaries of learning spaces, putting kids in environments that we may not recognize as a school. Instead of a drab classroom, students are now learning in bizarre environments, designed to stimulate their imaginations. When they go to the playground, it’s not to play on a simple jungle gym, but to interact with objects and materials that create new and exciting discoveries each time they’re outside.

Learn for Life: New Architecture for New Learning chronicles some of the most exciting of these projects, from an outdoor library in Germany to a park made of recycled materials from oil rigs. We’ve chosen some of the most fun and interesting of the projects, which you can see in the slide show above. Perhaps youth is not wasted on the young, after all.

Geopark: Stavanger, Norway


Geopark reflects its location in the heart of Norway’s oil-producing region by reproducing the idea of geological layers and materials from old oil rigs. The park–designed by Helen & Hard–has areas for skating, climbing, exhibitions, and concerts, as well as plenty of places for children to explore the materials of the regions industry.


School Handmade in Bangladesh: Rudrapur, Bangladesh


This school–designed by Anna Heringer and Eike Roswag–is made of local materials (earth and bamboo) and is laid out in a series of caves, designed to be places for the children to gather. The second floor is made entirely of bamboo.


Safe Haven Library: Ban Tha Song Yang, Thailand


This library–part of the Safe Haven Orphanage–was built in just two weeks using only local material and labor. The simple bamboo facade and plastered concrete blocks, designed by TYIN Tegnestue Architects, serve as natural temperature regulators, while the open architecture creates an inviting place for the children in the orphanage to read and play.


Open-Air-Libray: Magdeburg, Germany


There may be nothing lovelier than reading outside on a beautiful day. This library, designed as a collaboration between local residents and KARO, now holds 30,000 books, which are available to anyone who walks up, 24 hours a day. It’s also a vibrant public space for the community.


EWHA Woman’s University: Seoul, South Korea



Ecological Children Activity and Education Center: Koh Kood, Thailand


This multi-leveled bamboo dome is designed to entertain children while also introducing them to the local environment and making them more aware (it’s in a resort). The dome–made from local bamboo and designed by 24h Architecture–is open, which keeps the temperature regulated and allows for mostly natural lighting. There are also bamboo sleeping pods, for the more adventurous visitors.


Nursery – Elementary School: Roldan, Spain


The buildings of this school, designed by Huma Arquitectura, are covered in artificial turf, to create a tactile environment that’s ideal for children’s explorations.


Robi Mobile Library: Heilbronn, Germany


Sometimes children don’t have access to libraries, so the library needs to come to them. This library in a truck, designed by Linie Zweii, carts around the books in exceptionally high style, with playful shelves and seating to hold kids attention, even if the books don’t.


Via Co.Exist