Captured Space:   Reimagining unused space as a Learning Environment


Paul May
Miller Dunwiddie

Dr. Steve Pohlen
Benilde-St. Margaret’s School


1 Learning Units/Health, Safety, Welfare (LU/HSW)

How applies to HSW:

Presentation will address codes and regulatory issue related to assembly occupancies, science laboratories and educational design.     Presentation will describe details for creating unusual building enclosures that are water tight.   Presentation will include energy management strategies and day lighting for courtyard and other educational spaces.


How do you make older schools more efficient and more learner focused without expanding your school footprint? Many of our existing schools have unused and under utilized space that is prime for ‘reimagining’ into vibrant new learning environments. Light wells, basements, gravel courtyards and inefficient hallways are some examples of these spaces. This program will show how a school searched for solutions through a process of educational and facility planning, and found a multitude of areas that could be redesigned and re purposed to increase their usable educational space, provide new options for learning and transform the identity of their school.   The educational planning team of Benilde-St. MargaretÕs School and architect Miller Dunwiddie will guide you through the process, it’s highs and lows, and the exciting results from a multi-year planning effort to re imagine this 60-year-old facility into a vibrant learning community. Additional examples from Saint Paul Public Schools will reinforce many of these concepts.

Learning Objectives:
  • Encourage and enable school administrators to analyze and evaluate underutilized spaces such as exterior courtyards for educational learning activities.;
  • Creative analysis and application of reuse strategies for a variety of underutilized spaces, including exterior courtyard, interior hallways, and ‘traditional’ classroom spaces.
  • Understand and evaluate codes and regulations related to new uses within existing exterior & interior spaces.;
  • Provide case study examples of best practices in merging formerly single use spaces into multi-use, flexible learning environments.
Primary Competency:

Educational Facility Pre-Design Planning: Manages a master planning process that combines educational planning, facilities assessment and utilization, demographic research, capital planning and educational specifications with a community-based vision to establish a plan for learning environments. This includes the ability to translate existing or aspirational instructional models to specific programming and spatial relationships.

Primary Domain:

Context: Content of this session/workshop will focus on the circumstances that form the setting for the design and construction of specific learning environments and characteristics that distinguishes the project from other applications.

Secondary Domain:

Toolbox: Content of this session/workshop will focus on the approaches, methods and applications when transitioning from design and concept into reality, actual existence through quality performance, execution and/or product.