Walls and Frameworks
(click to enlarge)
As soon as you put up a ledger framework on the walls, you never have to deal with finding studs or crumbling plaster again.
Panels can be designed to store stuff in an accessible way.
A classroom corner where a ledger framework supports storage, workspace, visual materials and hanging educational aids.
Ledgers allow the wall to be 3-dimensional and flexible without intrusive furniture.
The solitary tunicate was one of the first jelly blobbies to choose take the inside framework route but didn't get there for a long, long time.
Crabs are hemmed in by their outside framework.
Vertebrates were able to evolve faster because of their inside framework.

Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling is considered the most beautiful illustration of biblical events and characters ever created. It tells timeless stories and inspires awe but it has one major drawback - it's a pain in the neck to look at.

Because a wall is perpendicular to both your line of sight and your reach, it, not the ceiling, is the building surface most often used to communicate information as well as the most often manipulated or used by hands.

The extent to which walls are put to use in classrooms used to be measured by how deep a thumbtack pierced a bulletin board or how thick the chalk dust accumulated on a blackboard. Nowadays we hang an LED screen and use a white board but the rest of the wall space remains pretty much unchanged. Every September, teachers perform the yearly ritual of taping or tacking up construction paper decorations and posters only to take them down in June, leaving bits of torn tape on the walls for the janitors to peel off during the summer. That's why, from the very start of our design history, we developed two of the most important practical principles of making places for kids - LEDGER STRIPS and FRAMEWORKS.


One way to make walls more useful is a simple system of horizontal wood boards attached to a classroom wall that we call Ledger Strips. They allow a teacher to attach things to the wall without having to tape, tack, drill or poke holes in it's surface. They can hold pin-up boards, chalk boards and posters, maps and charts mounted on masonite panels which can be displayed and removed as the class content changes.


Once the Ledger Strip is in place, the wall can easily support the growth of the classroom in the third dimension; folding tables, flexible storage units, overhead beams that support hanging stuff like globes, mobiles, clothes lines for displaying art and room dividers that extend into the space which, in turn, can support more stuff and activities. You are now creating a FRAMEWORK - a skeleton which allows the classroom to adapt to any purpose...

... which brings to mind a story that Gary used to explain the classroom design facts of life, and it goes like this...

"Once upon a time, when the Earth was a bowl of primordial soup, the jelly blobby type animals ruled supreme. However, there was a problem. Because the jelly blobbies became so successful, they were able to eat so much that they would grow too large and fall apart under their own weight. Finding this a disadvantage, some jelly blobbies decided to make skeletons to hold themselves together. Immediately they were faced with another decision. They couldn't agree if their skeletons belonged on their outside or on their inside. So the soup being a democracy and the vote resulting in a tie, groups of each opinion went their separate ways. Now, a billion years later, the jelly blobbies that chose skeletons on the outside have turned into cockroach and crab types, while the inside guys have turned into us. It seems that deciding to put a skeleton around you was a bad idea and it slowed down the jelly blobbies' development. But having an inside skeleton or a FRAMEWORK instead made for more efficient growth and adaptation, therefore quicker change or "evolution"."

Most classrooms already have you boxed in with an outside skeleton from the start. But if you're in a hurry to have your place evolve into a higher form of life, you can overcome some of the limitations of your classroom by providing it with a FRAMEWORK.

Growing Places