Bird's Eye View News

How Do You Design for Collaboration? 


Our School’s focus on hands-on, experiential learning equips students with a major skill they’ll need after graduation: creative collaboration. Teachers weave group projects into their lesson plans. Students sign up for sports, choral ensembles, and robotics teams. At times, like any other urban campus, we run out of rooms big enough to suit our students’ needs. As our South Campus Plan begins to move from dream to reality, we’re excited about all of the spaces that will open up on both sides of Lincoln Avenue and have been thinking deeply about how to build a cutting-edge instructional environment. 

We sat down with Head-Royce Trustee, alumnus, and architect Jason Langkammerer ’88 to understand how an architect encourages a warm, collaborative atmosphere––from the size of the room to the lighting design. His expert opinion? It comes down to one word: “flexibility.” 

Jason is the principal and founder of AT6 Architecture & Design Build in San Francisco. Though he isn’t the architect of our new campus––it was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill––Jason serves as the Chair of the Board’s Master Plan Design Committee. His deep experience with our School, coupled with his professional expertise, makes him the ideal person to teach us how design overlaps with education. 

“We didn’t even sit in circles when I was in school,” says Jason, reflecting on the evolution of the classroom environment. “Even in AP Calculus, with seven students, we sat in rows. That’s a very different physical set-up than how they teach now.”  

The new South Campus “doesn’t have chairs-in-a-row type classrooms,” says Jason. He compares the plan to the way the business world is rethinking office space. “Because of the pandemic, we know there isn’t a one-size-fits-all way of working. We learned you don’t even have to be in an office to do your job. So what are you commuting for? That’s for collaboration.” 

Similarly, students won’t head to the South Campus, he says, “to study times tables, they’ll go over there for more interactive work.” 

Jason and his firm design flexible spaces that encourage collaboration among varying types of teams. “We collaborate in different ways and sizes,” he says. You might have an office where two people sit on a couch and two stand in front of a white board. Nearby, a group of ten engage in a serious, round-table discussion. Down the hall, people gather for an informal lunch––feeling a sense of connection and joy, and perhaps, getting struck by inspiration.

“We’ve learned that it’s a variety of spaces––and with it, differing levels of intimacy and openness––that keeps people engaged,” he says. “A mix of formal and informal, too.” 

In the South Campus Collaboration Center, there’s a large, open gathering space, which we’ve programmed for flexibility––housing everything from dance classes to assemblies and professional community meetings. The mixed-use room will allow our community members to adapt the space to their needs, rearranging furniture or perhaps setting up gallery walls. 

In the same building is a series of glass-walled “huddle rooms,” just like those cutting-edge offices Jason designs. Each huddle room offers a quiet, distraction-free environment. These small, informal spaces encourage collaboration. In a huddle room, Jason tells us, “a small group can feel it’s their space. They can feel cozy or protected.” If a discussion group meets, instead, in a vast, formal hall, the students might feel intimidated to share their more out-of-the-box ideas.

These levels of intimacy carry over to the outdoor spaces, as well. “You can put a circle of rocks in the middle of a large field and call it a classroom,” he says, “but put that circle in a nook surrounded on three sides by trees and it feels more like a room. It allows people to feel more protected, more private. The South Campus design has a lot of that–– classroom “campsites,” walking paths.” In fact, the new campus boasts six acres of open outdoor space, with a teaching garden, outdoor classrooms, central commons, walking labyrinth, old-growth Redwood groves, and Coastal Live Oaks. The sky’s the limit. 

“That’s the joy of the South Campus,” says Jason. “We have more space for collaboration.” 


Excited about the South Campus Plan? 

Community support is critical as we prepare to share the project’s merits before the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board (on December 13) and Oakland Planning Commission (on December 15). The City of Oakland has recently released its Draft Environmental Impact Report (Draft EIR) on the proposed Head-Royce School Planned Unit Development (PUD) Permit Project, informally known as the South Campus Project. This is an incredibly important step forward in the planning and public review process, which commenced on November 5 with the Draft EIR’s release. Please find a summary of the key findings here

Consider helping by submitting a letter supporting the project or speaking at an upcoming hearing. You may also sign up to become a project advocate.  

Learn more about the South Campus proposal and show your support.  

We appreciate your partnership in turning our South Campus dreams into a reality!