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UL Design Competition Seeks Innovation for New Learning Lab

The UL Lafayette College of Education and School of Architecture and Design are holding a competition called Redefining Learning Spaces to design a new laboratory school for UL’s campus.

Laboratory schools are spaces for developing and studying new and innovative practices in education. The very first laboratory school was started by progressive educator John Dewey in 1894 with the goal of developing new teaching research and methods that emphasized children and activities over books and recitations.

Visioning rendering by UL Lafayette architecture students.

This is the kind of learning and research opportunity that the UL Lafayette College of Education wants to bring to our campus and to our community. Its vision for the new UL Learning Lab is to “empower innovators to nurture curiosity and creativity, develop individual talents and leadership qualities, and embolden human potential as we actively participate in the world.”

This bold vision calls for redefined learning spaces. To explore innovative environments which can support innovative teaching, the College of Education and the School of Architecture and Design have joined forces to mount a competition, the results of which will express the lab school’s vision in built form. Professor Gjertson's fall 2018 architecture graduate students helped develop the competition.

The stated purpose of the competition is to, “design innovative learning spaces for the Learning Lab that reflect a vision to create and sustain a culture of curiosity and creativity, while encouraging the use of knowledge to design a better world. With this competition, we hope to flex the cemented walls binding the notion of learning environments. We encourage you to break those walls so that true learning can emerge.”

Visioning rendering by UL Lafayette architecture students.

The competition is divided into two stages.

The first stage is about ideas which will be incorporated in the building program. Submission ideas should communicate a vision for three new learning environments; submission types can range from hand-drawn sketches and notes to storyboards and renderings. Anyone can participate as long as they have a licensed architect on their team as an advisor. Multidisciplinary teams of teachers, students, parents, and designers of all stripes are encouraged to submit their ideas by October 1st, 2019. Registration ends August 15th, 2019. Three to five unranked winners will each be awarded $1000 for this stage. Stage One winners will serve as advisers to Stage Two contestants.

Once the stage one winners have been chosen, the second stage will invite requests for qualifications. This will lead to the formation of partnerships and joint ventures between winners and qualified architects. After shortlisting three to five teams each team will be given a $12,000 stipend to develop their ideas in relation to the building’s program. A jury of educators and designers with select the winner in Spring 2010 and the UL Learning Lab will then be constructed with plans for a fall August 2022 opening day.

School of Architecture and Design Professor Geoff Gjertson says,"This is an exciting international competition which has already attracted contestants from China, the UK, and several university architecture schools to mention a few. The competition process is ideal to encourage innovation, paradigm-shifts, and ultimately arrive at the redefined learning spaces through design excellence. This synergetic design process reflects the goals and curriculum of the UL Learning Lab."

Watch this video about the new UL Learning Lab and the competition here (Created by Makemade):

For more details and instructions on how to participate, visit

Submit your ideas by Oct 1st!