Fielding Nair International has designed schools in 47 countries, from Douglas Park School in Saskatchewan to Chongqing Secondary School in a fast-growing region of China.
The architects design spaces for collaborative teaching, or bullying prevention, or messy work, or “living textbooks” that expose how building systems function.
“Some of our key principles are lots of light, lots of connection to the outside and also connection to people,” said Randall Fielding, founding chairman.
Those principles are on display at the firm’s newly constructed office at 3453 Hennepin Ave., where the building’s agility led them to call it The Hummingbird.
The workspace offers long interior and exterior vistas — on the ground floor, workers can see from the backyard edible garden to the front porch. Fielding said workers unconsciously appreciate long sightlines to rest their eyes.
Like the schools they design, the architects created a semi-private “nest” space for people to work in a quieter atmosphere. Glass doors open to the street. Artwork by Don Grandbois populates the “vertical gallery” in the stairwell, where motion lights flicker on as people move through the passageway. Sound is muffled in baffles on the ceiling. Light fixtures shine indirect light over desks.
“By bouncing light off the ceiling, it’s more like the sky,” Fielding said.
Apartments are available for rent and will accommodate out-of-town guests working with the firm; one live-work studio includes a hidden Murphy bed. Fielding and his wife Kris expect to someday downsize and move in to one of the units.
Job market projections anticipate that the market will increasingly value creative skills, Fielding said. He said across the globe, schools are interested in similar design. They want to encourage entrepreneurial thought, information synthesis and complex problem solving.
“That’s something everyone around the world needs,” he said. “…People want to collaborate and move around.”
The Hummingbird will also provide space for education by hosting public workshops on topics like the future of learning and design. A book club focused on education will meet at The Hummingbird on May 19.
“We’re all lifelong learners,” Fielding said.