It has been a growing concern to educators not only to support students to acquire the knowledge and skills of each subject but also to develop the students' broader competencies for their life and society. Dewey (1900) discussed it in School and Society. Rychen and Salganik (2006) proposed key competencies in the OECD DeSeCo project; use tools interactively, interact in heterogeneous groups, and act autonomously. In terms of space for interaction and socializing students, this paper focuses on the central common space like a square in schools, 'common core, ' Kuhn (2012) mentioned as one of the four characteristic features new schools share.
This study investigated the spatial composition and use of common cores in five upper secondary schools, 'gymnasier' in Denmark, where central common spaces in upper secondary school architectures have been developed since the 1970s. First, functions, spatial composition, and environmental elements of the common core were examined by analysis of architectural drawings and on-site surveys. Next, interviews with teachers on the use of common cores and behavior observations of students and teachers were conducted.
It was found that school buildings with common cores were designed not to have too many total floor areas by the ambiguity of common cores; they had multiple functions, such as lounge, auditorium, canteen, and open classrooms at the same time or by time-sharing. One of the sample schools also deleted another function from the school building programme by using public facilities instead and managed spaces for class efficiently with an online reservation system. In terms of defense, natural surveillance was taken into account in the five common cores, where students were staying near the entrance. For administrations or rooms of teachers or staff are adjacent to them. Some common cores were found to be composed of various scaled realms.
Teachers considered common cores more importantly as flexible spaces for interactions, events, and students' autonomous actions than specific functional spaces such as the canteen, auditorium, entrance. They appreciated the common core's visibility, transparency, and having the heart of the whole school. On the other hand, some students grew more independent with the openness of common cores, but others might not overcome it. Acoustic absorption, the balance of open and closed space, and creating various spaces were considered indispensable. A mid- to long-term plan for maintenance should be drawn up on the grounds of their air volume and the fact that some air conditioning were left broken there.
Students selected relatively small enclosed realms for group work in class and self-study rather than large main spaces. Spatial articulations and segments were, therefore, considered to be effective as learning environments in the common cores. The characteristics of common cores in the five schools were clarified through exploring the relationship between space composition, use, and behavior of students and teachers.