Fresh off the completion of the LEGO House in Billund, Denmark, the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has embarked on a playful new school project for co-working company WeWork. Called “WeGrow,” WeWork is hoping to extend its reach into education with a pilot school near the company’s Manhattan headquarters.
With an initial test class of seven students ranging from 5 to 8 years old, WeGrow wants to rapidly expand its micro-school to a class of 65 by next fall, and then to a full K-through-12 program soon after. Currently housed near the company’s Chelsea headquarters, WeGrow will join WeWork when it moves to the former Lord & Taylor building on 5th Avenue in 2019.
A plan that ambitious requires a dedicated space, and BIG has revealed renderings for a WeGrow school full of soft, biomorphic forms. Pebble-shaped pillows can be stacked for adjustable seating, and swooping round reading areas are right at home among circular lighting fixtures, play areas and staircases. While BIG has tried to let in natural light by removing divider walls and creating open floors, the studio has left the underlying columns, beams and joists exposed for an industrial look.
Bjarke Ingels described the design as tactile, and meant to encourage interactivity in an educational system that typically disparages experimentation.
“What we’ve tried to do is undo the compartmentalization that you often find in a school environment,” said Ingels.
While funding for WeGrow hasn’t been finalized, the initial plan may be to charge a market-comparable tuition on a sliding scale and potentially transition into a privately funded non-profit later on.
Set to occupy its own section of the future headquarters, complete with a separate entrance, WeGrow hopes to use this first school as a jumping off point for eventually integrating a WeGrow space in every WeWork. Picturing a world where parents can head to the office with their children in tow, WeGrow is a logical next step for a company that also operates WeLive, a co-living space featuring fully furnished apartments, and Rise By We, a chain of wellness clubs.
Adam Neumann, WeWork’s CEO, has stated that he eventually wants to expand into designing entire neighborhoods. WeGrow, in their own words, has claimed the ambitious goal of trying to eventually educate people “from birth to death.”