Somatic Action | Play. Influence of Architecture in Sex Differences

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somatic action | play influence of architecture in sex differences

somatic action | play influence of architecture in sex differences A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of the Architecture Department in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Architecture at Savannah College of Art and Design

Ana M. Manzo de Peiret Savannah, GA Š May 2018

Scott Singeisen, Committee Chair Samuel Olin, Committee Member Susan Falls, Committee Member

dedication To my husband Paul, for his love, kindness, and patience. Because without him, I would not have been able to take on this adventure. His unconditional love carried me through this process and helped me understand that no matter the results, I should always enjoy the journey.

To my family, my two sons -Jacques and Luca-, my mom, my dad and

Laura, my grandmother, my sister and niece, for always believing in me and making me feel smart even when my exhaustion made me question it. To Carolina, Cristian, Kim, and Ricardo, for being my drivers in this path, because without their support, I would not have been able to be here doing what I love.

acknowledgements To my sweet family, Paul, Jacques, and Luca, for having the patience to deal with my crankiness, with the late hours, and the lack of food in the house.

To my professors,

Sam, Hsu-Jen, and Carole, for always believing

in me and for letting me know that it is never too late in life to learn new valuable lessons and make good friends.

To my thesis chair and committee,

Scott, Sam,




understanding my project better than myself and pushing me to take my thesis to the level of development I needed to take it. To Melanie Parker for opening my eyes into a new and creative way of understanding structure.


To my dear friends: for always having the right word for each icon, for questioning my

decisions and teaching me that I am the most important person I know, for listening to my silly stories, and for loving me despite of my foolishness.

S, for the sunny days at tybee, for filling me with joy every day, for teaching me that age is just a number, and for letting me know that sometimes the smallest things are the most important ones.

A, for feeding me literally and figuratively, for challenging me to become a better version of myself, for not letting me surrender to my laziness, and for making me laugh - until I cried - about a terrifying blanket.

R, for the awesome software tricks and help, for teaching me that stress is not necessary, that there is no need for complaints, and that happiness can be achieved just by letting the negativity go.

table of contents List of images Abstract Key definitions

1 9 11

History Causes

13 19 21 22 25 28 33 34 35

Kindergarten changes The male and female brain The unspoken problems of gender equality in early education Ready to learn

ADHD. A consequence of sex differences Boys are three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls

Misdiagnosed ADHD as a problem related to sex differences

What can architecture do for boys and girls in the early stages of education to help them get engaged at school? Intelligence is diverse, dynamic, and interactive Memletics accelerated learning system

Development. Philosophies of early childhood education

Education and agecy Educational systems Friedrich Froebel (1782 – 1852) Rudolf Steiner (1861 – 1925) Maria Montessori (1870 – 1952) Loris Malaguzzi (1920 – 1994) and the Reggio Emilia approach

Development. Design in education Universal design in education Metaphors of human learning Analysis of philosophies of design in education

Design intent Inspiring spaces. goal Case studies Scale Movement Interactive Flexible

Design theme The user User Survey Matrix

39 40 42 45 46 48 48 48 50 50 53 54 56 59 61 62 65 66 67 68 69 71 75 76 80 83

section I

section II

section III

section IV

section V


Maggie’s morning school Site analysis

Design concept

Final exhibition boards

93 94 97 103 104 106 109 110 112 114 116 118 120 122 124 126 128 130 137 150

So, the question remains: how to fix a sociological problem with architecture? Conclusion Bibliography

153 155 161

Children know best Basis of design


Process Hourly usage Design Connections – Transitions Section a-a Modular system. Nodes of learning. Cells of knowledge Node 1. Mental rotation Node 2. Sound recognition Node 3. Puzzles Node 4. Face recognition Metaphors of human learning Exploded axonometric Assembly of the elements Experiential images


section VI

85 86 88

list of images Figure 1 | Boy / Girl | By author



Figure 2 | Girls in boarding schools |


Figure 3 | Boys in boarding schools | cms/details.asp?ID=253


Figure 4 | Children in educational environments | choosing-a-kindergarten-for-your-child-in-jeddah/


Figure 5 | Kindergarten 40 years ago | case-studies/utah-high-quality-preschool-sib/


Figure 6 | Learning games. Steiner method |


Figure 7 | Learning games. Montessori method | b1/31/6d/b1316d8bf716cb6f1ce192d485c65f1a.jpg


Figure 8 | Learning games. Froebel method |


Figure 9 | Kindergarten now |


Figure 10 | Shelves with books |


Figure 11 | The male and female brain |


Figure 12 | Girl’s education |


Figure 13 | Boy’s education |


Figure 14 | AN Kindergarten / HIBINOSEKKEI + Youji no Shiro | https://www.



Figure 15 | Community Centre Kastelli / Lahdelma & Mahlamäki | https://https://


Figure 16 | Dame Bradbury School / Lahdelma & Mahlamäki | https://www.


Figure 17 | Girl with ADHD |


Figure 18 | Boy with ADHD |


Figure 19 | Boy with ADHD |


Figures 20 - 31 | Children



Figure 20 | Girl 1 |,summer/Time-

Figure 21 | Girl 2 | lery

Figure 22 | Girl 3 |

Figure 23 | Girl 4 |

Figure 24 | Girl 5 |

Figure 25 | Girl 6 |

Figure 26 | Boy 1 | Figure 27 | Boy 2 | z4631.8/3840x2400 Figure 28 | Boy 3 |

Figure 29 | Boy 4 | By author

Figure 30 | Boy 5 | By author


Figure 31 | Boy 6 | Figure 32 | Memletics accelerated learning system | By author


Figure 33 | Girl |


Figure 34 | Friedrich Froebel | news-single/artikel/australien-neues-froebel-early-learning-centre-eroeffnet/


Figure 35 | Rudolf Steiner |


Figure 36 | Maria Montessori |


Figure 37 | Reggio Emilia approach | https://guiamaschicos.blogspot. com/2017/06/guarderia-en-guastalla-arquitectura.html


Figure 38 | Vittra Telefonplan |


Figure 39 | Vittra Telefonplan |


Figure 40 | Smartno Timeshare Kindergarten |


Figure 41 | Smartno Timeshare Kindergarten |


Figure 42 | Design intent | By author


Figure 43 | Five Fields Play Structure |


Figure 44 | Labyrinthine 10-cal tower |



Figure 45 | King Solomon School | king-solomon-school.html


Figure 46 | Vittra Telefonplan |


Figure 47 | Design theme | By author


Figure 48 | Children playing |


Figure 49 | User Boys | By author


Figure 50 | User Girls | By author


Figure 51 | Survey analysis | By author


Figure 52 | Matrix | By author


Figure 53 | Maggie’s Morning School 1 | By author


Figure 54 | Maggie’s Morning School 2 | By author


Figure 55 | Site. Kindergarten Schools in Savannah, GA | Map Stack


Figure 56 | Site Analysis 1 | By author


Figure 57 | Site Analysis 2 | By author


Figure 58 | Boy in bathtub |


Figure 59 | Hakone Open Air Museum |


Figure 60 | Site. Icons | Noun Project


Figure 61 | Design concept 1 | By author


Figure 62 | Design concept 2 | By author


Figure 63 | Process | By author


Figure 64 | Hourly Usage | By author


Figure 65 | Connections - Transitions | By author


Figure 66 | Section a-a | By author


Figure 67 | Modular System. Nodes of Learning. Cells of Knowledge | By author


Figure 68 | Node 1. Mental Rotation | By author


Figure 69 | Node 2. Sound Recognition | By author


Figure 70 | Node 3. Puzzles | By author


Figure 71 | Node 4. Face Recognition | By author


Figure 72 | Metaphors of Human Learning | By author


Figure 73 | Exploded axonometric | By author


Figure 74 | Assembly of the elements | By author


Figure 75 | North elevation | By author


Figure 76 | Experiential image 1 | By author


Figure 77 | Experiential image 2 | By author


Figure 78 | Experiential image 3 | By author


Figure 79 | Experiential image 4 | By author


Figure 80 | Experiential image 5 | By author


Figure 81 | Lego Model | By author


Figure 82 | Concept Models | By author


Figure 83 | Typical Male and Female Brain Models | By author


Figure 84 | Site Model | By author


Figure 85 | Wall / Maze - Concept Model | By author




Figure 86 | Games - Concept Models | By author


Figure 87 | Node 1. Mental Rotation - Concept Models | By author


Figure 88 | Node 2. Sound Recognition. Concept Models | By author


Figure 89 | Node 3. Puzzles. Concept Models | By author


Figure 90 | Node 4. Face Recognition. Concept Models | By author


Figure 91-93 | Final Exhibition Boards. Concept Models | By author





somatic action | play influence of architecture in sex differences

Ana M. Manzo de Peiret May 2018

Recent research on the development of males and females in academic environments shows a growing trend of “unmotivated boys and underachieving young men” as articulated by Leonard Sax, in his book Boys Adrift. There is a connection between this trend and the shift in gender roles in the last forty years which is a consequence of a number of variables such as changes in elementary schools’ curriculum, the presence of a majority of female teachers in elementary schools, and the lack of adequate role models, among others. Some of these variables are the result of the search for equality between the sexes, although great achievement for women’s rights, has taken a toll on the role of men as members of society. As part of the negative consequences of such changes, several countries have experienced an increase in the number of cases of ADHD being diagnosed. The reason seems to be linked with the shift in male roles: the school system is not considering the needs of each individual sex. Instead, both have been pushed into a single style of learning, within an environment that seems to be favoring the education of girls while expecting boys to adapt before developmentally ready.

Keywords: learning environment, child, playground, education, empowerment, kindergarten, scale, movement, interactive, flexibility.



Figure 1

key definitions Sex Biological traits that society associates with being male or female. Gender Cultural meanings attached to being masculine and





identities. E.g. Man, Woman, Transgender, Intersex, Gender Queer, among others.

Sexuality Sexual attraction, practices and identity which may or may not align with sex and gender. E.g. Heterosexual, Homosexual (Gay or Lesbian), Bisexual, Queer, among others.





history | sex


boarding schools Teachers, counselors, and even classmates were present in children’s lives to serve as an example of how to act accordingly to their gender. The best feature of this system was that teachers were not concerned about what to say or how to articulate their ideas in order to make lessons clear for all students. Everyone present in the classroom could follow their line of thought.


Figure 2

During the 19th century, boarding schools for

girls were being separated by the school system,

both boys and girls were introduced in England

children grew up looking for role models of the

as a way to educate school-aged children of

same gender. Teachers, counselors, and even

military personnel who were assigned to work

classmates were present in children’s lives to

overseas. Parents, forced to move away from

serve as an example of how to act according

their home towns, needed a way to take care

to their gender. The best feature of this system

of their children while they left to fulfill their

was that teachers were not concerned about

responsibilities to their country. It was at this

what to say or how to articulate their ideas in

point when the segregated school system, a

order to make lessons clear for all students.

system in which girls were not entitled to the

Everyone present in the classroom could follow

same adequate education as boys, moved

their line of thought. The instructions were

toward a more equitable form of literacy. It

easy to understand because they came from

was the first opportunity for girls to become an

someone who was familiar with the learning

equal part of the education system.

process and what it took to help mature, shape,

and develop those young minds eager to learn.

Throughout this period, while boys and


Children listened to these adults because they

through co-education was the logical next

could relate to them as individuals.

step forward. It took a while, but by the 1960s,






many schools had made the shift. It was a great

shift; education became a right rather than a

feminist achievement.

privilege. Concerns about the social aspects

of sex development, as well as the importance

not biologically equal. Feminists state that the

of referring to “gender as nothing more than

word ‘woman’ does “not refer to a sex term,

‘social construct’, no different from race or

but as a gender term that depends on social

social class”1 also started to rise. A change in

and cultural factors (like social position), and in

paradigm was about to occur. Suddenly, there

doing so, they distinguish sex (being female or

was a need to rethink the education system on

male) from gender (being a woman or a man)”.2

the grounds of gender equality.

Males and females had the same rights,

of educating a mixed group of children, there

therefore, they had to be treated equally.

are several variables that require consideration.

Educating both genders in the same school

It has been proven that even if the term ‘sex

1 Leonard Sax, Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of

2 Mari Mikkola, “Feminist Perspectives on Sex and Gender,” Stanford Encyclo-

Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men, Revised and updated edition

pedia of Philosophy, January 29, 2016,

(New York: Basic Books, 2016).


The problem is that boys and girls are

However, when dealing with the reality


Figure 3

equality’ is important to value men and women to the same extent, it is also important to acknowledge differences in areas such as brain development and functionality, as these are key to children reaching their potential. In the case of mixed-sex education, favoring gender equality has widened the developmental gap between males and females.



causes | sex

Figure 4


play and socialize

Figure 6

40 years ago

Figure 7

Figure 5


read and write

Figure 9

Figure 8


Kindergarten used to be a learning environment for children to play and make friends, to get used to being around other children, and to understand the importance of following instructions from adults other than their parents. Changes made in the 21st century to the kindergarten curriculum which focused on the importance of rigor and academics, in particular on reading and writing, rather than helping education move faster, created the opposite effect, especially for boys. While in kindergarten, a girl’s brain is ready to grasp complex skills such as reading and writing, but a boy’s brain of the same age has not yet matured to the same level.

Figure 10

kindergarten changes


Frontal lobes

Typical male brain (top view) Most connections run between the front and back parts of the same brain hemisphere, which could account for the better spatial skills and motor (muscle) control in men.

the male and female brain A new way of showing the connectivity of the brain – called “connectome” maps – reveals significant differences between men and women.

Typical female brain (top view) Many more neutral connections go from side to side across the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Scientists say this could account for women’s better verbal skills and intuitive abilities.

Figure 11



dropout crisis Education is an important topic to many. People care about education because it is the vehicle through which they become prepared for the future. The dropout crisis -a part of this education system- is a volatile issue that must be addressed.

the unspoken problems of sex equality in early education The reality is that the dropout crisis is just the

to come up with solutions to resolve this issue,

result of a larger problem. The real issue is that

it is important to look at the problems of the

children feel disengaged from school, and the

education system in the early years of school.

reasons for this are varied and complex. Human

beings are naturally distinct and diverse,

numerous dissimilarities in the way boys and

and adding sex differences to the equation

girls’ brains develop. “Gray matter develops

increases their complexity.

earlier and faster in girls, with the result that

According to the National Center of

the gray matter in the brain of the average

Education Statistics, the dropout rate seems

adolescent girl is about two years more mature

to be decreasing; however, the percentage

than that of the same-age boy”.4 There is also a

of males vs females in the same study shows

considerable difference in the preparedness to

an interesting and contrasting view. Female

learn for boys between ages 5 and 7. The same

dropout rates seem to be decreasing faster

can be said about girls between ages 3 and 5.

than male, and this gap shows an increased

Since in the United States kindergarten starts

percentage of males over females dropping

at age 5 for both boys and girls, boys begin


their first school experience at a biological

Most of these reports are based on high






disadvantage compared to girls.

school graduation rates, which helps clarify the

result of this dropout crisis, and can be especially

are not the only issue when dealing with

helpful for the purpose of understanding

concerns about sex. The function of the brains

the lack of motivation of boys over girls. It is

of boys and girls is different as well. Researchers

crucial to realize that disengagement from

at the University of Pennsylvania School of

school can start as early as the first year of

Medicine studied 949 individuals 8 to 22 years of

elementary education. Therefore, when trying

age by analyzing magnetic resonance imaging

3 “Digest of Education Statistics, 2016,” National Center for Education Statistics

4 Hyo Jung Kang et al., “Spatio-Temporal Transcriptome of the Human Brain,”

(NCES) Home Page, a part of the U.S. Department of Education, accessed No-

Nature 478, no. 7370 (October 26, 2011): 483–89,

vember 16, 2017,



Differences in emotional development



(MRI) scans and brain connectivity. The results

motivation that is much needed throughout

show that male and female brains work toward

the school years. Understanding this problem

different types of connections throughout their

and searching for ways to reduce the effects of

lives. Male brains facilitate communication

the developmental age gap between boys and

between perception and coordinated action,

girls is key to lowering the dropout crisis.

while female brains connect analytical and intuitive processing modes.5

This research shows that the current

approach of schools toward co-education needs to be reconsidered. While it is positive for boys and girls to interact socially from an early age, it is equally as important to recognize the differences between both sexes so that the school systems can accommodate different learning styles. A 5-year-old boy that shares a classroom with a 5-year-old girl might feel his abilities are limited since he is not able to grasp the information that is being passed on to him as quickly as the girl. On the other hand, the girl sitting next to the boy in the classroom, may feel reassured in her abilities because she is learning at a faster pace than the boy. The boy in the classroom may start hating school at a very early age, with the resultant loss of 5 M. Ingalhalikar et al., “Sex Differences in the Structural Connectome of the Human Brain,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111, no. 2 (January 14, 2014): 823–28,


Figure 12

Figure 13


ready to learn Finland, the country with the highest scores in the international education rankings, has an interesting feature that contrasts greatly with the American schooling system: children start their formal education at the age of 7, while in the United States, children start at the age of 5. By allowing kids enough time for their brains to develop and reach a point in which they are ready to learn, Finland avoids having children that hate school; therefore, their motivation and curiosity to learn remains intact.

Figure 14



The intent of this thesis is to mitigate the negative effects of a school system that favors girls over boys by empowering children to take their education into their own hands. The main goal of this project is to find ways in which human-made spaces can facilitate the learning process while stimulating children of both sexes to develop their abilities, even if the curriculum and the official entrance age to primary education do not change.

Figure 15

Architecture could play an important


role in the process of closing the developmental gap between males and females created by the effects of biological sex differences in educational environments.

This thesis analyzes the sociological

aspects revolving around the epidemic of unmotivated and underachieving boys in a school system that favors girls,6 to help understand the connections between conduct or behavior and the built environment.




between males and females is key to moving forward and improving education through the built environment. The introduction within the classroom of design elements that apply to both males and females might help both sexes become engaged and strive to the same extent. It is necessary to start celebrating the differences instead of lumping both sexes together.

6 Sax, Boys Adrift.

Figure 16



ADHD | sex

a consecuence of sex differences


boys are three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls “This disparity is not necessarily because girls are less susceptible to the disorder. Rather, it is likely because ADHD symptoms are present differently in girls. The symptoms are often more subtle and, as a result, harder to identify.”7

girls with ADHD

Figure 17 7 “ADHD Symptoms Differ in Boys and Girls.” n.d. Healthline. Accessed January 3, 2018.

boys with ADHD

Figure 18

misdiagnosed ADHD as a problem related to sex differences “Attention-deficit




children to be attentive, calm, quiet, and

(ADHD) is a brain disorder marked by an

patient. These



process of following lessons taught and

hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with

provide structure to the children. Both of

functioning or development”.8

these ideas are linked to the concept of a

The main symptoms of this condition

comprehensive learning environment, which

are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

is the main focus in most schools worldwide,

Inattention, which is the most common

no matter how different their teaching styles.

manifestation of this disorder, is mainly

These requirements, however, are a challenge

evidenced by difficulty in sustaining focus, but

for an ADHD patient, and because of their

can also be perceived as lack of persistence,

inability to accomplish these expectations, they



usually have negative experiences in school.

Hyperactivity, which is not always present as a

This results in a poor education for the child.

symptom, is evidenced by the patient’s constant

Interpersonal relationships are also a challenge

moving or talking, whether appropriate or not.

for these children. Impulsive behavior becomes

Impulsivity is manifested by a socially intrusive

a problem when sharing with other children or

behavior portrayed by actions made without

waiting for a turn. These children, who are often

considering the consequences, as well as for a

eager to get immediate rewards, may become

desire for immediate rewards.9

upset whenever they lose a game, affecting

their relationship with other children.







Children with ADHD usually have two

requirements facilitate the

main areas of conflict in their lives: school

academics and interpersonal relationships.

percentage of boys diagnosed with ADHD has

The academic area is affected by all three

become notable, especially among children

symptoms. The school environment requires

in the early stages of education. Such an

8 “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,” National Institute of Mental Health, accessed October 16, 2017, 9 “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.”

In recent years, an increase in the



important rise in ADHD prevalence rates seems

type of patient does not get diagnosed easily

to be linked to the changes made in school

because hyperactivity, which is the most evident

curriculums in recent years, and the increased

symptom, is not yet manifested. Therefore,

pace to which children are being taught. Since

most of these patients do not get identified as

these conditions have led kids, especially

ADHD subjects, being left out of the prevalence

boys, to become disengaged from school,


the number of children being diagnosed -and

sometimes misdiagnosed- as inattentive in

psychiatric disorders such as oppositional

school has increased, facilitating a worldwide

defiant disorder, conduct disorder, anxiety


disorder, personality disorders, and depression,

What is important to understand is that

altering the rates.11 Likewise, sex plays a

ADHD prevalence rates may be affected by

significant role when setting prevalence rates

different factors of which age, symptoms, other

because boys are three times more likely to

disorders, culture, and sex are most common.

be diagnosed with ADHD than girls. Having all

This reality makes it difficult to establish a rate

these variables affecting the number of ADHD

that considers people from all sexes, cultures,

cases puts any information or research on the

and maturity levels, and at the same time

topic into perspective. Therefore, the data

differentiates them.

becomes questionable, leading us to think that

some of these diagnoses might be mistaken.

Symptoms are an important point of

Also, ADHD often is mistaken for other

consideration. The reason for the inclusion of

Due to this reason, some quiet, well-

this factor as a defining element is the fact that

behaved children with ADHD spend their lives

“the predominantly inattentive presentation of

without receiving a proper diagnosis, and some

ADHD is considered most prevalent in school-

normal, active and energetic children might be

age children, adolescents, and adults”.10 This

perceived as being affected by this condition.

10 Erik G. Willcutt, “The Prevalence of DSM-IV Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder: A Meta-Analytic Review,” Neurotherapeutics 9, no. 3 (July 2012): 490–99,

11 “ADHD Epidemiology,” ADHD Institute, accessed July 12, 2017,

This may not only affect the prevalence rates,


but may also limit the children’s opportunities to succeed in the academic, professional, and personal areas of life.

The number of misdiagnosed and

undiagnosed cases might be significant. In the meantime, many children may be suffering the consequences of this situation. They might be missing the opportunity of having a proper education, as well as positive interpersonal relationships because they either become a number in the prevalence rates, or are simply put aside. Then it becomes evident that the best way of designing a better education system is by considering all children no matter their differences or diagnoses. The design of both, the teaching approach and the learning environment, must consider all children under an inclusive education system that acknowledges boys and girls, whether diagnosed or not.

Figure 19



what can architecture do for

boys and girls in the early stages of education to help them engage at school?


"intelligence is diverse, dynamic,,and interactive"

Figures 20 - 31


- Sir Ken Robinson


memletics accelerated learning system Visual: learn using pictures, images, and spatial understanding. Aural: learn using sound and music. Verbal: learn using words, both in speech and writing. Physical: learn using their bodies, hands, and sense of touch. Logical: learn using logic, reasoning, and systems. Social: learn in groups or with other people. Solitary: learn working alone and use self-study.12


The memletics

accelerated learning system, which differentiates

between 7 types of learners (see chart), demonstrates how varied the learning process can be, hence how important it is for the education system to adjust accordingly.


Logical Social Memletic Styles




Physical Figure 32




development | play philosophies of early childhood education

education and agency


Children in school environments are affected by

power is scale. The spaces are divided into

the lack of power they have over their interests

smaller working stations so the children can

and educational development. Since they are

experience each area as a singular, child-sized

not in control of their learning process, it does

environment. Also, “low, open shelving allows

not engage them. This situation causes them

for all learning tools to be accessed by the

to lose interest in learning, especially in areas

students themselves, while open-floor space

that do not relate to their best abilities or skills.

and grouped tables give the child freedom

The Montessori model is an education

to choose their preferred space”.14 These

system “designed to help children with the task

considerations give the child the feeling of

of ‘inner construction’ based on the belief that

being in control of the environment, reducing

the child is self-directing, and knows their own

stress and promoting self-direction. By the use

needs best”.13 The teachers in these schools,

of these design conventions, to some extent,

act as observers or facilitators rather than power

power is granted to the students.

figures, achieved through a set of techniques

comprised within their philosophy, curriculum,

focus on creating inviting spaces that promote

and environment.

positive encounters and cultural exchange. By

In this school model, the teacher works

endowing children with power while fostering

at the child’s level, usually on the floor. By placing

a positive and respectful environment, the

the teacher at the same height as the pupils,

potential of the learning environment and the

the lines between the person in the position of

spatial implications within it might turn the

power and the ones being controlled become

school into a heterotopia – a term defined by


Foucault to describe “spaces that have more

Another important design consideration

layers of meaning or relationships to other

in Montessori schools that can be related to

places than immediately meet the eye”.15 A

13 Sarah Scott, Architecture for Children (Camberwell, Vic: Australian Council

14 Kayla Goldberg, “The Kinesthetic Classroom: Redefining the 1950’S Public

for Educational Research, 2010).

Elementary School Environment for 21st Century Learners” (Savannah, Ga. : Sa-

The design of an elementary school must

vannah College of Art and Design, 2013).

school environment conceived under these


characteristics serves as an escape from authoritarianism and repression, allowing for the capacities of the children to develop while

Figure 33

diversity is recognized.

15 Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces,� 1986,


educational systems Friedrich Froebel (1782 – 1852) - ‘Children should be encouraged to think for themselves’ (child as autonomous individual, not a passive receiver) - Invented the word Kindergarten - Learn through play (‘Children learn by doing’) - Child-centered education - Learn through meaningful activities

Rudolf Steiner (1861 – 1925) - ‘People are threefold manifestations, having intellect, soul, and body’ - Developed languages and programs to aid teachers - Programs and products: eurhythmy, anthroposophy, anthropometrical, color theory, geometry, the Goetheanum

Friedrich Froebel (1782 – 1852) ‘Children learn by doing’

Figure 34

Rudolf Steiner (1861 – 1925)

‘People are threefold manifestations, having intellect, soul, and body’

Figure 35


Maria Montessori (1870 – 1952)


- Self-paced learning - Carefully controlled environment (work at child’s level, small environments, process over product, access to natural environment, simplicity in design) - Four developmental stages: - Ages 0-6: the absorbent mind; absorbing from the environment, culture, and language - Ages 6-12: the reasoning mind; abstract thought and imagination - Ages 12-18: the humanist mind; inquiring about society and the whole - Ages 18-24: the specialist mind; concerned with their role within the whole

- Child-centered education (‘inner construction’) - Teacher as observer and facilitator

Loris Malaguzzi (1920 – 1994) and the Reggio Emilia approach - ‘A child has 100 languages’ - Child-centered education - Children as active participants in their own education - Teacher as facilitator - Education as a right and a social activity - Values-based education - Environment is very important - Child should be able to move around - Center as a cohesive community with open dialogue - Play as a form of work - Spaces should change and evolve - Objects as interactive subjects

Maria Montessori (1870 – 1952)

‘Self-paced learning, teacher as observer and facilitator, carefully controlled environment’

Figure 36

Reggio Emilia approach (post-WWII)

‘A child has 100 languages’

Figure 37




development | play design in education


universal design in education Architect Ronald Mace developed the idea of a new way of approaching design based on the average user which would provide a design foundation for more accessible and usable products and environments. The key elements of Universal design (UD) are diversity and inclusiveness. There are seven principles for the universal design:


Equitable use: Useful to people with diverse abilities. Avoid

segregating or stigmatizing any users. 2.

Flexibility in use: Accommodates a wide range of individual

preferences and abilities. Provide adaptability to the user’s pace. 3.

Simple and intuitive use: Use of the design is easy to understand,

regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level. Eliminate unnecessary complexity. 4.

Perceptible information: Communicates necessary information

effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities. Maximize ‘legibility’ of essential information. 5.

Tolerance for error: Minimizes hazards and the adverse

consequences of accidental or unintended actions. Discourage unconscious action in tasks that require vigilance. 6.

Low physical effort: Can be used efficiently and comfortably and

with a minimum of fatigue. Minimize repetitive actions. 7.

Size and space for approach and use: Appropriate size and space

is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use, regardless of the user’s body size, posture, or mobility.16



Figure 38


metaphors of human learning In his essay ‘Campfires in Cyberspace: Primordial Metaphors for Learning

in the 21st Century’, David D. Thornburg, reflects on archetypal learning environments and the fact that humans are the only storytelling species existing in the world. This reasoning provided a framework to develop the metaphors of human learning:



Figure 39



1 1. The campfire: Coming together to listen and learn as a group from the ‘elder’. 2. The watering hole: Learning from peers in small, informal groups-more conversational and less hierarchical. Promote a sense of shared culture. 3. The cave: Retreating from the group for individual reflection, study, ideation. 4. Life: Taking knowledge into the world for use and application.





Figure 40


de-standardization There is a need to understand design in education in a broader way. Past experiences have proven that learning environments have to be tailored to the childrens’ needs instead of being defined by a set of standarized rules that apply to all children.

analysis of philosophies of design in education The concept behind the seven principles

the pattern language created by Christopher

for the universal design was to facilitate the


inclusion of all children within the educational

facilitating patterns. By thinking about spaces

environment. The intent behind this concept

in terms that promote interaction in a flexible

was positive, but the problem was that they

way while providing empowering opportunities

became a checklist to fill, therefore, the analysis

for children to choose, the built environment

and understanding of the specific needs of the

becomes an aid rather than a backdrop.







project and its users became obsolete.

It is important to understand that there

is not a single child with the exact same traits. Each one has a combination of specific skills and needs; therefore, it is necessary to think about the design of educational settings as a consequence of understanding such skills and needs.





characteristics that can help architects and designers find patterns to guide them through the creative process in order to facilitate the design of the ideal educational environment.

within the design instead of following a set of rules that are more restrictive than inclusive.

The metaphors of human learning and

Figure 41

The key to achieve this is to provide flexibility



design intent | sex + play


inspiring spaces | goal The intent of this thesis is to find ways in which human-made spaces can facilitate the learning process while stimulating children of both sexes to develop their abilities, even if the curriculum and the official entrance age to primary education do not change.


Figure 42



case studies | play



1.- Five Fields Play Structure. Designed by architects Brandon Clifford of Matter Design and Michael Schanbacher of FR|SCH Projects. Loca­tion: Lexington, MA. Size: 115 sqft - 36’ long, 18’ tall, 4’ wide, 66’ zipline. This playground was designed as a part of an experimental community. It was intended to be a structure that was safe but also exciting for kids, challenging them without the inclusion of functional elements. Through this approach, imagination became the driver of the way children interact with spaces. The playground can be accessed by adults, but the scale was reduced so the kids could become protagonists of the spaces.

Figure 43



2.- Labyrinthine 10-cal tower. Designed by Supermachine Studio. Location: Thailand. This project redefined the term ‘playground dynamics’ with an interesting concrete structure in the form of a three-dimensional maze that could be used by both parents and children. The name, 10-cal, was inspired by the number of calories that can be burned by walking up the stairs from the bottom to the top. The structure can also be used as a viewing platform to enjoy the nice surrounding views.

Figure 44



3.- King Solomon School. Designed by Sarit Shani Hay- Shani Hay Design LTD Location: HaKfar HaYarok, Ramat Hasharon, Israel. Size: 5000 sqft - 10,000 sqft The design concept was based on the wish to translate the pedagogical - philosophical idea of the holistic education to an exciting learning experience. The tables in the classrooms were designed to create a fun and modular environment that could be adapted to any learning opportunity. Also, students could interact with different elements of the building like niches and seats.

Figure 45



4.- Vittra Telefonplan. Designed by Rosan Bosch Ltd. Location: Hägersten, Stockholm, Sweden Area: 1900.0 m2 This school was designed so there were no classes or classrooms. The intention was that students could be taught in level based groups according to the metaphors of human learning – ’the watering hole’, ’the show-off’, ’the cave’, ’the campfire’, and ’the laboratory’ – facilitating the development of different types of learning environments and teaching situations.

Figure 46



design theme | sex + play


design theme The design theme of this thesis is based on the idea that empowerment can be achieved through a combination of decisionmaking and learning environments. By providing children with the opportunity to make their own decisions with regards to their learning process, they become empowered, boosting their self-esteem through the achievement of self-determined tasks. More to the point, even if the task is not conquered, they still have the option of trying again or choosing a more suited activity. The intent is to provide children with learning games that are designed specifically for each individual sex and their strong areas of development. This way, both boys and girls can decide if they want to take on bigger challenges by attempting tasks designed for the opposite sex, or by achieving a challenge designed for their own sex. The entire time unaware of the underlying difference, of the tasks based on sex.


decision-making + learning environment = empowerment

Figure 47



the user | sex


user Children (boys and girls) of kindergarten age which ranges between 5 and 6 years old.

Figure 48


Figure 49


things things things

boys visual-spatial integration mental rotation risk takers learn through movement and visual experience

Figure 50


words words words


emotional expression on faces good hearing verbal tasks learn the “how” if they know the “why”


survey I surveyed a group of 5 year-old children and asked about their perception of the learning games presented to them. I asked if they thought these games were oriented towards boys or girls.

The results showed that, except for the case of legos, the children perceived all of these games as being suited for their own sex.

This interesting information can be very beneficial when presenting challenges to the children. If they do not differentiate between games designed for boys or for girls, they will choose the game they like the most, whether they are good at it or not; hence, they have the opportunity of being challenged to improve skills that might not be part of their strong areas of development.


Learning games

What they think

Figure 51




Figure 52



site | play


maggie’s morning school “Maggie’s Morning School is a private non-profit preschool open to children regardless of race, creed or color. They provide an exceptional and unique learning environment in order to facilitate social, emotional, physical, and intellectual development in each child. Their hands-on learning, child-centered approach encourages exploration and independence through a well-prepared environment”.17

The design was tested in Maggie’s Morning School in Savannah, GA. On the left side of the building, there is an open area that is ideal for the development of this project; it has a good size, an interesting linear shape, and also a connection with nature and with the building. The south wall of the playground area provides the perfect framework for the prototype to be placed in many different configurations.

17 “Maggie’s Morning School.” n.d. Accessed January 31, 2018.”


Figure 53

Figure 54


site analysis Countries like Australia, Britain, Japan, Sweden, Italy, and Finland have their own standards when defining the ideal area per child for educational environments, both for interior and exterior spaces. The range of options varies greatly, going from 1.5 m2 in Japan, to 7.5 m2 in Italy for interior spaces, and 5 m2 in Japan to 30 m2 in Italy for exterior spaces. This thesis considers an area between 5 – 10 m² of space per child considering both the limitations of the site and the standards used in the United States. Other considerations are also addressed such as providing a safe environment that is scaled to children with flexible spaces that can allow for play within a learning environment for early education/kindergarten.


Kindergarten Schools in Savannah, GA

Figure 55


Figure 56


Figure 57



design concept | sex + play

children know best


Evidence-Based Design (EBD) is “a process

the users’ needs; no one knows the users’ needs

for the contentious, explicit, and judicious use

better than the users themselves. Grasping such

of current best evidence from research and

concepts is key to shape the built environment

practice in making critical decisions, together

in a way that responds to the inhabitants and

with an informed client, about the design of

their synergy.

each individual and unique project”.18

There is a concept called ‘desire

designing learning environments for children.

path’ that reflects on the design of public

Sir Ken Robinson believes that intelligence is

environments. It refers to the creation of parks

diverse, dynamic and interactive,19 and as such,

and expresses that the best way to determine

allows no room for standardized designs that

the ideal location for the walkways and trails is

can serve any situation. Instead, the necessity

to place a group of people in the area, observe

for spaces that can adjust to each situation or

the walking routes they follow, and the places

user, becomes invaluable to the development

where they stop to take breaks. The areas

of children’s academic and emotional growth.

that are trodden by people should define the

walking paths, and the places where they stop

the research is based on copious analyses of

to rest should become the points of interest.

design ideologies, human biology, pattern

The idea behind this theory is comprised within

language, form language, and other theories

the concept of Evidence-Based Design.

that converge into a singular place in order

Some of the most successful places in

to create a new type of learning environment.

the world such as street markets and bazaars are

Thus, since results cannot be predicted unless

the product of human actions and interactions

tested and experienced, it must be developed

rather than of professional and planned design.

in a flexible way so that the outcomes that are

The reason for this is found in understanding

collected over time become the evidence to

18 D. Kirk Hamilton and David H. Watkins, Evidence-Based Design for Multiple

19 Ken Robinson, “Bring on the Learning Revolution!,” TED Talk, accessed No-

Building Types (Hoboken, N.J: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2009).

vember 14, 2017, revolution.

This notion is particularly important when

In the particular case of this thesis,

propose the changes and improvements for

the design and providing the opportunity to

the future.

repeat such design in other places, as long as

This learning environment requires

the particular needs of the locations and users

a structure that allows the organizer to plug

are addressed. Like a maze, it also allows for

in and out the learning games which can be

the pathways, connections, and transitions

rearranged as the results of the study become

to evolve over time as the needs of the users

evident. The theories and studies in place are

become evident.

the drivers of the design, but it is the evidence collected from the continuous evaluation of the behavior of the children, and the consequential response to such behavior, that can ultimately determine the success of this project.

The base design used for the structure

of this thesis was inspired by the built environment of honey bees. As with bees, the spaces were created within a wall in the shape of a honeycomb, composed of hexagonal prismatic cells that could nest various activities where children would develop their skills while moving and having fun.

The repeatable shape of the honeycomb

allows the arrangement to adjust in height and length according to the needs of the space where it is located, granting modularity to Figure 58



Figure 59

1.- Early education/kindergarten The users are children (boys and girls) between 5 and 6 years old.

2.- Safe environment A safe and friendly environment that inspires curiosity in them so they feel encouraged to learn.

3.- Scaled to children This thesis considered an area between 5 – 10 m² of space per child.

4.- Flexible spaces Easy to assemble pieces that can be rearranged by the teacher as the child’s behavior changes.

5.- Play

A fun environment that provokes, inspires, Figure 60

stimulates, and engages children.




Figure 61



An opportunity to learn through interaction. The wall is not just a backdrop but a learning toy that contains more learning toys.


One of the principles of universal design in education. Flexible spaces allow to accommodate all individual preferences and abilities.


Movement allows for changes to happen. It also provides opportunities for fidgety children to learn through action.

Figure 62


One more of the principles of universal design in education. Children-size areas become key for the users to appropriate the spaces of the playground, letting them believe that it belongs to them, and they are not just intruders in an ‘adult world’.




program | sex + play























Figure 63


hourly usage The playground of this school is only being used for an hour and a half per day, and even less than that during the summer. The reason for this is a combination of a curriculum based on academics and learning of skills, and the need to protect children from the outside elements.

Children are forced to spend time indoors with very little physical activity. The opportunity to expand the learning environment in a way that complements the current classroom setting, but in a fun and active way, is one of the goals of this thesis.





children teachers 18:00

cleaning crew parents use in Summer






15:00 10:00

14:00 13:00

12:00 Figure 64




design | sex + play


area 1

area 2

face recognition

- mirrors - use of ceiling - light analysis (reflections) - technology - computer/tv screens - mirror maze?

area 1

wall elevation


transition a

ofďŹ ce

area 3

mental rotation


- consider size of pieces - colors - height/location on wall - attached to wall?

area 2

classroom 1

- consider size of pieces - colors - shapes - removable /other uses

access transition b colors natural light from above


area 3


classroom 2

floor plan

area 1

area 2 transition b

transition a


ofďŹ ce

area 3

classroom 1



classroom 2

connections | transitions 111

area 4

sound recognition

- sound proof walls - enclosed space - different textures - accoustics (ceiling) - sound control - how to control children’s noises?

area 4

exterior / controlled

exterior / not controlled

area 4

on c

exterior / controlled

exterior / not controlled

Figure 65

on c



of sk y


section a-a

section a-a


green roof

connection scale outdoor space

Figure 66

indoor space

Revision of proposal exploring covered playspace.


modular system_nodes of learning The concept behind the project is that it can function as a learning environment that combines play and movement towards the development of the specific skills of boys and girls.

The way of doing it is by designing a prototype that functions as a lego set with lightweight, easy to assemble pieces that can be rearranged by the teachers as the kids’ behavior changes.

Within the ‘wall’, the four ‘nodes of learning’ can be placed, and within them, the ‘cells of knowledge’ can be plugged in.

This prototype can be placed in any setting with enough height to accommodate at least one of the panels.


cells of knowledge

(developed by game designer)

Figure 67


mental rotation

By joining three modules with alternating positions, children are forced to rotate their bodies as they crawl through the space.


node 1


Figure 68


sound recognition

A space designed as a sound room but with enough visibility so that it does not present safety issues. This is achieved by using a tempered glass as divisorial element with the same angles as the node which helps the acoustics of the space.



node 2


Figure 69



A space that promotes movement and has a frame large enough for the puzzles placed in it to become complex.



node 3


Figure 70


node 4

face recognition

A solitary space that forces children to reflect on the activity they are experiencing.


node 4


Figure 71


metaphors of human learning The metaphors of human learning were used as facilitating patterns to guide the design with the idea of connecting the spaces with the intent of the project.

'the cave’

Retreating from the group for individual reflection, study, ideation.


'The watering hole’

Learning from peers in small, informal groups-more conversational and less hierarchical. Promote a sense of shared culture.


Taking knowledge into the world for use and application.

'The campfire’

Coming together to listen and learn as a group from the ‘elder’.

Figure 72


exploded axonometric

Figure 73



assembly of the elements

Figure 74



north elevation

experiential images

Figure 75


Figure 77

Figure 76


Figure 78


Figure 79


Figure 80




models | sex + play

conceptual physical models Models built as a way to understand the users and their needs as developmental differences


became evident.

Figure 81


Figure 82

brain connections Concept model showing the difference between brain connections of males and



Figure 83


site model Designed as a way to understand the connections and transitions needed between


the existing building and the proposed addition.

Figure 84


conceptual wall section Reflects the modularity of the design and the possibilities to expand and connect as the


location’s needs arise.

Figure 85


conceptual models of games Thought of as a way to understand the learning games that could be designed in


order to challenge the children to develop their skills.


Figure 86


nodes of learning Architectural spaces within the vertical puzzle, designed to provide learning opportunities for


Figure 88 Figure 90

Figure 89

Figure 87

boys and girls.

final exhibition boards

Figure 92

Figure 91


Figure 93




so, the question remains:

how to fix a sociological problem with architecture?



conclusion | sex + play


As referred by Sir Ken Robinson in his TED

females is an important step in moving forward

talks, many brilliant, capable children grow up

in search for a better and more inclusive

thinking they are not intelligent or talented. In

education system.

most cases, these children have artistic or sport

related abilities, which are not part of the core

children are natural learners. If curiosity is

classes. These abilities are usually either not

inspired in them, they will feel encouraged

valued, considered unrelated to intelligence, or

to learn and will not need much assistance.

even stigmatized.20 To the same extent, some

Hence, there is a need for spaces that provoke,

boys in the early stages of education, while

inspire, stimulate, and engage so that children

being compared to girls, feel disconnected

can prosper. Architecture can play an important

from the school system because their needs are

role in creating these spaces while recognizing

not being met. One reason for this is that the

human differences. By moving away from a

education system in the United States is based

standardized system that groups people by

on a standardized model that groups different

age, and instead, values and celebrates their

types of people, with different learning styles

differences by incorporating design elements

and interests into a single style of learning -�the

that help every learner become engaged and

fast food model of education�-.21

curious, positive changes can begin to happen.

He also defines intelligence as diverse,

It is also essential to recognize that

The school environment needs to be

dynamic, and interactive. The way people

customized into local circumstances, styles of

learn can vary greatly from one person to the

learning, and sex differences. It needs to be

next, and from one sex to the other. Some

personalized to accommodate the needs of

people are visual, others auditory, and still

all students. It is not enough to meet the basic

others kinesthetic. Acknowledging this and

standards or to focus on the core classes. The

the biological differences between males and

built environment must become a part of the

20 Robinson. 21 Robinson.



learning process rather than just a backdrop.

design of schools with varied demographies

“The world is filled with stories of

have been key to this thesis project. The

success of people who were considered

result focuses on the creation of inviting

problematic, distracted, fidgety, etc. while in

spaces that promote positive encounters and

school. People that needed to move to be able

cultural exchange; spaces to play, learn, and

to think, people whose creative process was

teach; spaces that explore the potential of its

different that the one expected by the public-

inhabitants regardless of sex or diagnosis, in an

school system. These types of students could

environment where diversity is recognized as a

greatly benefit from an environment that helps

value within an inclusive elementary school.

them engage instead of making them feel like they have a problem�.22

Including physical activity and play time

within the existing school curriculum could help children become more engaged with the learning process. This could also improve their self-esteem if the tasks they have to accomplish are developed for their specific needs and abilities, providing a framework for them to feel empowered while learning.

Elementary schools can shape the

perception a child has of their own life, as well as their ability to be prepared for the future. Research and analysis of case studies with successful and failed experiences in the 22 Robinson.



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