Arkki, School of Architecture for Children and Youth is a non profit organization operating in Finland since 1993. Arkki was founded by three architects, Tuuli Tiitola-Meskanen, Miina Vuorinen and Pihla Meskanen. The first 10 years it was funded by Helsinki City, various grants, and the moderate tuition fees from parents. Since 2007 Arkki was designated as an official architecture school by the Ministry of Education, which means that it now receives annual funding from the government as do for example many music schools, art schools and dance and theater schools for children in Finland. In Arkki we believe that design and architecture education gives children new possibilities, means and mediums to influence the creation of our future environment. Education about architecture helps provide tools for responsible and active citizenship. Through various activities Arkki wishes to ignite a spark in young people’s minds, so that they will want to influence and participate in the development of the built environment in the future, whatever their occupation is. Arkki´s architecture education pedagogy has been gradually developed during the pst 20 years. Arkki´s educational program of architecture for children and young people is the most comprehensive in the world, measured by its depth, quantity and quality. It contains the possibility for a child to study continuously for 16 years and altogether 1800 teaching hours. Arkki teaching program includes art, design and architecture. Arkki pedagogical program evokes the imagination and creativity in children and youth. At Arkki we focus on experiencing the world with all the senses. We create pedagogical projects to stimulate the senses and to inspire the imagination and creativity. ”I have started to see the environment in a totally new way” commented a 12- year-old Arkki student. Aims and goals The aim of Arkki is to promote architectural education in Finland. We want to help children to fully discover and enjoy architecture and the built environment, to understand the impact and meaning of architecture to man, and appreciate everybody’s joint responsibility for the environment. Economic, functional, structural, aesthetic, social and communal objectives come together in architecture in a three-dimensional reality. Architectural education aims to develop a child’s ability to perceive, consider, understand, conceptualise and evaluate his or her environment. In Arkki, the children are introduced to the different aspects of the built environment, and the basic elements of architecture; space, light and shadow, colours, shapes, materials and structures are studied as well as visual presentation techniques, design processes, and matters related to ecology, sustainability and construction.
The objective of the teaching in Arkki is to awaken an interest and personal enthusiasm among young people towards the environment and architecture. In Arkki we believe that a genuine interest is of first hand importance for learning. Through enthusiasm a desire is awakened to find out about things for yourself and also personally influence them. In Arkki we believe that architectural education gives children new possibilities, means and mediums to influence the creation of our future environment. Teaching methods In Arkki, play and fantasy are used as means to discover the different phenomena of architecture. Learning happens through carefully conducted investigations, constructing and experimenting with different materials. With all the age groups we utilize productive play methods in learning. In Productive Play teachers role is important, not as someone who is giving knowledge or answers, but as a facilitator guiding students through the experience. In Arkki the working process is important - complex ideas can come into life and execution through thinking with hands and 3D sketching and building quick prototypes to test ideas. The projects are presented in a way that allows the students to relate the information to their prior experiences, thus deepening the connection with this new knowledge. In Arkki, a pedagogy based on learning by doing and experimentalist approach is applied and we plan carefully conducted experimentation on given subjects. Creativity and multiple answers are encouraged. Most activities in the curriculum are openended problems intended to invite many unique student responses. In the teaching in Arkki we avoid any focus on competition and measuring performance, and the pupils are encouraged to look for answers from their own starting points, enjoying the research. In addition to teaching architecture, Arkki educational program is also fostering creativity through education. Arkki´s educational program • Enhances 3D thinking • Enhances mathematical thinking • Enhances motoric skills (connection of brain and hand) • Enhances knowledge about architecture and the built environment • Enhances critical thinking • Enhances communication skills Arkki in Finland: Arkki provides this long term architectural education in the cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa. Arkki provides 3,600 teaching hours /year. In addition to this long term architectural education, Arkki provides short courses (1 week) for 500 children and workshops for 3000 children each year. Arkki also creates educational curriculums for schools, museums and afterschool art and architecture clubs. Arkki is involved in national and international networks related to architectural education. Arkki also organises training for school teachers and preschool personnel, organises conferences, and produces teaching material.
Children taking part in real planning processes Arkki also works together with Helsinki City planning office to create methods for childrens participation in city planning processes. The biggest project has been “Hernesaari master plan”, a housing area for 4000 people. This project was an invitation from the Helsinki City Planning Office for the pupils in Arkki to make a ”competition entry” in an invited competition in the centre of Helsinki. In addition to the 3 chosen architect consultants, three groups of citizens were asked to enter their proposal to the given task. Two were groups of local residents and the third was a group of children, students from Arkki. It was not a competition in the traditional sense, since no one was selected a winner, but instead all the entries were displayed in public to evoke public discussion among citizens and to gather even more ideas for the development of the city plan of the Hernesaari area. This was the first time in Finland that any city planning office has asked children to participate in a competition or planning of a new housing area. It was a fascinating journey, though extremely challenging to support the participating children in their planning process and at the same time to contribute to the process as expert architects sharing the professional knowledge. The most important thing was to remain objective and not to influence the children in some prearranged direction. The project was realized with 5 facilitating architects and altogether 100 children and young people working in groups of 10 in spring 2007. In November 2012 the Hernesaari area plan was finished, and Arkki children who participated in the project were given a presentation of the final plan at the Helsinki City Planning Office. In 2013 the building of the area will start. The children’s participatory city planning project was a great success. It really succeeded in finding out the viewpoint of the young. It also showed that children are interested about the questions concerning city planning, and perfectly capable of discussing the important issues and evaluating different solutions. Arkki´s working method in this project proved to be very successful, and many new projects involving children, but using different working methods have been realized since then in collaboration with Helsinki City Planning Office and Arkki pupils. Teaching Architecture in Arkki Arkki is one of the pioneers in architectural education to children and youth with 20 years of experience. Arkki provides courses in architecture for ages ranging from 4 to 19. Teaching takes place in weekly sessions. Around 500 children and young adults attend the courses weekly. 4-6 year olds join courses with their parents in child – parent groups. Children from 7 years and up join activities in groups of 12 of the same age. In Arkki we have 14 architects teaching on our weekly courses, and 14 more during our summer course season. None of us can escape the built environment because we live and function in it. The quality of the environment has a direct influence on our quality of life. Because architecture creates the stage of our everyday actions, it is something that belongs to each and every one.
Architecture education is part of common knowledge and should certainly be part of the elementary school curriculum. Through architecture education it is possible to raise a new generation of active citizens who have a real understanding about the environment, and who hopefully possess tools for a positive change in the future. Architects are not the only ones creating urban space. The built environment is formed as a result of multi-dimensional and multi-layered decision processes. Many organizations and political bodies participate in the decision making. The construction of the environment is a multidimensional process that requires extensive knowledge and an overall understanding from everyone who participates in the decision making. Out of the thousands and thousands of children who have passed through Arkki educational program during the past 20 years, only a few dozen have become architects. The rest pursue all professions and careers. In Arkki we believe that Architectural education gives children and young people completely new opportunities, means and tools to participate in the shaping of the future environment, and it opens up new windows and doors to the worlds of possibilities, potential and yet unknown futures.