Page 1

So much of the teaching in early learning revolves around the importance of a child’s environment on their development. Over the last 100 years, many divergent philosophies have evolved with a wide breadth and depth of thinking and with an equally wide range of architectural responses. Children are a unique client with heightened sensory needs, special scale considerations and a totally different way of moving through and perceiving space to adults. The different educational programs and the consequent needs of the staff also impact on the architectural outcome and on how children’s needs are managed. In April and May 2009, a Churchill Fellowship enabled the author to explore the design of exemplar early

architecture for children

How can architectural form respond to the unique needs of children and support and reinforce the pedagogy of a children’s centre?

childhood centres around the world, covering 50 complexes across 10 countries. These included Scandinavia with its government-provided childcare and outdoor forest schools; Italy, home to the highly influential Reggio

SARAH SCOTT scottsarah65@gmail.com Sarah Scott is an architect and partner at Scott & Ryland Architects, Sydney.

Daycare centre Preschool Creche Nursery school Kindergarten Adjunct care

Emilia pedagogy; Germany and Switzerland, for Steiner, Froebel and Environmentalism; Japan’s adventurous architecture and Shinto roots; and the UK with its comprehensive Sure Start program combining early learning

Occasional care

and adult outreach. All of these countries place a high emphasis on the environment as educator and have produced some beautiful and award-winning architecture.

Vacation care

For the last 6 years she has specialised in designing children’s centres,

This book is aimed at anyone who is interested in the design of built environments for children. It is an

and in 2008 was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to explore the design of

exploration of the many different kinds of early learning experiences that are available and the innovative

exemplar early childhood centres across the world, seeing 50 centres

and inspirational building designs that have developed out of each pedagogy. This visual book is about what

across 10 countries in April and May of 2009. Sarah is married with two

architecture can offer early learning and also, what early learning requires from architecture.

children who are now much too big to attend a children’s centre.

ISBN 978-0-86431-854-1

AUTHOR IMAGE€ Sheridan Nilsson

sarah scott

9 780864 31854 1

COVER IMAGE Ebenholz Centre, Vaduz, Liechtenstein


So much of the teaching in early learning revolves around the importance of a child’s environment on their development. Over the last 100 years, many divergent philosophies have evolved with a wide breadth and depth of thinking and with an equally wide range of architectural responses. Children are a unique client with heightened sensory needs, special scale considerations and a totally different way of moving through and perceiving space to adults. The different educational programs and the consequent needs of the staff also impact on the architectural outcome and on how children’s needs are managed. In April and May 2009, a Churchill Fellowship enabled the author to explore the design of exemplar early

architecture for children

How can architectural form respond to the unique needs of children and support and reinforce the pedagogy of a children’s centre?

childhood centres around the world, covering 50 complexes across 10 countries. These included Scandinavia with its government-provided childcare and outdoor forest schools; Italy, home to the highly influential Reggio

SARAH SCOTT scottsarah65@gmail.com Sarah Scott is an architect and partner at Scott & Ryland Architects, Sydney.

Daycare centre Preschool Creche Nursery school Kindergarten Adjunct care

Emilia pedagogy; Germany and Switzerland, for Steiner, Froebel and Environmentalism; Japan’s adventurous architecture and Shinto roots; and the UK with its comprehensive Sure Start program combining early learning

Occasional care

and adult outreach. All of these countries place a high emphasis on the environment as educator and have produced some beautiful and award-winning architecture.

Vacation care

For the last 6 years she has specialised in designing children’s centres,

This book is aimed at anyone who is interested in the design of built environments for children. It is an

and in 2008 was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to explore the design of

exploration of the many different kinds of early learning experiences that are available and the innovative

exemplar early childhood centres across the world, seeing 50 centres

and inspirational building designs that have developed out of each pedagogy. This visual book is about what

across 10 countries in April and May of 2009. Sarah is married with two

architecture can offer early learning and also, what early learning requires from architecture.

children who are now much too big to attend a children’s centre.

ISBN 978-0-86431-854-1

AUTHOR IMAGE€ Sheridan Nilsson

sarah scott

9 780864 31854 1

COVER IMAGE Ebenholz Centre, Vaduz, Liechtenstein


Japan

What is a Churchill FELLOWSHIP?

The Churchill Trust was established in 1965 to honour the memory of Sir Winston Churchill by awarding overseas research Fellowships

UK

known as ‘Churchill Fellowships’.

Italy

Since its inception The Churchill Trust has awarded Churchill Fellowships to

France

of determination and possess a strong desire to benefit their community.

Switzerland Liechtenstein Germany Sweden Finland USA

over 3,300 Australians who, like Churchill, are innovative, filled with a spirit

Churchill Fellowships allow everyday Australians to design their own research project, travel the world and further their knowledge in their chosen field, before returning to make a real contribution to Australian society. www.churchilltrust.com.au


First published 2010

National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry

by ACER Press, an imprint of

Author:

Scott, Sarah.

Australian Council for Educational Research Ltd

Title:

Architecture for children / Sarah Scott.

19 Prospect Hill Road, Camberwell

ISBN:

9780864318541 (pbk.)

Victoria, 3124, Australia

Note:

Includes bibliographical references.

www.acerpress.com.au

Subjects:

Architecture and children. Architecture in education. School buildings. School environment.€

Other Authors/Contributors:

Australian Council for Educational Research.

Dewey Number:

727.1

sales@acer.edu.au Text and photographs © Sarah Scott 2010, unless credited otherwise Design and typography © ACER Press 2010 This book is copyright. All rights reserved. Except under the conditions described in the Copyright Act 1968 of Australia and subsequent amendments, and any exceptions permitted under the current statutory licence scheme administered by Copyright Agency Limited (www.copyright.com.au), no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted, broadcast or communicated in any form or by any means, optical, digital, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the written permission of the publisher. Edited by Elisa Webb Cover and text design by David Gilbert-Kent Typeset by David Gilbert-Kent Printed in Malaysia by Thumbprints Utd


CONTENTS Introduction 2

Outreach 88

Liechtenstein

PHILOSOPHIES OF EARLY

Sustainability 91

138 Ebenholz Preschool

YEARS EDUCATION

Regulations 92

7

Friedrich Froebel

8

Rudolf Steiner

10

Maria Montessori

12

Loris Malaguzzi and the Reggio

Emilia approach

16

Influences from the North

19

The great outdoors and

neuroscience

CASE STUDIES

142 Steinmürli I & II School

Japan

144 Goetheanum

96 Fuji Kindergarten 98 Machida Shizen Preschool & Nursery 100 Maibara Cho Preschool UK 104 Kintori Way Children’s Centre

The competent child

106 Fawood Children’s Centre

24

Post-modernist contextualism and

108 Lloyd Park Centre

where we are today

110 William Bellamy Children’s Centre

28 Context 33

Community, inclusion and the spaces

in between

37 Space 40

Transparency and nature

48

The great outdoors

54

Detail, texture, colour and ceilings

112 John Perry Children’s Centre 114 Ashmole Preschool & Primary School 116 Lanterns Nursery School &

Germany 148 Kindergarten Friedrich-Ebert-Strasse 150 Kindergarten Nussackerweg 152 Kinderhaus Violetta

22

THE CHILDREN’S CENTRE ENVIRONMENT

Switzerland

Children’s Centre

Sweden 156 Mobil Pedagogik 158 Klisterburken Nursery School 160 Tom Tits Experiment Daycare Centre 162 Mulle I Ur Och Skur Preschool 164 Mulle I Ur Och Skur Primary School Finland

118 Hampshire Prefabricated Centres &

168 Ebeneser Centre

170 Arkki Daycare Centre

Mobile Centre

120 Cowgate Under 5’s Centre

172 Soinisen Koulu Primary School 174 Ruusutorppa Montessori Preschool

Italy

176 Hosmarinpuisto School & Daycare

59 Scale

124 Loris Malaguzzi International Centre

65 Interaction

126 Paulo Freire Preschool

68 Furniture

128 Rodari Centre

Art rooms

180 Buckle My Shoe Nursery School

129 Villetta Centre

182 Apple Seeds

130 Giulia Maramotti Infant–

184 The Children’s School

72

74 Bathrooms 78

Eat-in kitchens

80 Storage 86 Offices

Toddler Centre

France 134 Marmoutier Preschool

USA

186 References


INTRODUCTION This book is aimed at anyone who is interested in the design of built environments for children, but it has been written specifically from an architectural perspective. I am an architect and I embarked on this project with the aim of exploring the best that architecture has to offer for early learning environments. Along the way, I discovered that architects can learn a lot from the discipline of early learning teaching. So much of the teaching in the early years revolves around the importance of a child’s environment on their development. Over the last 100 years, many divergent philosophies have evolved and the depth and breadth of thinking, is quite simply, amazing. I became interested in designing for children when I had children myself—inspired not just by a mother’s love but also by the sheer originality and responsiveness of children generally. Children are a unique client with heightened sensory needs, special scale considerations and a totally different way of moving through and perceiving space to adults. Different educational programs and the consequent needs of staff also have an impact on the architectural outcomes and on how children’s needs are managed. So this book is in part what architecture can offer early learning, and in part what early learning requires from architecture. As most people (other than teachers) are not aware of the many philosophies that support our children’s learning, I have included a chapter that provides a brief synopsis of those philosophies that I have come across so far. This is meant as an introduction only; it is not exhaustive and I am sure that there exist whole branches of which I am oblivious. The catalyst for this book was a Churchill Fellowship that I was awarded in 2008, providing for a two-month trip to 10 countries and about 50 children’s facilities in April and May 2009. The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust was set up at the request of Sir Winston Churchill on his deathbed. He wanted to provide ‘something like the Rhodes Scholarship, but for the common man’, so the fellowship is open to anyone, regardless of their qualifications; it cannot be used to attain academic credentials and must be relevant to that person’s field of expertise. Each Fellow writes and researches their own program which provides a unique opportunity to research something that is directly tailored to their own needs while still being relevant to the Australian community. Further information can be found on the website: www.churchilltrust.com.au I tailored my trip around ten countries with very different approaches to early learning design: Japan This is an architecturally imaginative culture in which the inventiveness and freedom of the design shines. Shinto roots focus on pared-down essentials and natural materials. UK The Government’s Sure Start comprehensive outreach program combined with the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE)’s influence provide a diversity of designs, creating enrichment where it is most needed. An emphasis on the right of children to have a voice in design has resulted in some unique collaborations. 2


Italy The Reggio Emilia approach is highly influential, with its emphasis on large volume space, self-expression through art and fluid open-plan facilities. France, Liechtenstein and Switzerland These are architecturally sophisticated and formal cultures, producing highly contextual and beautifully designed centres—a result of their open tender-by-design competition process. Germany Roots in Froebel, Steiner and a focus on the environment provide centres that allow real freedom of movement and connection between indoors and outdoors. Sweden The growth of the outdoor schooling movement and further evolution of the Reggio Emilia curriculum have provided new directions in Sweden. Finland Government architects have been patrons to an interesting range of combined schools on one campus, while the research arm of the Department of Education has focused on implementing the science of the growing brain. USA The centres that I saw were eclectic and individual, drawing on the philosophies of Europe with some interesting results. As the aim of the Fellowship is to bring relevant knowledge back to Australia, there is no exploration of design in Australian childcare centres in this book (although some comparisons have been drawn). There are many other countries that I would have liked to add to my list but they will have to be in the next book! This report consists of my opinions based on my observations of the centres listed. There well may be reasons for the way things are that are beyond my knowledge. I did not always speak with the architects or with the centre managers of all the centres. I would like to thank all the architects and teachers who I did meet on the trip, for so generously sharing their knowledge and creativity. The following chapters outline the key design principles and issues that the many centres I visited shared. At the end of the book there is a photographic summary of each centre.

Children’s artwork in pedestrian tunnel to Loris Malaguzzi International Centre, Reggio Emilia, Italy 3


Philosophies of early years education


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

6


PHILOSOPHIES OF EARLY YEARS EDUCATION

Friedrich Froebel (1782–1852) Friedrich Froebel was one of the most well-known exponents of the early 19th century push for social change through education. Froebel invented the word ‘kindergarten’ and is often referred to as the father of preschool education. He had intended to study architecture, but changed his mind and became a teacher in 1805 at the then famous Frankfurt School, under Pestalozzi. Fundamental to his pedagogy (this is teacher-speak for ‘teachings’) is the premise that play is a necessary development phase in the education of the child. This was a radical idea in a time when play was seen as idleness and children were viewed as miniature adults to be moulded as rapidly as possible into economically productive members of society. Froebel was one of the first to advocate a childcentred education. Froebel was born in the forest area of Thuringia, Germany and he believed in the importance of providing children with a beautiful natural environment. He promoted the principle that there is a fundamental (Christian) unity that exists between all created things and their creator, and between beauty and goodness. Froebel emphasised the importance of learning through meaningful activities, and discovering and learning through play (such as cooking, gardening, looking after animals, recycling and creative expression). ‘Children learn by doing’ was one of his famous axioms. It is still possible to buy ‘The Gifts’, a series of geometrical block toys which he designed in the 1840s as a stimulating alternative to the decorative show toys of the day. Another of Froebel’s famous phrases is ‘Children should be encouraged to think for themselves’. He viewed the child as an autonomous individual, able to take risks and shoulder responsibilities, and not just a passive receiver of information. In Froebel’s schools, children are free to move to where they need to go, and they are encouraged to be as self-sufficient as possible, hanging up their own coats, etc. They use real tools for gardening and cooking and help with the work of each centre such as looking after the pets and helping organise the recycling. Froebel’s pedagogy travelled fast across Europe and America, spread by teachers who came to train at his schools and then set up new schools, many of which became the first training colleges for preschool teachers in each country. Much of his teaching is now an accepted and integral part of our general education, regardless of any school’s philosophical allegiances.

Photo of child in drama group, circa 1910, Ebeneser Centre, Helsinki, Finland 7


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) Rudolf Steiner is another forefather in the early learning movement and the creator of one of the more resilient philosophies to emerge out of the melting pot of manifestoes and new ideas that evolved in the early 1900s. Rooted in Christianity, the main thrust of Steiner’s theory is that people are threefold manifestations, having intellect, soul and body. He strongly believed that any educational system would fail unless it addressed all three aspects and he held the failure of his contemporary education system in addressing these spiritual and physical aspects in equal measure to the intellectual as the root cause of WWI. Steiner developed a complex series of ‘languages’ and programs to aid teachers in teaching spiritual and physical expression. These focused on art, music and movement, and aimed to realise: the important task of awakening people to their true worth as spiritual beings, setting forth ideas that would prevent societies from disintegrating and giving foundations for a new social fabric for the changed conditions of the time. Rudolf Steiner was convinced that much social unrest … amongst the working classes was not due, as popularly supposed, to frustration in political and economic matters, but to cultural deprivation. (Childs 2003, p. 62)

8


PHILOSOPHIES OF EARLY YEARS EDUCATION

Steiner programs and products Eurhythmy is a stylised series of moves that resonate with our breathing patterns when we speak or sing, thus achieving ‘soul gymnastics’. Anthroposophy is Steiner’s theory of a threefold universe. Anthropometrical relates to the proportional measurements of the human form, and applying or uncovering these qualities in the man-made environment. Colour theory Goethe’s experiential colour theory inspired Steiner to explore the spiritual nature of colour. Geometry is viewed as an expression of the intangible and abstract or spiritual. Steiner’s educational theory was holistic rather than reductionist, and based on ethical individualism and participation in a free spiritual life. The Goetheanum is the famous architectural realisation of Steiner’s theories. First built in Dornach, Switzerland in 1913, it was an organic synthesis of his principles of symbolism and the physical manifestation of the spirit through colour, geometry and anthropometry. It was as important a pioneer of modern design as the concurrent avant-garde movement, Expressionism, which resulted in many structures similar to Steiner’s work, such as the Einstein Tower designed by Erich Mendelsohn and built in 1920. Unfortunately this first Goetheanum was burnt down by an arsonist in 1922. It was an older and more cynical Steiner who built the second Goetheanum, wrought from the ‘unwilling insurers’ in the ‘dead material’ of concrete between 1924 and 1928. Now classified as a Swiss National Monument, it embodies Steiner’s principle of metamorphosis, whereby physical form is representative of the spiritual and living processes of nature. Apart from the worldwide Rudolf Steiner organisations that now exist, and the more than 1000 schools that are run strictly in keeping with his principles, Steiner’s influence is also felt throughout general education circles. He was a prolific writer, with more than 24 books to his name (according to the online Rudolf Steiner Archive, www.rsarchive.org) and 6000 lectures and articles. Plus there are literally thousands more texts about him and his work.

Close-up of painting in the Goetheanum, Dornach, Switzerland 9


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Maria Montessori (1870–1952) Dr Maria Montessori, the first woman to graduate as a doctor in Italy, focused on how children learn. An anthropologist and physician, she observed that children have different developmental stages that can be defined by age. She was not alone with this theory—Steiner had a similar series of developmental stages and so did the biologist Jean Piaget (1896–1980). The Montessori approach posits that there are 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; enquiring about society and the whole. • Ages 18–24—the specialist mind; concerned with their role within the whole. Continuing with the theory of child-centred education initiated by Froebel, Maria Montessori believed that if education followed the natural development of a child, then society would gradually move to a higher level of cooperation, peace and harmony. Montessori education is designed to help children with the task of ‘inner construction’, and is based on the belief that the child is self-directing, and knows their own needs best. In 1896, Montessori was appointed director of the Scuola Ortofrenica, an institution devoted to the care and education of the mentally disabled. Here she developed her theories and practice with great success, teaching children who had been deemed unteachable. In 1907, she opened the ‘Casa dei Bambini’ (Children’s House). This was a children’s centre in a new housing project in a poor neighbourhood of Rome. She focused on teaching the students ways to develop their skills at a pace they set themselves: Scientific observation … has established that education is not what the teacher gives; education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences upon the environment. The task of the teacher becomes that of preparing a series of motives of cultural activity, spread over a specially prepared environment, and then refraining from obtrusive interference. (Stephenson 1998, p. 11)

10


PHILOSOPHIES OF EARLY YEARS EDUCATION

In a Montessori school, rooms are pre-prepared by teachers, permanently set up with predefined and specified activities in separate areas, and the children can move between them at will. The role of the teacher is that of observer and facilitator. If the children don’t know what to do the teacher can make suggestions. Observation of the child in the prepared environment is the basis for ongoing curriculum development. The setup and program follows precise guidelines and utilises Montessori equipment and furniture (bought online from Association Montessori Internationale). In each Montessori preschool, areas are set up for children to discover maths; language (including music); the senses (primarily touch); practical life (such as tying shoelaces, kitchen skills); culture (including geography and biology); and art. In keeping with the developmental stages, the environment is carefully controlled. Some of the principles that are adhered to are: • working at the child’s level. As this is generally on the floor, there are often few chairs and the ground plane becomes quite important. • breaking down the school’s scale to provide small, child-sized environments (microcosms) in which each child feels fully competent. • valuing art more for its process than for the product. Art can be taken home or stored away but for the most part it is not displayed,

as this distracts and inhibits further development.

• allowing visible and physical access to the natural environment. • designing built environments with simplicity in mind. A natural order is desired, and the aim is a space that is uncluttered and peaceful. Generally the storage is extraordinarily organised and out of sight and everything is highly ordered. Maria Montessori was an influential theorist; she published several books and travelled the world as a speaker, visiting the United States, London, Helsinki and India. With the establishment of the American Montessori Society in 1914 and the Association Montessori Internationale in 1929, the Montessori approach became a founding movement in preschool education across the world.

Equipment at the Ruusutorppa Montessori Preschool, Espoo, Finland 11


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Loris Malaguzzi (1920–1994) and the Reggio Emilia approach (post-WWII) The Reggio Emilia schools have their early roots in the 1940s ‘People’s Nursery Schools’ set up by women’s organisations that developed in a period of local history dominated by the Italian left-wing National Liberation Committee. However, the principles and practice of the movement really began in earnest in 1963, when the local council in the town of Reggio Emilia took over the running of the nurseries and they became a public service. The council employed a young pedagogist, Loris Malaguzzi, as their advisor from 1963 until his death in 1994. It was his innovative ideas that brought Reggio Emilia Schools to international attention. In 1994 Reggio Children, an organisation that promotes this educational experience, was born. Reggio Children are now the biggest provider of childcare in Italy, with 21 preschools and 13 toddler centres. They also run a publishing company and a clean recycled materials distribution centre, and hold regular exhibitions and international study groups. Every year they have 16–20 study groups with anything between 80 and 400 delegates, from all over the world. There are Reggio Children branch organisations in about 20 countries, which help to spread the pedagogy. In Sweden, the national early childhood curriculum has been based on Reggio principles for the last 30 years. In Australia, it has been popular since at least 1995. The Reggio Emilia pedagogy is amongst the most influential of early childhood philosophies in the world today. Under the guidance of Malaguzzi, the Reggio Emilia approach continued the thread of a child-centred education and, in particular, held the belief that children have a voice to be heard. Children are seen as active participants in their own education and it is the teacher’s role to facilitate and promote the child’s voice with particular emphasis on children’s active, constructive and creative learning processes (Reggio Children 1998).

12


PHILOSOPHIES OF EARLY YEARS EDUCATION

While on my fellowship tour, I attended a week-long Reggio course in Italy. It was very intensive and as one of only two architects at that course (surrounded by the totally different discipline of teaching) I found it very enlightening. The following seminal points are what I gleaned from two talks, the first given by Paola Cagliari: • Education is a right: to recognise someone’s rights is to recognise their potential. • Everyone has the right to be a protagonist in their own experiences. • Education is a social activity. • School is a place where everyone is sharing, discovering, inventing and participating; it is an exchange of ideas. • Children are the builders of a culture, expressing important values. • It is important that children are able to explore their own ideas and their own images. • Reggio aims to give visibility to children and their expression. • A child has 100 languages. • Who is teaching who? and the other by Carla Rinaldi: • Reggio is values-based education. To listen gives meaning to the other person and children are particularly sensitive to this: ‘I cannot

exist without your listening’.

• The aim is to make listening visible through the projects with a cyclical process of observation, documentation and interpretation.

Town of Reggio Emilia, Italy 13


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

1

In a Reggio preschool, the notion of harnessing a child’s many different means of expression has evolved into a program of projects. Initiated by the children’s interests, generally as a group, an idea is explored and expanded upon through many phases and much collaboration. A vast amount of work is produced, and because it is an expansion of one ‘spark’ and developed by a team, the level of detail is impressive. The final work becomes an exhibition, thus affirming the children’s visibility. It is worth mentioning here that these Reggio principles operate against the backdrop of Italian culture and education, which is a lot more formal than that of countries like Australia, thus freedom is a relative concept. The children are free to move within the structures set up around them. Each centre has a morning assembly, specified drop-off and pick-up time periods and a loosely timetabled day. If a preschool child chooses an activity to go on with in the morning, they are generally expected to continue

2

with that theme for the rest of the day. And being outside is usually timetabled and involves the group rather than children being free to roam in and out at will. Architecturally, the environment is an important part of the whole Reggio pedagogy. While acknowledging the influence of Froebel and Steiner (a child’s environment should be beautiful and the child should be autonomous and open to lots of enriching experiences), Reggio Children have developed the theme. The resultant architecture is clearly defined by three concepts: • A child should be free to think for themselves (and move freely around). • The centre should operate as a cohesive community with open dialogue. • The interpretation of play as a form of work—a science that needs a laboratory,

14

an art that needs a workroom—the playroom should fulfil these criteria.

3


PHILOSOPHIES OF EARLY YEARS EDUCATION

1 Piazza del Duomo, town of Reggio Emilia, Italy

There is an attempt to provide a range of experiences within the centre. Within one playroom is found: a single- and double-storey space

2 Play and furnishings exhibition in the research space at the Loris Malaguzzi International Centre, Reggio Emilia, Italy, photograph courtesy of Reggio Children

a ramp with play area underneath; a series of amphitheatre steps; and recently, technology has been incorporated with a projection screen

3 Computer artist’s impressions of future renovations to the Loris Malaguzzi International Centre, on billboards surrounding the site

‘Children’s personalities develop as they interact with the environment.’

4 Water project, Villetta Centre, Reggio Emilia, Italy

‘These places are not fixed. They undergo change and evolution.’

with loft; a designated art area; a music area; a science area; eating and sleeping areas; a winter garden or bay window; stairs and perhaps and computer area. Reggio Emilia teachers I spoke to gave the following insights into their work:

‘Give the child space to give energy to their own ideas.’ ‘We do not see objects as objects but as subjects, they interact.’

4

15


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Influences from the North For the last forty years, Scandinavia has led the world in providing government-funded comprehensive early childhood education and childcare. In Sweden at the beginning of the 1970s, an official state commission called ‘Barnstugeutredningen’ (The Child Care Survey) published its work, which proposed an education based on communication and dialogue. In 1988, Sweden developed its first national guidelines for preschools, called Educational Program for Preschools. In 1998, this was updated to become The Preschool Curriculum and the authority for preschools was shifted from the Department of Social Welfare to the Department of Education. The new curriculum adopted much of the Reggio Emilia pedagogy, and the shift in authority ensured that preschools in Sweden are part of the education system, and are viewed as the foundation for all education. They are as intrinsic to a child’s upbringing as primary school is in countries like Australia. As such, the facilities and programs are equal to primary and high school facilities in their scope and sophistication. From the 1960s through to the 1980s, children’s preschool facilities in Sweden were built as little house-like compartments. The standard arrangement was four identical units, each unit consisting of two rooms and a shared kitchen. But now a more multivalent approach has been adopted, with space for art, craft, science experiments and computers. The teacher’s role has changed as well: they have to do much more research to help the children with their projects, and there is generally more paperwork associated with documentation of the projects and of the children. Because of this, in newer centres there is often a rear zone of staff service rooms with offices, staffroom and photocopying and printing areas. There is also a focus on providing additional communal areas, for teachers to discuss their work, for children to interact and for parents to become involved. Preschool is, ideally, a place of encounter. A typical Swedish preschool is arranged in a similar fashion to a primary, or even a high school. It is generally arranged in three-year blocks. Each block has a ‘homestead’ with the possibility of eating in and there are three playrooms for each age group that open onto these homesteads. A main kitchen, an assembly area and a dining room are shared. Playground and specialty rooms such as for craft, music or science are also shared. In the newer centres there are no corridors, but each room opens onto the next and onto a central courtyard, so there is an interconnectivity, fluidity and sense of openness.

16


PHILOSOPHIES OF EARLY YEARS EDUCATION

Instead of outside consultants or ateliers, the Swedish preschool system makes the teachers into specialists, letting each teacher define and expand their particular strength. Each preschool may have an art teacher, a language teacher and an outdoor teacher. Provision of a free lunch to all the students was introduced in the poor 1940s. It will probably remain a feature of Swedish education, as all the schools have the necessary facilities, but providing the kitchen and dining areas is a big part of a school’s budget. Many schools also have community services attached, such as an area for nurses and consulting outreach and health services. Apart from taking early learning seriously and providing for it, the other big influence from the Scandinavians is their focus on the importance of the natural outdoor world and incorporating it into everyone’s everyday life, including preschoolers.

Dining room in Klisterburken Nursery School, Stockholm, Sweden 17


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

18


PHILOSOPHIES OF EARLY YEARS EDUCATION

The great outdoors and neuroscience It is very much a part of Swedish and Norwegian culture that to be outside in a natural state, in a natural environment is an ideal. In Sweden, the ‘Friluftsfrämjandet’ (Outdoor Life Organisation) was set up in the 1950s to promote and encourage outdoor activities—particularly with the young—through weekend ‘forest schools’. The schools were inspired by the Mulle stories of Gusta Frohm, a leader in the Friluftsfrämjandet organisation. These are popular stories about likeable half-child, half-animal elf creatures, the main one named Mulle, who befriend the animals and look after the environment. It is estimated that one in four adult Swedes participated in a ‘Skogsmulleskola’ (Mulle Forest School) as children. It wasn’t until 1985 that Siw Linde and Susanne Drougge, working with the Friluftsfrämjandet, applied the Skogsmulleskola concept to daycare and preschool, creating the first Mulle ‘I Ur Och Skur’ (rain or shine) preschool. There are now more than 180 such preschools and 18 primary schools across Sweden, and a high school is currently being planned. The approach and aims of the ‘I Ur Och Skur’ schools are twofold: 1. We were designed to be outside, not in a classroom and children much prefer to be outside

than in. The main aim is to make learning fun and stimulating and get children out into the best

environment for them, not to destroy their patterns or interrupt their natural learning cycles with

unnecessary classroom rituals (like dressing and undressing in warm clothes).

2. The schools seek to teach environmentalism: cycles of life, recycling, making things from scratch,

enjoying nature, observing nature and being a caretaker.

Thus the schools function almost entirely outside all day, every day. Architecturally, they have provided only minimal installations within the natural setting. But the natural setting is still very much designed and manipulated to provide a variety of options to keep everyone busy. It includes child-scaled alcoves and secret cubbies, as well as more challenging physical courses and structures encouraging practical skills. The teachers, parents and children have built all the structures in working bees. This was an important part of the process, involving them all first-hand in the principles of the school. Although as the teacher I interviewed stated, it takes a long time to set up a playground this way. Many of the structures are quite simple: rope mazes, log horses, tree stump rings, etc. The attached buildings are still required to provide storage and some respite. If the weather is awful (at –10 degrees Celsius everyone is required to come inside!) the children can play indoors and they have a comfortable indoor setup to allow this, but the indoors is seen as the supplementary play area rather than the other way Children’s artwork depiction of ‘Mulle’, I Ur Och Skur Preschool, Lidingö, Sweden

around. The focus has shifted to providing the complexity in the outdoor environment rather than inside.

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The children have small group outdoor assemblies each morning to establish the main activity of the day, and then they are free to go and do what they want. The teachers may have set up activities but the children are also free to get equipment out themselves and do their own thing. The teacher’s job is to inspire. Sometimes they eat inside but often they eat outside. Sleeping cubbies or tents are set up outside too, and the children use sleeping bags if it is cold. Three out of five days they will make an expedition to the woods. It does not, the teacher explained, have to be far. A little woods is enough! Clothing is very important, as without the correct clothing, the children will just be uncomfortable and unhappy. Drama and music—art that does not require a permanent physical product—is often used to fulfill the Swedish curriculum requirements for arts development. The advantages of the forest schools are numerous: 1. Nature provides a constantly changing and detailed environment full of enrichment to stimulate children’s minds. There is a wealth of

spontaneous possibilities to explore, e.g. a frog seen by chance needs an immediate response, so the teachers and the students explore the

topics together, finding the questions and the answers together, not just being led by the teacher.

2. The outdoors provides a healthy environment where children can run, climb and be physical to their hearts’ content. Records indicate that

the occurrence of accidents is much less at an outdoor forest school than at a typical indoor centre. Studies in Sweden have concluded that

sun protection is better at outdoor schools because they have set themselves up to address this issue. Grahn (1996) concluded that children

at outdoor centres were healthier than the norm: they ate better, slept better, and had better motor coordination, more muscles and better

physical competency than children attending more traditional schools.

3. Because they are not limited to a setup in a room prescribed by adults, children are not limited to stereotyped roles. So boys set up bead

shops with stones for money and girls climb trees. They develop along the lines of their own interests, becoming individuals.

The influence of the forest schools has extended to Finland, Russia, Latvia, Japan, Scotland and even urban London. Many schools are adapting their weekly program to become outdoors-focused for two or three days a week. Some are taking a more daily approach, with two to three hours a day focused on the outdoors. Further developments in Scandinavia are the networks of ‘mobile pedagogik’ (mobile bus centres) that focus their days’ activities in the National Parks that surround Scandinavian cities. In Denmark there are currently about 60 bus schools, while in Sweden and Norway there are about 14. Some fixed-site schools have bought themselves buses to extend their service and enable an outdoors focused program. It is of particular interest that current neuroscientific thinking supports the forest school philosophy. The Canadian neuroscientist Carl Bereiter quotes: The key to understanding how the modern mind works is to realize that its circuits were not designed to solve the day-to-day problems of a modern American—they were designed to solve the day-to-day problems of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. (Barkow, Cosmides & Tooby 1992, p. 56)

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View of lake below ‘I Ur Och Skur’ Preschool, Lidingö, Sweden


PHILOSOPHIES OF EARLY YEARS EDUCATION

Bereiter (1992) goes on to discuss what the educational implications of ‘rediscovering’ human nature will be, such as educational curricula building on the innate knowledge of a Stone Age brain, while recognising (and thus overcoming) its inherent obstacles to new ways of thinking. He also posits that our natural behaviour patterns may well be ill-adapted to the quite recently created environment of the classroom. If we acknowledge the prehistoric environment as our natural environment, then we accept that we were designed to operate outside and on the move, and that our brains work better when we are outside in nature, surrounded by wind and plant movement, temperature differentials, complex shadows and variable light qualities, with a variety of sensory experiences such as scents, tactile qualities and sounds and an ever present sense of not just our immediate surroundings but also the larger context around us. But in the contemporary urban context in which most of us live it can be difficult to access natural outdoor environments, so there is a need for indoor environments to more directly emulate outdoor qualities if they are to be effective learning areas. Our educational interiors must provide a variable ambient environment, sensory enrichment, a contrast of scales, a lack of enclosure and allow for movement. Or in the words of the designer Ezio Manzini: Designers have to be aware of ecological problems of a general kind … to propose possible and attractive ecological settings … to propose new valuable criteria primarily constituted by ‘environmental quality’, to present new settings suggesting the possible existence of a world in which a new ecology of the artificial environment may be accomplished: a world in which the discovery of limits no longer appears as a reduction of possibilities, but as the source for new ones. (Manzini 1992, p. 4) But if it were possible to access the natural environment, wouldn’t it be simpler to follow the Scandinavian lead and just stay outside?

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The competent child The current focus on humanistic educational philosophy with the child at the centre—initially posited by Froebel and re-asserted by each consequent philosophy so far—reaches its natural conclusion with the child as a democratic equal; where the child is an expert on what a child needs, so should be given a political voice and be heard. In the last 20 years there has been a surge of interest in researching how children perceive and respond to their world: This new sociological—or rather interdisciplinary childhood research—is characterized by a move away from seeing children as passive recipients of adult socialization. On the contrary, children are recognized as social actors in their own lives as well as in other people’s lives, and in the societies in which they live. (Warming 2003, p. 815) The Mosaic approach, which has been developed by two early childhood academics, Alison Clark and Professor Peter Moss, is an example of this type of research. Influenced by educational thinkers who promote the idea of a ‘competent child’ and in particular ideas about the gathering of documentation discussed in the preschools of Reggio Emilia in Italy, it is not so much a pedagogical program as a way of measuring and exploring children’s participation in their environment. This research framework for listening and reflection has been developed and adapted through three research studies carried out in the UK (Clarke 2010; Clarke & Moss 2001, 2005). While it is not an educational philosophy in the same way as Froebel’s is, it is a research approach which articulates particular values about young children and adults. In 2007, Alison Clark undertook a study assisting the architects designing new additions at Ashmole Preschool and Primary School, London (Clarke 2007), to incorporate preschool and primary-aged children as active clients helping to define the brief. This has led to the customisation of a fairly typical inner-London school building to provide specific microcosms within the whole that have radically altered the way the school is used and perceived. It has become user-friendly with more interfaces between the usually segregated communities within the school and with more attention to the links between inside and outside. The work done on the school was not statement architecture; it was about creating relevant child-friendly spaces and creating relationships between those spaces and the rest of the building.

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The specific requests of the children (described in detail in Clark 2007) were outlined in an interview with Alison Clark and Jennifer Singer (project architect) as being all about the importance to the children of personalised spaces and the way the children drew attention to any personal markers about themselves in the space. Particular emphasis was placed on: • transparency; being able to see parents come and go, see what the other children are doing,

know where they are within the school

• more outdoor space; more to explore • space that is easily customised or adapted for play • being able to connect with the outside from the inside • relevant detailing where it is appreciated (such as interesting ceiling designs as children are often

looking up; more types of lights as children are intrigued by sparkly lights, etc.)

• a stage; just a small one in the classroom (it is used a lot and is constantly being customised) • a shared space to mix with the other children (preschool to reception) and with the parents. These were all implemented at Ashmole and the result is a happy, cohesive and successful school in a deprived part of London where such things are not necessarily expected.

External play area additions, Ashmole Preschool & Primary School, London, UK 23


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Post-modernist contextualism and where we are today Current emergent thinking, while not moving away from the child-centred approach of all the philosophies presented so far, is now embracing a bigger picture. Early learning approaches are looking not just at the child, but at the child’s context of family and community and the role of children’s facilities in contributing to this interface. Part of this thinking is the current emphasis on integrating children’s facilities with family services and outreach facilities. Feeny (2006) explains that: Evidence from around the world suggests that strengthening the family as an essential unit of society and promoting the regeneration of communities are the most effective ways to ensure children develop into healthy and responsible adults. (p. 2) There is widespread consensus with regard to child and family wellbeing (see ARACY 2009), that prevention is much more effective than cure or, more precisely, prevention is more effective than interventions made later on when the problems and issues are more entrenched and complex. So providing support within the normalised setting of the school and community centre—as a universal service rather than a targeted service—is desirable, creating a more natural and less stigmatising way for families to receive assistance. This focus on the community has architectural implications. For instance, in Stockholm, Klisterburken Nursery School aims to provide not just a centre for children on a domestic scale, as in the past, but to provide a school with a more public face; a place of connections, or as the head teacher described it, a house of possibilities. The preschool and long daycare centre are built around a central communal space that can be utilised by all and provides transparency between the various components. This model is also used in Finland, where several schools are combined on one campus but with a central and transparent communal space that is often a dining area and gallery or library combined. These buildings are designed to have an impact on the neighbourhood and to be seen as a feature and focus, a beacon within the community.

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The importance of both a child’s connection to their context and how a children’s centre fits within its context are current preoccupations. The next chapter explores contextual design in further detail—a common aim of each centre is the desire for a clear identity as an integral part of its community’s culture. With this emphasis on community and context, as well as the importance of education in the early years, and with child-centred education being similar in practical application to the self-guided research of the adult world, is the future of children’s centre design becoming closer to that of community learning centres? Are children, teenagers and adults all equally the client/student? There is a shared need for central communal areas with libraries, cafés, displays and interactive scenarios, plus a need for smaller, more private alcoves for individual activities and break away groups. With interactive play now viewed not as a way of passing the time, but as a valid part of all education, there is a need for fluid movement and transparency between the various components, putting resources on display for the learner to access at will. There is a need for the centre to act as a focal point within the community and also as a reflection of its culture, with an equal emphasis on the design of the outside as on the inside of the building.

Whiteboard in staffroom, Walthamstow Children’s Centre, London, UK 25


The children’s centre environment


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Context A sense of place and belonging within a precinct helps children with their own sense of identity. A children’s centre, especially one with additional integrated services, is an important focus for the community and the community needs to ‘own’ it and identify with it, for it to be truly successful. The most successful centres I visited don’t just ‘fit in’. They create a dialogue with the existing local fabric and precinct character, drawing out and expressing some aspects and contrasting with others. Texture, colour and materials highlight the contrast between old and new, inside and out, public and private. Site relationships are reinforced by highlighting existing views, sightlines and pedestrian access and maintaining a scale and form that is in keeping with the precinct. At each of the centres in Vaduz, Machida (pictured on p. 30), New Canaan and Villetta the building form is responsive to the natural landscape, echoing site contours, being low and discreet against the horizon, using natural materials and feathered edges (i.e. the outside perimeter of the building steps in and out to meet the landscape in either elevation or plan). The landscaping dominates, with large expanses of green and the use of planting for screening. In all cases this contextual responsiveness is contrasted by the unusual built form of the structure, whether it is a curved concrete roof, oversized roof lanterns or a highly orthogonal and structured fenestration. Other centres, such as the Cowgate Under 5’s Centre in Edinburgh, the Loris Malaguzzi centre in Reggio Emilia and Apple Seeds in New York City, are responsive to their local culture. Reflecting the local architectural language and scale, they embrace and reflect the community context but their interiors, glimpsed from without, are in complete contrast. Lanterns Nursery School and Children’s Centre in Winchester (p. 30, image 3) responds to both landscape and culture. Designed to be in keeping with the local Hampshire farmhouses, the roof pitch of 48 degrees is a direct mirror of the roof forms of the houses opposite. The Marmoutier Preschool in Alsace (p. 31, image 5) is built as a discreet extension of the 10th century abbey garden walls, low, dark and copper clad. Internally, it unfolds into a contrasting burst of colour and light. Each of these centres is clearly identified as being an integral part of that community’s culture while still asserting their own identity.

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Another important aspect of contextual design is the threshold between the centre and its surroundings. The entrance is a celebrated junction. It can be full of enticement through subtle transition—such as the long garden wall of Lanterns—or surprising, like the sudden revelation of the inner oval through the low keyhole entry at the Fuji Centre. At the Cowgate Centre, the juxtaposition of wide, hidden terraces and the narrow close that leads to it adds interest. Contrast of the unusual can draw attention to a centre, while the built form, its scale and materials still conform to the local precinct’s character. The Tom Tits centre in Stockholm is housed in an existing old warehouse typical of the area, but it is overlaid with the weird and wonderful; a bicycle contraption within a wheel and an over-scaled air balloon act as a beacon. The Fawood centre in London—a simple rectangular grey shed against a backdrop of oppressive grey 1960s housing commission buildings—conforms with its precinct in alignment, scale, form and even materials, but it is covered with bouquets of coloured plastic petals, translucent yet beautifully colourful and very cheering to a primarily migrant clientele caught in a grey London climate.

External entry building, Tom Tits Experiment Daycare Centre, Södertälje, Sweden 29


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10 Waldorf Steiner Goetheanum, Dornach, Switzerland 11 Fawood Children’s Centre, London, UK 12 Loris Malaguzzi International Centre, Reggio Emilia, Italy 13 Kintori Way Children’s Centre, London, UK

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6 The Children’s School, New Canaan, NY, USA 7 Paulo Freire Preschool, Reggio Emilia, Italy 8 Maibara Cho Preschool, Shiga, Japan 9 Fuji Kindergarten, Tokyo, Japan

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Community, inclusion and the spaces in between Creating architectural relationships between spaces fosters people’s relationships with each other. Education is a social activity and a children’s centre must facilitate this sociability, at both a micro level—child to child—and at a macro level, from community to community. To be a place of connections, many centres provide a central communal space that can be utilised by all and provides transparency between its various components. This can be external such as the Fuji Kindergarten, Tokyo, central oval (pictured overleaf, images 6 and 7) or internal. In Finland, several schools are combined on one campus but there is a central and transparent communal space that is often a dining area, gallery or library. At The Children’s School, New Canaan, a preschool of 110 pupils, a fluid open plan of staggered play areas without barriers achieves a similar unity through its openness. At a more micro level, relationships are made in the spaces in between, such as the transition zone of the undercover external wings of bubbletecture at Maibara Cho Preschool, Shiga (image 10), or the verandah at Lanterns, Winchester (image 11). These spaces are neither fully open and exposed, nor closed away and offer a perfect neutral territory for overlapped and mingled play. These transitory spaces are made more special and highlighted by a sensory use of material, a change in light quality and colour, or the provision of a few props such as benches or blocks, etc. to encourage children to linger longer. At Kindergarten Nussackerweg, Ludwigsburg (image 8), an in-between space is created and given definition by its geometrical form. The cylinder within a box expresses a microcosm within and a sense of a context beyond; while windows and openings let the children consciously play between the two. At Paulo Freire Preschool in Reggio Emilia (image 14), a circular court sweeps around and off to the side of dense landscaping, extending the entry path into a small court with seating. The geometry alone implies the containment and creates a place to commune. The Fawood Centre, London (image 9) provides a clear realisation of democratic use of space. It is basically a winter garden enclosed within a large steel mesh shed; the various facilities are arranged in smaller enclosures within the shed. Some are high, and others are low, such as the soft yurt tent structure which is used as a home base on the ground floor. All the facilities are informally gathered within the large communal play space and accessed by an open structure of stairs, bridges and decks, which afford the user a view of the totality and encourage encounter. At Ashmole Preschool and Primary School in London, a simple entry alcove is created by a covered way and some masonry partitions with viewing windows and seats along the main circulation route, painted a special colour to highlight the area’s uniqueness.

The Children’s School, New Canaan, NY, USA 33


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SHARED SPACES 1 Klisterburken Nursery School, Stockholm, Sweden 2 Hosmarinpuisto School & Daycare, Espoo, Finland 3 Dining room, I Ur Och Skur Primary School, Stockholm, Sweden 4 Paulo Freire Preschool, Reggio Emilia, Italy, photograph courtesy of Tiziano Teneggi Architect, Reggio Emilia

10 Transition space, Maibara Cho Preschool, Shiga, Japan 11 Lanterns Nursery School & Children’s Centre, Winchester, UK 12 Several entry points, Soinisen Koulu Primary School, Helsinki, Finland 13 Ashmole Preschool & Primary School, London, UK 14 Entry area, Paulo Freire Preschool, Reggio Emilia, Italy

5 Ruusutorppa central space, Espoo, Finland

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6 Manager’s desk overlooking oval, Fuji Kindergarten, Tokyo, Japan 7 Rooftop, Fuji Kindergarten, Tokyo, Japan 8 Kindergarten Nussackerweg, Ludwigsburg, Germany 9 Open circulation, Fawood Children’s Centre, London, UK

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Space Space is not just about storage. Children’s centres require space to sleep, to eat, to work and to move. Multipurpose space is important, but so is public and private space, and activity-specific space such as laboratories, libraries, art rooms, children’s kitchens, etc. There is a direct correlation between the stress levels of children and staff and the amount of space available to them within a centre. Spaces that are too large and multi-purpose can lead to noise and confusion, however spaces that are too small can create heightened levels of stress and anxiety. In the article, How big is too big? How small is too small?, Gary Moore proposes 42 to 50 square feet per child as the ideal. He suggests providing a generous amount of space subdivided into ‘resource rich pockets’, stating: We have also known from as early as the mid 1960s (from environment behavior studies by Hutt and Vaizey) that too little space and too high a density of children (less than 35 square feet of useable activity space per child) not only leads to a feeling of being in a closet, but more fundamentally is associated with more aggressive/destructive behavior, less constructive interaction, and less quiet, solitary play. (Moore 1996, p. 21) The discipline of architecture is all about how we manage space as well as acoustics, colour, light, scale and access to the natural environment, to create environments that are stimulating, protective, comfortable and beautiful. And a sense of great space can be achieved architecturally, with soaring lofty ceilings contrasted against smaller structures, by flooding open voids with natural light and by drawing the eye up, out and beyond, into ‘borrowed’ space beyond windows or openings. Current neuroscientific thinking (outlined on p. 20) requires that our educational interiors emulate outdoor qualities if they are to be effective areas for learning. So perhaps the ideal is an ever-present sense of not just our immediate surroundings but also the larger context around us, of the universe above continually contrasted against our small cave below.

Circulation void at Kindergarten Friedrich-Ebert-Strasse, Heilbronn, Germany 37


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SPACE 1 Maibara Cho, Preschool, Shiga, Japan 2 Fawood Children’s Centre, London, UK 3 Giulia Maramotti Infant–Toddler Centre, Reggio Emilia, Italy, photograph courtesy Lapis Architetture Studio Associato, Reggio Emilia 4 Loris Malaguzzi International Centre, Reggio Emilia, Italy, photograph courtesy Tullio Zini Architect Studio and ZPZ PARTNERS, Modena 5 Hosmarinpuisto School & Daycare, Espoo, Finland 6 The Children’s School, New Canaan, NY, USA 7 Loris Malaguzzi International Centre, Reggio Emilia, Italy, photograph courtesy Tullio Zini Architect Studio and ZPZ PARTNERS, Modena

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Transparency and nature

1 Tom Tits Experiment Daycare Centre, Södertälje, Sweden

Spatial extension, views out and beyond, and a visual sense of the collective, create a sense of inclusiveness rather than enclosure.

2 Machida Shizen Preschool & Nursery, Tokyo, Japan

To be able to see the sky and have a visual connection with the natural environment outside is fundamental to us all for both a sense of calmness and normalcy. Children in particular—not yet trained to ignore their instincts—yearn for that outside connection. At Tom Tits Experiment Preschool in Sweden (image 1), the corridor is not enclosed by walls but by open framed storage screens. It is transformed into a learning street that merges and takes on the character of each room that it passes, becoming an extension of the art room, of the wet area or of the main dining room. In the Machida Shizen Preschool, Tokyo (image 2), a low child-scaled locker area and play loft is transformed into an open and light filled oasis by the translucent coloured Perspex used in place of walls.

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The Children’s School, New Canaan, extends the feeling of space inside by ‘borrowing’ the space and scenery of the beautiful woods outside with high glazed clerestories, skylights and glazed curtain walls. The centre is flooded with indirect ambient natural lighting (image 1). In Hounslow, London, the harsh urban context is filtered by the multicoloured façade screen while still letting in lovely natural light and glimpses of sky (image 2). At the Cowgate Under 5’s Centre, in Edinburgh (image 3), the extra-wide corridor acts as a multipurpose transition space between the outdoors and the interior. On one side it is flooded with light from full, floor to ceiling glazing and on the other side the solid masonry wall is an open-weave membrane of ad-hoc 2

framed openings to the playrooms behind.

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1 The Children’s School, New Canaan, NY, USA 2 Fawood Children’s Centre, London, UK 3 Cowgate Under 5’s Centre, Edinburgh, UK 41


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1 Rodari Centre, Reggio Emilia, Italy 2 Kintori Way Children’s Centre, London, UK 3 Ashmole Preschool & Primary School, London, UK

Ashmole Preschool and Primary School in London uses a bay window that pushes out into the landscape as a ‘waving window’, to allow the children to see the comings and goings of parents (image 3). In Kintori Way Children’s Centre, low openings cut into fences or partitions let children see through to the other side (image 2). At the Reggio Emilia Rodari Centre (image 1), they have extended glazed ‘winter gardens’ from the playrooms

4 Giulia Maramotti Infant–Toddler Centre, Reggio Emilia, Italy

out into the garden. These outdoors–in rooms have paved floors and internal planting, and borrow the external

5 Ruusutorppa central space, Espoo, Finland

(image 4), where open steel pergola structures attached to the playrooms can be wheeled along paved paths

6 Kindergarten Nussackerweg, Ludwigsburg, Germany 7 Kindergarten Friedrich-EbertStrasse, Heilbronn, Germany 8 Hosmarinpuisto School & Daycare, Espoo, Finland

scenery while providing respite from the weather. This concept is further explored in the Maramotti Centre out to the end of the garden, extending the playroom’s territory to its furthest limits. Circulation bridges in centres in Finland and Germany link through the voids above communal spaces, allowing the movements within the community to be seen while also providing an overview of the whole space (images 5 and 6). In Heilbronn, the cubic volume of the centre is cut into by open cubic voids of the decks that abut each playroom, giving a sense that the outside is physically cutting into the built form (image 7). In Hosmarinpuisto School and Daycare, Finland, it is possible to see from one level through to the next and beyond through a layer of open screens (image 8).

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1 Giulia Maramotti Infant–Toddler Centre, Reggio Emilia, Italy, photograph courtesy Lapis Architetture Studio Associato, Reggio Emilia

On a subtler level, at the Maramotti Centre in Reggio Emilia, semi-opaque skylights are scattered

2 Soinisen Koulu Primary School, Helsinki, Finland

through wide gaps underneath screens the internal courtyard (image 2).

across the high ceiling in a linear path that follows the movement of the sun from sunrise to sunset to encompass its light within the main hall (image 1). At Soinisen Koulu Primary School, Finland a lightweight glazed roof that lets sky and air seep in

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The Children’s School, New Canaan, NY, USA, with its borrowed space and scenery of the woods outside flooding in.

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The great outdoors There is a fine line between leaving the environment as natural as possible and yet designing it to provide tools for the many different ways that children play. Below are some examples of the ways in which children play, and some of the tools and spaces these different playing styles might require: Social play: public and private areas and circulation links, interaction games area, somewhere just to run. Imaginative play: scenarios, props and a flexible environment that can be customised. Constructive play: sandpits, blocks and twigs, loose soils and pebbles.

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Experimental play: water and sand sculptures. Exploration: paths, bridges, woods, small slopes to roll on, wild and ‘secret’ places. Sensory experience: variety of planting that stimulates the senses, mobiles and wind vanes. Challenging play: involving physical and mental challenges, complex climbing, paths through hedges and tunnels through hills. Learning skills: vegetable gardens, flower beds and animal care. Left to her own devices, nature provides tall trees, big open spaces and a variety of materials that can be used in play. But often the site has been swept clean before building, so these dramatic elements are lost and have to be reinstated over time. The most successful outdoor play areas manage to recreate the drama of nature and supplement it with child-scaled components.

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1 Kinderhaus Violetta, Ludwigsburg, Germany 2 Kindergarten Friedrich-EbertStrasse, Heilbronn, Germany 3 Ebenholz Centre, Vaduz, Liechtenstein 4 The Children’s School, New Canaan, NY, USA

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1 Fuji Kindergarten, Tokyo, Japan 2 Kindergarten Friedrich-EbertStrasse, Heilbronn, Germany 3 Fuji Kindergarten, Tokyo, Japan 4 Kintori Way Children’s Centre, London, UK 5 Maibara Cho Preschool, Shiga, Japan 51


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1 Fuji Kindergarten, Tokyo, Japan

To allow for interactive, industrious play and to teach environmentalism, life cycles, recycling, making things from scratch, enjoying nature,

2 Villetta Centre, Reggio Emilia, Italy

way of exposing children to the cycles of life and encouraging nurturing.

3 Paulo Freire Preschool, Reggio Emilia, Italy 4 Ebenholz Centre, Vaduz, Liechtenstein

observing nature and being a caretaker requires a landscape full of enrichment. Pets such as a rabbit, a donkey or chickens are a popular

A greenhouse and tool shed have pride of place in the centre of Edinburgh’s Cowgate Under 5’s Centre. Tokyo’s Fuji Kindergarten features a super-long slide in among the trees. Reggio Emilia schools are famous for their water play and wind sculptures (image 2), while building blocks are scattered outdoors in permanent box/bench units at the Ebenholz Centre, Vaduz (image 4).

5 Paulo Freire Preschool, Reggio Emilia, Italy

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Detail, texture, colour and ceilings

1 Ebenholz Centre, Vaduz, Liechtenstein

Attention to detail and cultural relevance in the following areas provides for playfulness, invention

2–3 Machida Shizen Preschool & Nursery, Tokyo, Japan

and enrichment. Colour: can delineate areas and activities, and attract children, whether the aim is to create calming environments or bright focal areas. Lighting: should aim to emulate the variability and flexibility of nature, from soft, subdued and shadowy to bright task areas. Lights are also eye-catching elements: children love them as a sparkly feature. Texture and pattern: can help to provide spatial differentiation (such as variety of floor finishes), tactile entertainment, as well as acting as a learning tool. Smell: such as the beautiful smell of cooking, garden flowers on the breeze, wood joinery. Avoid chemical paints and plastics. Sound: Providing sound absorption materials and sound insulation to delineate quiet areas can make a significant improvement to the ambient quality of a centre. Musical features, if used judiciously, can provide hours of amusement such as the musical ‘soft metal’ stairs at the Maramotti Centre in Reggio Emilia (see p. 65). A dynamic and interesting ceiling plane: Because of their small stature and many ways of moving other than just walking, children are constantly looking up, so the features of the voids above take on particular significance.

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4 William Bellamy Children’s Centre, London, UK 5–6 Mouse hole at Lanterns Nursery School & Children’s Centre, Winchester, UK 7 Lanterns Nursery School & Children’s Centre, Winchester, UK 8 Kindergarten Friedrich-EbertStrasse, Heilbronn, Germany 9 Loris Malaguzzi International Centre, Reggio Emilia, Italy 10 Façade cladding, Lloyd Park Centre, Walthamstow, UK 11 I Ur Och Skur Preschool, Lidingö, Sweden 12 Buckle My Shoe Nursery School, New York City, USA 13 Marmoutier Preschool, Alsace, France


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Loris Malaguzzi International Centre, Reggio Emilia, Italy, photograph courtesy Tullio Zini Architect Studio and ZPZ PARTNERS, Modena

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1 John Perry Children’s Centre, London, UK

Scale

2 Lanterns Nursery School & Children’s Centre, Winchester, UK

Children are small—it is their most obvious difference to adults. It is how we identify them and how they identify themselves.

3 Klisterburken Nursery School, Stockholm, Sweden

where they can feel competent to cope with new challenges. Providing small microcosms within the whole gives children a sense

Their smallness can make them vulnerable and insecure, so they are naturally drawn to small cubbies and small-scaled areas of safety, control and belonging.

4 Loris Malaguzzi International Centre, Reggio Emilia, Italy

Small-scale furniture and equipment, cubbies and hidey holes, low-level small windows that only children can use, breaking up a

5 The Children’s School, New Canaan, NY, USA

world around them.

larger volume into smaller components and contrasting the big picture against the small all help children to come to terms with the

6 Klisterburken Nursery School, Stockholm, Sweden

In Japan, many of the centres have built small child-scaled spaces into the architecture to great effect, while in Italy they have relied on

7 Buckle My Shoe Nursery School, New York City, USA

open at both ends (image 4). Every centre I visited had something, from the internal tree-house of Buckle My Shoe (image 7) to the mouse

freestanding furniture installations with a dual role as cubbyhouse to provide the microscale. The most famous of these is the padded triangle, hole cut into the skirting in Winchester (see images 5 and 6 on p. 55).

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1 Fuji Kindergarten, Tokyo, Japan 2 Kindergarten Nussackerweg, Ludwigsburg, Germany 3–4 Fawood Children’s Centre, London, UK

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1 Maibara Cho Preschool, Shiga, Japan 2 Fawood Children’s Centre, London, UK 3 Cowgate Under 5’s Centre, Edinburgh 4–5 Lanterns Nursery School & Children’s Centre, Winchester, UK 61


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1 Kindergarten Nussackerweg, Ludwigsburg, Germany 2 Ebenholz Centre, Vaduz, Liechtenstein 3 Kindergarten Nussackerweg, Ludwigsburg, Germany 4 Paulo Freire Preschool, Reggio Emilia, Italy 5 Ashmole Preschool & Primary School, London, UK 6 Tom Tits Experiment Daycare Centre, Södertälje, Sweden 63


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1–6 Kindergarten Friedrich-EbertStrasse, Heilbronn, Germany 7 Kindergarten Nussackerweg, Ludwigsburg, Germany 8 Fuji Kindergarten, Tokyo, Japan 9 Musical stairs at Giulia Maramotti Infant–Toddler Centre, Reggio Emilia, photo courtesy Istituzione of the Municipality of Reggio Emilia 10 Paulo Freire Preschool, Reggio Emilia, Italy, photograph courtesy Tiziano Teneggi Architect, Reggio Emilia 64

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Interaction Children love a challenge. They do not move in straight lines from A to B as adults do, they like obstacle courses and hide-and-seek, mazes, secret ways and myriad options. Children do not just walk, they hop, skip, shimmy along on their bottoms, run, jump and meander, sometimes backwards. Any prop that can be used to extend the scope of movement is seized upon; a wall for balancing, a slippery surface, a secret tunnel or a tiny door. 8

In Reggio Emilia, the teachers stated that they did not see the built environment as an object but as a subject, because it interacts with the children, whether it encloses them or it challenges them. Many of the centres I visited used components that compelled more challenging ways of moving to engage both children and adults. At Fuji Kindergarten in Tokyo (image 8) slippery slides and rope ladders provide access from the roof play area to the central outside play space. The Kindergarten Friedrich-Ebert-Strasse in Heilbronn (images 1–6) has climbing frames linking the cube-like playrooms on the ground and first floors, while a floodlit rear corridor provides adult access.

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At the Maramotti Centre, Reggio Emilia, the playroom stairs are designed to be musical instruments (image 9). Soft metal makes a pinging sound, which changes if you run, walk or roll over it. Initially parents were very concerned about children hurting themselves on the stairs, but the teachers met with them and persevered. Within a month, the parents could see that the stairs had improved their children’s motor skills, and no one was hurt.

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Furniture

1 Mobile Bus Outreach, Hampshire, UK

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2 Maibara Cho Preschool, Shiga, Japan

a storage unit for toys. But often in children’s centres, the rooms can become repositories, with so much oversized, under-utilised and incompatible bits and pieces that the room’s usability is much reduced. So when discussing furniture’s compatibility with the architecture it inhabits, I am not just referring to style and colour (although these are important), I am referring to fully coordinated design: where the furniture has been thoughtfully considered to complement the space or the space has been designed with the furniture in

3 Klisterburken Nursery School, Stockholm, Sweden 4 Kindergarten Friedrich-EbertStrasse, Heilbronn, Germany

mind, in terms of use and style.

5 Arkki Daycare Centre, Helsinki, Finland

Bedding is a particularly difficult area. Often the temporary bed mats necessary to maximise the use of a

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space are so small and low that they look like refugee encampments within the architectural voids, while cot rooms are notorious for being undersized and unable to fit the desired number of cots. Some solutions include the creative bed nests of the Pen Green Centre for Children and their Families in Northamptonshire, England (see www.pengreen.org), or building the beds into the design such as the wall cots in the Arkki Centre, or the concealed wall beds at Hosmarinpuisto School and Daycare, both in Finland (see p. 80).

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8 Maibara Cho Preschool, Shiga, Japan 9 Buckle My Shoe Nursery School, New York City, USA


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1 Loris Malaguzzi International Centre, Reggio Emilia, Italy, photograph courtesy Tullio Zini Architect Studio and ZPZ PARTNERS, Modena 2 Klisterburken Nursery School, Stockholm, Sweden 3 Buckle My Shoe Nursery School, New York City, USA 4 Cowgate Under 5’s Centre, Edinburgh, UK 5 Buckle My Shoe Nursery School, New York City, USA 6 I Ur Och Skur Primary School, Lidingö, Sweden 7–9 The Children’s School, New Canaan, NY, USA

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1 The Children’s School, New Canaan, NY, USA 2 Kindergarten Nussackerweg, Ludwigsburg, Germany 3–5 Arkki Daycare Centre, Helsinki, Finland 72


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1 Tom Tits Experiment Daycare Centre, Södertälje, Sweden 2 Maibara Cho Preschool, Shiga, Japan 3 Klisterburken Nursery School, Stockholm, Sweden 5

4 Buckle My Shoe Nursery School, New York City, USA 5 Klisterburken Nursery School, Stockholm, Sweden 6 Arkki Daycare Centre, Helsinki, Finland

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Bathrooms Often under-celebrated in design, the children’s centre bathroom is a necessary service. But it is also the place where children learn not just toilet training, but that their bodily functions are normal and that cleanliness is important. Much time in a children’s centre is spent in the bathroom and it is very much a social educational activity, so the design is as important here as it is elsewhere.

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1–2€ Marmoutier Preschool, Alsace, France 3–4 Tom Tits Experiment Daycare Centre, Södertälje, Sweden 74


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1 Maibara Cho Preschool, Shiga, Japan 2 Machida Shizen Preschool & Nursery, Tokyo, Japan 3 Ebenholz Centre, Vaduz, Liechtenstein 4 Tom Tits Experiment Daycare Centre, Södertälje, Sweden. The wheelchair access toilet is completely round and yet it still complies with regulations. It has facetted mirrors all the way around the interior at wheelchair eye level. 5 Tom Tits Experiment Daycare Centre, Södertälje, Sweden 6 John Perry Children’s Centre, London, UK 7 Buckle My Shoe Nursery School, New York City, USA 8 Lanterns Nursery School & Children’s Centre, Winchester, UK

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Eat-in kitchens Cooking is one of the fundamental activities of life and is an integral element of any home-like environment. Providing a kitchen that is accessible and useable by the children not only allows the development of important life skills (such as understanding healthy eating) but it also provides a warmth and sense of home and hearth to a centre. Many of the centres I visited had both an eat-in kitchen and a separate, more commercially viable one (usually required by that country’s building codes). But many others survived very well with just the eat-in kitchen, involving the children in the daily task of preparing sandwiches and salads and simple cooking for lunch.

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1 Kindergarten Friedrich-EbertStrasse, Heilbronn, Germany 2 Cowgate Under 5’s Centre, Edinburgh, UK 3 Ebenholz Centre, Vaduz, Liechtenstein 78


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1 Tom Tits Experiment Daycare Centre, Södertälje, Sweden 2 Mobil Pedagogik, Huddinge, Sweden 3 John Perry Children’s Centre, London, UK 4 Kinderhaus Violetta, Ludwigsburg, Germany 5 Kindergarten Nussackerweg, Ludwigsburg, Germany 79


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Storage Good storage solutions are critical to the smooth running of every centre. The first thing that any teacher or centre manager asks of an architect is ‘more storage, please’. Toys, art materials, artwork, paperwork, play equipment, sleeping gear, clothing and personal items, nappies and associated products, strollers, shoes and wet weather gear and still more toys all need a home, otherwise a children’s centre can end up looking like a disaster zone in which no one can breathe, let alone think calmly and creatively. Easy access for adults and for children is a key issue. The storage tends to be front and centre rather than hidden away in a back room. To be successful, it needs to be incorporated as part of the overall design.

DISCREET IN-WALL STORAGE 1–2 Beds hidden in the wall in Hosmarinpuisto School & Daycare, Espoo, Finland FREE-STANDING STORAGE 3 Low cupboard units in Ruusutorppa Montessori Preschool, Espoo, Finland 4 Cubby clothes lockers of The Children’s School, New Canaan, NY, USA 80


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1 Lockers become part of the wall design at William Bellamy Children’s Centre, London, UK

3 External stroller shed at William Bellamy Children’s Centre, London, UK

2 Art materials, toys and learning tools orderly stashed away in the white walls of The Children’s School, New Canaan, NY, USA

5 Strollers on rolling track at Apple Seeds, New York City, USA

4 Child documentation folders and drawers in an important-looking cabinet in the centre of the playroom at Kindergarten Nussackerweg, Ludwigsburg, Germany 6 Personal belongings in little sacks artfully scattered across a wall, where the children can reach, Tom Tits Experiment Daycare Centre, Södertälje, Sweden

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7 Rows of masking tape suspended decoratively above bowls of scissors and other stationary items. Any opportunity to make processes clearer has been relished; scissors are stuck to the scissor drawers, pens to the pen drawer, etc. Tom Tits Experiment Daycare Centre, Södertälje, Sweden

8 Broom cupboard with a door made from brooms. This was the only room off-limits to the children and the designer wanted it to be self-explantatory. Tom Tits Experiment Daycare Centre, Södertälje, Sweden 9 Climbable personal lockers along Cowgate Under 5’s Centre corridor, Edinburgh, UK

10 Open shelves used as semi-transparent room dividers and storage, Ebenholz Preschool, Vaduz, Lichtenstein 11 Drawers full of treasure at child height, Kindergarten Nussackerweg, Ludwigsburg, Germany

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How furniture and storage can go wrong!

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Offices An interdisciplinary approach to early learning is best served by a communal office space, often arranged around a central table to encourage communication. In centres today, high levels of documentation are required, for quality assurance, health requirements, occupational safety, legal requirements plus the documentation of the actual program. Evidence-based research and the Reggio concept of documenting the child’s creative process have further added to the paper trail; there is lots of computer work, photocopying, compiling reports and presenting information. So a full office setup is required, often as a rear wing to the centre. Offices are generally separate from the child-accessible area, but staff still need to be able to supervise

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1 The Children’s School, New Canaan, NY, USA. Perhaps controversially, the open plan office is hidden behind one-way obscured glass so that the children can be supervised and observed discreetly. 2 Hosmarinpuisto School & Daycare, Espoo, Finland. More like a dining room than an office in feel. 3 Lanterns Nursery School & Children’s Centre, Winchester, UK. This office acts as a rear spine to the main playrooms and is a hive of activity. 86

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1 Maibara Cho Preschool, Shiga, Japan. A very communal office with a strong sense of everyone working together. 2 William Bellamy Children’s Centre, London, UK. Another communal office, utilising hot-seating to make up for lack of space.

3 Lanterns Nursery School & Children’s Centre, Winchester, UK. An additional office nook is provided near the main play area for the centre manager.

5 Fuji Kindergarten, Tokyo, Japan. The manager’s office oversees the main play area and also can be seen from all the playrooms.

4 Fuji Kindergarten, Tokyo, Japan. The main office doubles up as reception area.

6 Hampshire Prefabricated Centres, UK

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Outreach Health, nutrition, emotional, social and cognitive development are not separate issues in the infant brain. All need to be addressed in Early Learning and Family Centre models. (NIFTeY 2009, p. 1) In the past, outreach services have targeted only those who clearly seem to need them. This is logical and is still a necessary part of an overall outreach program. But services have adopted a more holistic approach in recent years. Anne Cairn, manager of the Victoria Park Centre for children at risk in Edinburgh, Scotland, explained: I’ve been doing this for a long time, in the old days we used to get the children only, wash them, clothe them, feed them, play with them, then send them home and do it all over again the next day. Nothing ever changed. Now we focus on the parent first, develop a relationship with them and form a contract, the message being that you can have what you want but you have to give something too. Of course we ultimately have more power in the relationship than they do, but they do have some scope. It is much more successful. The Victoria Park centre is set up with playrooms, plus services and additional outreach rooms, interview rooms and most importantly a parent community room which seems very welcoming and quite the focus of the centre. An even more holistic approach is the idea of ‘universal services’, which provide families with the support they need before they become ‘at risk’. Universal services are aimed at the general population and are accessible to all. In London, the William Bellamy Centre (a government-run centre) provides long day care, preschool, before-school care and vacation care. These are all catered for separately in different parts of the building. It also places a great emphasis on its additional community services which include co-located health services, antenatal midwives, teenage pregnancy midwives, pre-infant mental health therapists (working with attachment theory), speech and language therapists, play language workshops, playing communication workshops for kids, parenting programs, jobs in training focus, job broker, benefits advice and outreach for travellers. Because they are not targeted at anyone in particular, universal services can avoid stigmatisation, and this means that people are more likely to use them. But it is important to maintain the child-centred focus of universal service centres—if the additional services dominate, there is a danger of creating an ‘institutional’ feel to the buildings where it then becomes necessary to overcome parents’ perceptions that the children’s centre is linked to social services and will take their children or their benefits away.

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In Tasmania, Australia, in 2009, the Department of Education commissioned a design brief for 30 new integrated family and children’s centres. While local communities will participate in a high degree of consultation over the design of each centre, the working party for the brief was made up of representatives from the various health, education and outreach groups, as well as architects (I was part of the working party). In this brief, there is a strong focus on the centres being welcoming and user-friendly family places, designed specifically for children and run by the community for the community. The brief specifies that the built form reflect these qualities; there are no suites of offices or segregated facilities, rather, communal shared spaces are front and central with tangible links between the various disciplines and scope for customisation and flexibility built into the design to meet the changing needs of each locality. The bulk of the brief is taken up with describing ways of achieving child-friendly design. Meanwhile, in Hampshire, England, the County Council has built 16 identical prefabricated family and children’s centres in the last five years (see pp. 118–119). Each one is sited carefully with a unique setout of landscaping, access and outdoor play area. One centre has a large yard with a custom-built timber play ship; another has no yard at all. These centres are about providing outreach facilities within areas of need rather than expecting those in need to seek help out. The maximum number of children catered for is about 10, depending on the outdoor facilities provided. These centres are designed to draw the parents in. The managers love the multipurpose rooms, cosy sitting rooms and the kitchen feel of the foyers. The fit-out feels luxurious, with nice materials and fashionable contemporary detailing. From a child’s point of view, the best thing is the range of wall toys from the popular Rosco play equipment catalogue, and the window alcoves. The compactness allows the centres to slot in almost anywhere and be non-threatening and discreet, while the open reception and sitting rooms are definitely meant to encourage adult encounter while the children play safely in the back. Also in Hampshire, a modified bus is being trialled as a form of more targeted outreach that can go to those deprived areas where the parents need help, but are suspicious of government services and unlikely to utilise them. The idea is to send the education and resources to them in small, non-threatening sorties. This is an expedient way to get educational services to the difficult to reach, but it requires patient and dedicated staff to go where they are not welcome and try to build relationships. The bus provides a small contained safe zone for a maximum of 5 children to play in one area while around 5 adults can have a meeting in the other. This is an exercise in dressing up an unwelcome concept in appealing packaging, so the bus has been styled to look fresh, luxurious, contemporary and fun. For children, it has window alcoves and the novelty factor, plus colourful, interesting nooks.

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Mobile Bus Outreach, Hampshire, UK

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At Fuji Kindergarten, Japan, the children use pumps to get drinking water, a novelty that also leads to an understanding of its source. At the Children’s School, New Canaan, there is a visible water tank that captures water from the roof. The children fill their water cans from this tank to water the garden. At many of the schools, the program was focused around recycling and growing a vegetable patch, but the most tangible expression of environmentalism was the materials used in the centre’s construction, whether recycled, renewable or just ‘natural’.

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1 Fuji Kindergarten, Tokyo, Japan 2 William Bellamy Children’s Centre, London, UK 3 The Children’s School, New Canaan, NY, USA 91


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Regulations The benefits of good design are measurable. Research from the UK and abroad has demonstrated the link between quality design and the delivery of high quality services. This link is particularly clear in the field of education. (CABE 2007, p. 3) Part of the initial brief that I set myself for the Churchill trip was to look at the impact of regulations on the success of the built product. This proved to be a difficult thing to pin down; however, across the 50 or so centres that I saw in the two-month period of my travels, some themes did emerge: Impact of regulations The more detailed and exacting the regulation, the more it seemed to interfere with a natural response to site and community. In Japan, for instance, only flat area is included in the play area calculations. This has forced the construction of flat playing areas, which are not necessarily an improvement on the natural topography. In many countries, a playroom is required for each age group. This forces an age regiment on a centre and can put emphasis on segregation. Using detailed guidelines combined with minimal code requirements can enable greater flexibility and creativity in design. Space requirements per child Space had the biggest impact on the quality of the centre. Centres with too little space were much more stressful, being cramped and overcrowded with equipment, toys and people, and thus difficult to operate. The centres that did have space stood out as beacons of calmness. It is not enough to have space recommendations only, as economics will nearly always win and reduce the amount of space per child to a minimum. This is one thing that does need to be code-required. But, how it is applied can be varied. In Britain and Australia, the calculation is based on the play areas only. Thus in Australia it is 3.25 m² per child internally, not including fixed furniture and door swings, and 7 m² externally. In Britain they use the same system, only it is 2.3 m² internally and 9 m² externally. This system often results in ‘surplus’ furnishings and spaces being eliminated so that the maximum number of children for profit can be achieved, resulting in a very poor environment. In Japan, while the area requirements are tight, they have a dual measuring system. A preschool playroom must be a minimum of 53 m² and should have a maximum of 35 children; thus, 1.5 m² per child is the basic rule. But there is also an overall sliding scale depending on the number of classes and students in a centre, which is applied to both the internal and external areas. This works out to approximately 5–6 m² per child internally and the same again externally. Space regulations in Finland are similarly complicated by the use of a sliding scale depending on the number of children in total. Smaller schools have higher space-tochild ratios. In Sweden and Italy, although not required by law, the space per child ratio is applied to the whole building. The requirement of a standard area of space per child has been abolished in Sweden, but good practice tells Swedish architects that 10–12 m² per child inside and 45 m² per child for the total site is the minimum. However, as this space ratio is not regulated, budget issues often undermine it. There has been some controversy with schools built recently having inadequate outdoor space. In Italy there is no national regulation of areas. Reggio Children pushed for a regional regulation, which resulted in allowances of 7.5 m² per child for internal playrooms (plus auxiliary spaces) and 30 m² outside. However, Reggio Children makes a point of always using more space than this. These generous allowances can include auxiliary spaces such as multipurpose transition zones, art rooms, joinery and door swings and all support spaces and furnishings. 92


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In Vaduz, Liechtenstein, there were 12–20 children per class and about 90 m² per classroom, which gives a ratio of 4.5 m² per child. There are guidelines in France, but no area requirements. At the Marmoutier Preschool in Alsace, there were 28 children allowed per class, with 65 m² of space per classroom, giving a ratio of 2.3 m² per child. The architects who designed this centre were working on another in Paris with a playroom of 16 m² for the same number of children, which is a much smaller playspace ratio per child. In Ludwigsburg, Germany the calculation is 2.5 m² per child, per playroom, while in Finland, the Arkki centre was built on the basis of 5 m² per child, although by choice they never operate with the maximum number of children. All of these centres had additional shared facilities for the children such as art rooms, dining areas and gymnasiums, so the calculations are not direct comparisons with the regulations in Australia. Maximum number of children per centre In Australia, preschool and daycare centres are limited to no more than 90 children at the centre at any one time. This is not the case elsewhere. In Japan there is no limit as long as the space-to-child ratio is met. Fuji Kindergarten had a maximum of 600 children on site, while Machida Shizen Preschool had 350, but these are unusually high numbers for Japan, as most centres do not have the necessary space for this many children. Most of the European countries I visited had centre populations that sat between 40 and 100 children. Populations varied significantly in Finland, because they combined more than one school on site. At Ruusutorppa, the Montessori preschool was quite small but the site population was over 1000. At Hosmarinpuisto, the preschool population was about 100 children, but the school population was 350. There is no maximum limit to school size in Finland—even 1000 pupils are permissible so long as the campus is built as a village. The average size is 300 students (primary only), but when combined with high schools, the population can be much bigger, almost like universities. My experience of this was that anything over about 350 students began to become impersonal, as the divergent groups on site did not mix. Occupational health and safety I was surprised to find that Sweden is only now catching up on providing wheelchair access to all centres and schools. In Britain there seemed to be an emphasis on providing the equipment but not necessarily on making the building comply, thus there were plasma televisions and computers in every room plus lavish sensory rooms for special needs, but in many cases the whole centre was not wheelchair accessible. In Australia, the comprehensiveness of codes and standards is commendable, but there is a danger of over-regulating and being overzealous with regard to safety, and inhibiting the development of stimulating curriculums and play. Funding In Europe, preschool is a child’s right. In Sweden and Germany it is provided for a very minimal subsidised fee. In Britain only 2 hours of preschool each day is free, worked in two shifts in busy centres. This has resulted in an imbalance where the centres are extremely crowded for 2 hours, and then under-utilised. They have had to find ways to entice people to the centres, opening the space up to the wider community.

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FUJI KINDERGARTEN, TOKYO Tezuka Architects

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Machida Shizen Preschool & Nursery, Tokyo NAF Architects

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Maibara Cho Preschool, Shiga Shuhei Endo Architects

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Kintori Way Children’s Centre, Southwark, London Cottrell & Vermeulen

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UK

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ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Fawood Children’s Centre, Hounslow, London Alsop Architects

106


UK

107


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Lloyd Park Centre, Walthamstow, LONDON Cottrell & Vermeulen

108


UK

109


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

William Bellamy Children’s Centre, Dagenham, London DSDHA

110


UK

111


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

John Perry Children’s Centre, Dagenham, London DSDHA

112


UK

113


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Ashmole Preschool & Primary School, Brixton, London Greenhill Jenner Architects in consultation with Alison Clark

114


UK

115


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Lanterns Nursery School & Children’s Centre, Winchester Colin Jackson of Hampshire Council

116


UK

117


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Hampshire Prefabricated Centres & Mobile Centre Colin Jackson of Hampshire Council

118


UK

119


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Cowgate Under 5’s Centre, Edinburgh Alan Murray Architects

120


UK

121


Italy


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Loris Malaguzzi International Centre, Reggio Emilia Tullio Zini Architect Studio & ZPZ PARTNERS, Modena

124


ITALY

125


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Paulo Freire Preschool, Reggio Emilia Tiziano Teneggi Architect

126


ITALY

127


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Rodari Centre, Reggio Emilia Tullio Zini Architect Studio

128


ITALY

Villetta Centre, Reggio Emilia Tullio Zini Architect Studio

129


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Giulia Maramotti Infant–Toddler Centre, Reggio Emilia Lapis Architetture Studio Associato

130


ITALY

131


France


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Marmoutier Preschool, Alsace Dominic Coulon Architects

134


FRANCE

135


Liechtenstein


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Ebenholz Preschool, Vaduz Jon Ritter

138


LIECHTENSTEIN

\

139


Switzerland


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Steinmürli I & II School, Dietikon Ken Architecton

142


SWITZERLAND

143


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Goetheanum, Dornach Rudolf Steiner

144


SWITZERLAND

145


Germany


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Kindergarten Friedrich-Ebert-StraSSe, Heilbronn Bernd Zimmerman

148


GERMANY

149


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Kindergarten Nussackerweg, Ludwigsburg Bernd Zimmerman

150


GERMANY

151


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Kinderhaus Violetta, LuDwigsburg County Architects

152


GERMANY

153


Sweden


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Mobil Pedagogik, Huddinge Helianthus Mobila Fรถrskolor

156


SWEDEN

157


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Klisterburken Nursery School, Stockholm SWECO Architects

158


SWEDEN

159


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Tom Tits Experiment Daycare Centre, Södertälje Peter Sirkin

160


SWEDEN

161


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Mulle I Ur Och Skur Preschool, Lidingรถ

162


SWEDEN

163


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Mulle I Ur Och Skur Primary School, Lidingรถ

164


SWEDEN

165


Finland


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Ebeneser Centre, Helsinki Wivi Lonn

168


FINLAND

169


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Arkki Daycare Centre, Helsinki Pihla Meskanen

170


FINLAND

171


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Soinisen Koulu Primary School, Helsinki Ilmari Lahdelma and Teemu Seppälä

172


FINLAND

173


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Ruusutorppa Montessori Preschool, Espoo Arkkitehtitoimisto Tilatakomo Oy

174


FINLAND

175


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Hosmarinpuisto School & Daycare, Espoo Yrjรถ Suonto

176


FINLAND

177


USA


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Buckle My Shoe Nursery School, New York CITY Linda Ensko (Centre Director), teachers and parents

180


USA

181


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

Apple Seeds, New York CITY Ellen Honigstock Architect PC

182


USA

183


ARCHITECTURE FOR CHILDREN

The Children’s School, New Canaan Maryann Thompson

184


USA

185


REFERENCES As I travelled and met with people, they gave me pamphlets on their centres, books on their pedagogy and even children’s services design manuals, all of which I read with great interest. I have listed the books and reports that are available from those organisations, as well as other further reading that may be of interest. ARACY 2009, Inverting the pyramid: Enhancing systems for protecting children, Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth, Canberra. Barkow, JH, Cosmides, L & Tooby, J 1992, The adapted mind: Evolutionary psychology and the generation of culture, Oxford University Press, Oxford. Bereiter, C 2002, Education and mind in the knowledge age, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, NJ. CABE 2007, Creating excellent secondary schools: A summary for clients, Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, London. Children in Scotland 2003, ‘Designing spaces for children and young people’, Out of the Box conference report, Children in Scotland, Edinburgh. Children in Scotland 2005, Making space: Award winning designs for young children, Children in Scotland, Edinburgh. Childs, G 2003, Rudolf Steiner: His life and work, Floris Books, Edinburgh. Clark, A 2007, Early childhood spaces: Involving young children and practitioners in the design process, Bernard van Leer Foundation, The Hague. Clark, A 2010, Transforming children’s spaces: Children’s and adults’ participation in designing learning environments, Routledge, London. Clark, A & Moss, P 2001, Listening to young children: The mosaic approach, National Children’s Bureau, London. Clark, A & Moss, P 2005, Spaces to play: More listening to young children using the Mosaic approach, National Children’s Bureau, London. Feeny, T 2006, The case for investing in early childhood: A snapshot of research by Professor James Heckman and Dr Richard Tremblay, The Smith Family Research and Development, Sydney, <http://www.thesmithfamily.com.au/webdata/resources/files/Heckman_Tramblay_Snapshot_April_2006_B4F68.pdf>. Grahn, P 1996, ‘Wild nature makes children healthy’, Journal of Swedish Building Research, no. 4, pp. 16–18. Hellman, L & Sunnebo, S 2009, Mobil pedagogic: Nya aventyr varje dag, Studentlitteratur, Stockholm. Hodgson, R & Leicester, G 2003, Designing schools for the future: A practical guide, Children in Scotland, Edinburgh. LeBlanc, M n.d., Friedrich Froebel, 1782–1852: His life and influence on education, Cowgate Under 5’s Centre, Edinburgh. Manninen, J, Burman, A, Koivunen, A, Kuittinen, E, Luukannel, S, Passi, S & Sarkka, H 2007, Experiments that support learning: An introduction to the learning environments approach, Finnish National Board of Education, Helsinki. Manzini, E 1992, ‘Towards a new ecology of the artificial environment: Design within the limits of possibilities and the possibilities of limits’, EcoDesign Foundation, Sydney, <http://changedesign.org/Resources/Manzini/ManziniMenuMain.htm>. 186


Manzini, E & Cullars, J 1992, ‘Prometheus of the everyday: The ecology of the artificial and the designer’s responsibility’, Design Issues, vol. 9, no.1, pp. 5–20. Moore, G 1996, ‘How big is too big? How small is too small?’, Child Care Information Exchange, July, pp. 21–24. Nair, P & Fielding, R 2007, The language of school design: Design patterns for 21st century schools, Designshare. New Canaan Historical Society 1998, ‘My impressions of the hour: A diary of an early New Canaan teacher’, New Canaan Historical Society Annual, vol. 12, no. 1. NIFTeY 2009, minutes from discussion paper meeting, in possession of the author, Sydney. Opetusministeriö 2006, Education and science in Finland, Ministry of Education, Helsinki. Opetusministeriö 2008, Education and research 2007–2012: Development plan, Ministry of Education, Helsinki. Powell, K 2001, Will Alsop: 1990–2000, Lawrence King Publishing, London. Reggio Children & Domus Academy Research Centre 1998, Children, spaces, relations: Metaproject for an environment for young children, Reggio Children, Reggio Emilia. Scottish Traveller Education Programme 2004, Case studies: Building educational bridges for gypsy/traveller pupils, Department of Educational Studies, University of Edinburgh. Skutch, M & Andrews, S 1988, Taking children seriously: Proven strategies for building self-esteem, Word Books, Texas. Skutch, M & Hamlin, WG 1971, To start a school, Little, Brown, Boston. Stephenson, SM 1998, Michael Olaf’s Essential Montessori: School edition for ages 3–12+, Michael Olaf Montessori Company, California. Sulonen, J 2009, Finnish schools, Publications in Architecture, Helsinki. Thompson, M n.d., The Children’s School: Leadership in energy and environment design, Maryann Thompson Architects, Massachusetts. Warming, H 2003, ‘The quality of life from a child’s perspective’, International Journal of Public Administration, vol. 26, no. 7, pp. 815–829. Montessori Australia <www.montessori.org.au> Reggio Children <www.reggiochildren.it> Rudolph Steiner Archive <www.rsarchive.org> Tom Tits Experiment <www.tomtit.se>

187


Japan

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So much of the teaching in early learning revolves around the importance of a child’s environment on their development. Over the last 100 years, many divergent philosophies have evolved with a wide breadth and depth of thinking and with an equally wide range of architectural responses. Children are a unique client with heightened sensory needs, special scale considerations and a totally different way of moving through and perceiving space to adults. The different educational programs and the consequent needs of the staff also impact on the architectural outcome and on how children’s needs are managed. In April and May 2009, a Churchill Fellowship enabled the author to explore the design of exemplar early

architecture for children

How can architectural form respond to the unique needs of children and support and reinforce the pedagogy of a children’s centre?

childhood centres around the world, covering 50 complexes across 10 countries. These included Scandinavia with its government-provided childcare and outdoor forest schools; Italy, home to the highly influential Reggio

SARAH SCOTT scottsarah65@gmail.com Sarah Scott is an architect and partner at Scott & Ryland Architects, Sydney.

Daycare centre Preschool Creche Nursery school Kindergarten Adjunct care

Emilia pedagogy; Germany and Switzerland, for Steiner, Froebel and Environmentalism; Japan’s adventurous architecture and Shinto roots; and the UK with its comprehensive Sure Start program combining early learning

Occasional care

and adult outreach. All of these countries place a high emphasis on the environment as educator and have produced some beautiful and award-winning architecture.

Vacation care

For the last 6 years she has specialised in designing children’s centres,

This book is aimed at anyone who is interested in the design of built environments for children. It is an

and in 2008 was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to explore the design of

exploration of the many different kinds of early learning experiences that are available and the innovative

exemplar early childhood centres across the world, seeing 50 centres

and inspirational building designs that have developed out of each pedagogy. This visual book is about what

across 10 countries in April and May of 2009. Sarah is married with two

architecture can offer early learning and also, what early learning requires from architecture.

children who are now much too big to attend a children’s centre.

ISBN 978-0-86431-854-1

AUTHOR IMAGE€ Sheridan Nilsson

sarah scott

9 780864 31854 1

COVER IMAGE Ebenholz Centre, Vaduz, Liechtenstein


So much of the teaching in early learning revolves around the importance of a child’s environment on their development. Over the last 100 years, many divergent philosophies have evolved with a wide breadth and depth of thinking and with an equally wide range of architectural responses. Children are a unique client with heightened sensory needs, special scale considerations and a totally different way of moving through and perceiving space to adults. The different educational programs and the consequent needs of the staff also impact on the architectural outcome and on how children’s needs are managed. In April and May 2009, a Churchill Fellowship enabled the author to explore the design of exemplar early

architecture for children

How can architectural form respond to the unique needs of children and support and reinforce the pedagogy of a children’s centre?

childhood centres around the world, covering 50 complexes across 10 countries. These included Scandinavia with its government-provided childcare and outdoor forest schools; Italy, home to the highly influential Reggio

SARAH SCOTT scottsarah65@gmail.com Sarah Scott is an architect and partner at Scott & Ryland Architects, Sydney.

Daycare centre Preschool Creche Nursery school Kindergarten Adjunct care

Emilia pedagogy; Germany and Switzerland, for Steiner, Froebel and Environmentalism; Japan’s adventurous architecture and Shinto roots; and the UK with its comprehensive Sure Start program combining early learning

Occasional care

and adult outreach. All of these countries place a high emphasis on the environment as educator and have produced some beautiful and award-winning architecture.

Vacation care

For the last 6 years she has specialised in designing children’s centres,

This book is aimed at anyone who is interested in the design of built environments for children. It is an

and in 2008 was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to explore the design of

exploration of the many different kinds of early learning experiences that are available and the innovative

exemplar early childhood centres across the world, seeing 50 centres

and inspirational building designs that have developed out of each pedagogy. This visual book is about what

across 10 countries in April and May of 2009. Sarah is married with two

architecture can offer early learning and also, what early learning requires from architecture.

children who are now much too big to attend a children’s centre.

ISBN 978-0-86431-854-1

AUTHOR IMAGE€ Sheridan Nilsson

sarah scott

9 780864 31854 1

COVER IMAGE Ebenholz Centre, Vaduz, Liechtenstein

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