The environment we live in is said to influence the behaviour and emotions of its inhabitants. It stimulates both positive and negative emotions which are widely controlled through design. When it comes to children’s spaces, many theories and studies revolve around designing to avoid negative impacts during early growth. This article is about how different pedagogy practiced around the world moulds children through architecture and design for their age and needs.
Montessori was coined by an Italian physician and educator Dr Maria Montessori. Architecture in these schools can be increasingly applied with the Montessori method. It provides better quality tools to the children’s future by improving their learning and development qualities. The child, the conscious adult, and the prepared environment constitute the three pillars of this method. The physical environment offering peace, calm, welcoming, harmonious and emotionally respectful space is designed to carry out the Montessori method successfully. This method can be designed in one’s own home or public space also.
Here is a list of pointers one must take into consideration when designing for children.
- Simplicity and minimalism in the colour palette, materials and toys are preferred. Providing less helps them develop decision-making capacity.
- An organized environment keeps the children’s minds organised and develops reasoning capacity.
- A designed space in Montessori is considered to be a space to interact and move without adult intervention.
- A risk-free, safe environment lets the children free to explore.
- In addition to the above parameters an environment that encourages concentration through silence is considered. Avoiding electronic devices in such places increases concentration.
- A mirror and grab bar is an important element in designing a Montessori room, as it allows the child to look at themselves, crawl, sit and walk as they grow.
- Freedom and safe movement being the primary focus of development, a floor bed or a low height bed is preferred which grows with the child.
- A carpet laid near the play area and bed keeps the child warm and cosy and also enhances stability.
- Furniture like wardrobes, shelves, activity tables and chairs are designed for children’s anthropometry, As it is essential to let the child access their needs by themselves. Stepping stones stools, learning towers, convertible tables are some of the known Montessori furniture.
- Illustrations, photographs and images are used to decorate the walls. High contrast illustrations, geometric images, realistic images and illustrations of animals, fruits, vehicles and people are also part of the decor.
- It is also important to consider taking children to outdoor environments with such stimulation, parks and beaches as a part of the Montessori method.
Rudolf Steiner introduced the Waldorf pedagogy based on the principles of Anthroposophical philosophy. The fundamental character of the pedagogy is a holistic approach towards the human being. The philosophy is to cultivate individuals with the capability to understand themselves and society. The feelings, imagination, spirit and intellect are considered unique in every individual.
According to anthroposophical philosophy, development is subdivided into stages every seven years.
- 0-7 years develop through the freedom of movement and by exploring the surroundings.
- 7-14 years develop through emotions, feelings and creativity.
- 14-21 years are mature and ready to use their mental and moral abilities.
It is always considered that the architecture of the building housing the Waldorf Pedagogy must follow the principles of this philosophy.
Schools are seen as an extension of their homes, thus a comfortable, welcoming and safe environment is expected. Concepts such as the metamorphosis of form, colours and geometry are reflected through the building in the most possible way.
Rudolf Steiner believed that architecture is a mixture of all types of arts, hence a dedicated space to display the art produced by children be it gardening, painting, crafting is designed.
- A huge room is usually segregated into different activity areas and the mixture of age groups in a single room facilitates learning from one another.
- Rhythmic and repetitive elements, like pillars, frames, openings symbolise the art of music which is an important curriculum of the pedagogy.
- The connection between inside and outside is said to benefit the psycho-emotional health of children, which is designed through a lower window sill, big openings in the desired direction with glass or other relevant materials.
- The connection with nature is emphasised by involving natural materials like seeds, stones, leaves, shells, etc in their daily activities. Thus plastic toys and things are against the recommendation.
- The involvement of natural light in Waldorf Pedagogy is considered to bring in infinite learning possibilities.
- The usage of different colour palettes at different ages concerning the age of maturity is an important aspect of the development.
- Warm and light colours are suitable for early age which are mostly seen in their everyday surroundings.
- Cold tones like blues and greens are used which involve activities with more concentration and focus.
- Contrast colours like black and white are used for older children with emotional maturity.
- Moveable and light furniture is preferred which helps in movement and exploration in their multifunctional classrooms.
- Geometric transformation through the transformation of different shapes, variations in vertical and horizontal planes as they move to different age groups helps them develop a deeper aesthetic sense.
- For instance, trapezoid-shaped classrooms are preferred for the divergent walls which direct the children themselves to different activities. As they age the classrooms are transformed into more firm, articulated and angular.
Reggio Emilia Pedagogy
The Reggio Emilia approach was created by an Italian journalist and educator Loris Malaguzzi post World War II. The need for a peaceful, welcoming and cheerful environment where children could stay safe when their mothers were gone for work. Understanding the children’s interests and providing a suitable environment to explore and experiment is the focal point of the pedagogy.
It is believed that the child’s curiosity is the learning guide. The child absorbs and experiences from the environment built. The multitude of aspects like communicative, expressive, imaginative, ethical, logical, cognitive, helps in the child’s development. An environment that fosters such aspects is carefully curated.
- Elements like ceilings and walls act as an exhibition documenting sculptures, paintings and other artworks made by children.
- Natural light stimulates curiosity and creativity. Mirrors reflecting lights, glass windows, light tables for activities are some elements to aid lighting.
- A warm and cosy interior is created using a muted colour palette and natural interior materials.
- Flexible and multipurpose floor spaces with light and movable furniture help children explore with freedom.
- Central square space connecting all other parts of the building acts as a cultural aid enhancing communication and relationships.
- Glass walls and windows are versatile from bringing in ample amounts of natural light, connecting interior and exterior environment, with transparency and reflections, helping children see one another doing different activities.
- Playfully designed bathrooms with different shapes, helping children to access with ease are designed.
- Small tents, shelters or corners are created where children can spend some time alone.
Rhythm and movement are created through architectural elements and objects involving their activities develops a sense of awareness in children.
- Like other pedagogy organisations and accessibility of toys and other day-to-day things help them explore and create activities of their interests.
- Children and teachers together decide on their daily activities so a common space with seats around is designed for such discussions and assemblies.
- Migliani, A. (2019). How to stimulate children’s autonomy through architecture and Montessori method. [Online]. Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/930510/how-to-stimulate-childrens-autonomy-through-architecture-and-the-montessori-method
- Migliani, A. (2020). How to design schools and interiors based on Waldorf Pedagogy. [Online]. Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/935990/how-to-design-schools-and-interiors-based-on-waldorf-pedagogy
- Migliani, A. (2020). Improving the educational environment through the Reggio Emilia approach. [Online]. Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/944063/improving-the-educational-environment-with-the-reggio-emilia-approach