What happens when you invite pupils to design their school?
“It should have no walls”, “I want it to feel like a garden”, “Or a spaceship”.
These were just some of the inventive ideas collated by the Spanish architect Andrés Jaque collected from pupils at the Reggio school on the outskirts of Madrid.
Not only did he speak to 300 students but he also consulted their teachers about what would make an ideal environment for them.
The result is architecturally stunning.
Windows to let in light, portholes to make the building feel like – as requested – a spaceship, internal gardens, and a living wall for insects are just some of the features included in the final design.
And while the concept might appear frivolous or fun, there are some very important lessons behind it.
Jaque and his colleagues believe strongly that education cannot be a one-way streak. It shouldn’t just be about filling kids up with knowledge. Neither do they think that environments can be thought of as separate to their practical use. Everyone should have the chance to learn or work in spaces that inspire and welcome. And when it comes to the most important formative years of our lives, that idea is especially important.
At 8 million euros the total cost for this project is both modest but also, appreciably, beyond the reach of many institutions. That doesn’t mean that the principles can’t be universal.
Fundamental to compassion is the idea of equity. That no one is more important or “better” than any other. That pain and suffering can be felt by anyone at anyone time and everyone is deserving of care and support. That equity principle flows through the Reggio school.
Not only was the design process collaborative but so too was the physical manifestation that it produced. The school has been created to encourage interaction and communication. Pupils are not siloed into different parts of the school and some of the learning can be done out in the open, not just in smaller, contained classrooms.
Whenever we embark on a project with others we have to consider: how can we best engage everyone? What unique perspectives can someone bring? And how can we create environments (whether physical or emotional) that are warm and welcoming? It’s these kind of approaches that get the best out of everyone – whether we work from home, an office, or a spaceship.