Architecture in mind...
“I sat on the roof / And watched the day go by...”
Wishful Thinking, China Crisis
It’s not every day that you get the chance to be in the same room as a legend, but that was the case when Professor Takaharu Tezuka took the stage at the Play On International Conference in Athens.
As he stepped up, there was a sense that we were in the presence of greatness. If you’ve not seen his ‘best kindergarten in the world’ on YouTube then take a look - an extraordinary building from an extraordinary mind.
What followed was a trip through architectural design which was as heartwarming as it was emotional. The construction of a kindergarten out of the aftermath of the tsunami 2011 was a reminder that hope is what lies at the heart of salvage from tragedy, humanity’s vulnerability to nature balanced with resilience. Lighter touches were the designs for this playfully interactive space:
Sitting listening to the professor brought to mind the direct link between the physical space and that within the mind, the architecture of building and brain, the importance of environment within Early Years provision.
The designs shared all featured natural elements, a refusal to segregate the inside and outside worlds, a celebration of movement and physicality as well as children’s rightful place at the heart of their spaces. What was really intriguing was the designs stemmed from family experiences, the concept that humanity and environment are in symbiosis, that anything is achievable, that paradigms from the past can and should be swept aside to make space for the new.
Nowhere was this brought more to life than the professor’s explanation of an early design for a family who wanted to spend much of their time on the roof of their family home. Such a seemingly peculiar request led to a beautifully designed space giving the family an environment that challenged the norms and led to others in the area requesting similar designs.
Professor Tezuka also shared that one of his influences was his own brother who found the ‘typical world’ challenging.
To think like another, to have empathy, to see the world through another’s eyes is one of the most underrated skills in education - to put oneself into another’s shoes, to embrace otherness, other views, situations, thoughts and abilities in the journey from me-ness to you-ness is a critical passage for young children navigate.
By allowing himself to think in terms of otherness, to shrug off the ghost of the past and to seek a new direction, professor Tezuka’a approach felt like a key message for our own thinking when working with children - to challenge ourselves, our dogma, our ingrained and recycled expectations.
A new design is needed. A new path, a fresh way of forging ahead.
Let’s enter the world of children then as architects, not to draw the map but to enable children to in turn dream their own dream, build their own ‘landscape’, their own sloped roof to take in the world and discover it with their own eyes...
It’s time for the New Wave and new architecture of our own minds...
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