Aww God it’s even got a puddle! A colleague gasped as she saw some images from Youji no Shiro‘s kindergarten and nursery in Kumamoto in Japan, much like we do when we open that present we always wished for but never thought we would get. And yes, it has got a a puddle and to me it tells something of what is missing in the public debate on education in general and in buildings we call schools in particular: Poetry and a higher cause.What does it take to design a courtyard with a concave floor so when it rains, it turns into a pool to splash your feet in? First: just imagine all the argument against the idea… Then: imagine the message this puddle sends to the kids in this kindergarten. It reminds me of the fist day in a school where we had designed a pretty extravagant piece of furniture, kind of wall that you could sit in/on. A girl aged seven or eight looked at the thing and then at me: “Why on earth have you done this one?!”I wasn’t prepared for that one so just responded “Because we that that you would like it…”. Her response, together with the biggest smile “Well done you! GOOOOOD thinking!” and then she disappeared.
So, making “unnecessary” and beautiful environments tells a story: this place is so important (and in fact, you are) that we did something we dreamt having ourselves, hoping you would love it too… That is paying respect both for the child and to the institution as such. But why are so many environments ugly, and void of wonder and poetry? -For a million of reasons of course but I think that one decisive factor is that education has been reduced to a commodity much like any other and the places where it’s “produced”, as a result of this, have been stripped of everything “unnecessary” to the production of the desired output. That’s a huge mistake. Education mustn’t be and can’t a commodity in that sense. Just look at the practice of any brilliant teacher, anywhere in the world: it’s the promise of something higher and wonderful that makes learning tick.
A puddle for toddlers tells a story and use it as a metaphor when you visit a school next time: Where are the puddles in this place?
Over and out