The environments in which we learn as child or adult students can greatly impact how we experience, feel about, and remember learning. Students in these five beautiful schools around the globe must have unique and strong memories of their time learning within them.
Located in Santa Marta, Colombia, the Timayui Kindergarten by the Giancarlo Mazzanti architectural studio is a school for students between infancy and five years of age that was founded in 2011. Architecture Daily explains that Mazzanti says Loris Malaguzzi’s Reggio Emilia educational philosophy underlies the inspiration for the school’s unique layout. This philosophy is known to respect youth as evolving people who can communicate in many languages (such as through the various arts) and it values familial and communal collaboration in education. The school is meant to provide an open architectural environment in which students, staff, and families can interact and have a variety of educational experiences. The school has an open-source design and is intended to be welcoming to the local neighborhood and a positive addition to the local infrastructure.
The modular chain formation of the school, connected but spacious, allows for multiple activity spaces to exist and also allows for future expansion and the addition of more modules. The six current main modules each contain three rooms around a courtyard and are connected by hallway arms. The school contains playgrounds, gardens, and indoor and outdoor classrooms. Design Boom explains that each room in the school has a skylight as well: “topped by an irregularly shaped roof light, each room benefits from natural daylight which washes down the angled interior surfaces.”
2.Crèche de la Girafe
The French studio Hondelatte Laporte Architectes created this whimsical nursery and childcare center in Boulogne-Billancourt of south-west Paris. The architects explain on Dezeen that, “[t]he idea is to animate the urban landscape by using a child’s imagination.” It seems they have succeeded; they have brought larger-than-life versions of beloved animals into a school setting for children to spend the day with. Children and adults alike must pass through the giraffe’s legs on their way into the building, which act as entrance columns. The center has a playground on each of its three bright white corrugated iron levels where the giraffe’s friends reside: a concrete polar bear and a flock of birds. When we are children, we are uniquely gifted in imagining and playing, and this fun and surreal school design honors those gifts. The school blends geometric and organic forms beautifully and it also holds a “zéro Energie Effinergie” label; it is a zero-energy green building, which suits its urban play jungle feel.
3. Ring Around a Tree
Japanese firm Yui and Takaharu Tezuka designed this amazing kindergarten in Fuji that sports elevated playgrounds and treehouse elements. The name, “Ring Around a Tree” is a play on the nursery rhyme, “Ring around the Rosy.” Around half of the building is open-air and the boundaries between inside and outside are intentionally blurred. Divisare shares that, “[a] twisted zelkova tree dictates the existence of the place…The bark has been polished up smoothly by the small hands of children throughout the years of its history.”
The building as a whole is an oval shape which mirrors the shape of the trees’ crown and branches grow throughout the structure’s nooks and spaces. As an expression of child-centric design, many of the spaces in the school are only accessible for crawling children or have ceilings which are too short for adults to stand under comfortably. Rubber mats and ropes are in place throughout as safety precautions. There are also glass enclosed classrooms with traditional furniture such as chairs and tables. Design Boom explains that “the learning environments aim to project a fruitful and liberating atmosphere that is free of constrictive elements.”
4. Central Los Angeles Area High School #9
Luckily, sometime the older kids get to have a wildly unique and artistic learning space, too. Austrian architects Coop Himmelblau designed Central LA #9 on Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles. As well as serving as a traditional high school, the school offers extensive additional courses in visual and performing arts (divided into four academies: visual art, performance, music, and dance). Nearly 2,000 students are in each academy. The school has seven main buildings and is visible throughout the city because of its large tower that has a looping, nine-shaped ramp going around it (for LA #9). E-Architect explains that, “[t]he tower connects the school visually and formally with downtown Los Angeles, and together with the Cathedral’s tower, the twin towers will become a new landmark for the city.” This school offers a performing arts theatre to the community and joins other artistic centers on Grand Avenue, including the Colburn School of Music and the Museum of Contemporary Art.
5. Rolex Learning Centre
The final school on this short list of beauties is for adults: the Rolex Learning Centre in Lausanne, Switzerland. It opened in 2010 and was designed by Pritzker Prize winner SANAA of Tokyo, Japan. The Rolex or EPFL Learning center serves as a library and central campus gathering place for the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), an engineering and physical science university and research institute. SANAA is comprised of partners Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, who won EPFL’s 2004 design competition. The centre was funded by the Swiss government and private sponsors including, of course, Rolex.
The Rolex Learning Centre’s grand, undulating concrete surfaces, described by the BBC as “gentle gravity defying loops,” give the building a sloping, organic feel. The Centre’s site says it is “a library with 500,000 volumes and an international cultural hub for EPFL, open to both students and the public.”
May wherever you learn be beautiful and inspiring, or if it isn’t, hopefully what you learn will be.