Look at that, it is so beautiful!

Do we spend time looking at the city? Do we spend time observing the landscape in front of us? What about our children? Do they? I don´t think so.

The Italian Psychologist, Miretta Prezza´s, some years ago penned an article named “Children´s independent mobility” and wrote:

For Italian children, the city is mostly a scene that they observe from the car window, from the windows of their home or from clinging to the hand of an adult who forces them to walk at his\ her pace

Such a statement rings true for most of our European children; it is not just an Italian issue!

Through a mixture of parental over-protection as well as failures of modern urban design, children are no longer able to explore their surroundings independently. The consequence of this lack of autonomy is that they are no longer able to enjoy the city as they should. They are not in touch with the urban environment. Thus forth, our children are foreigners in their own towns and cities.

My concern as architect goes beyond this. Our children do not walk around and play outdoors independently, they are not encouraged to observe their surrounds and yet further to this there is a fundamental lack of appreciation for their city.

IMG_1055Prezza´s statement, written in 2007, could be written today, in 2014, as:

For children living in industrialized countries, the city is mostly a scene that they figure out from the corner of their eyes while playing with their parent´s mobile in the car, bus or restaurant

With a multitude of distractions and stimulus, children today find it far more difficult to engage with their urban environment. Without education and instruction, it is clearly more difficult to find appreciation of the rich and enlivening environment that surrounds us: shop windows; kiosks full of colorful magazines; fruit in the market; old and dirty facades; chimneys poking from roofs; flowers hanging from pub entrances; the doors; the balconies; the bricks; people jogging; people walking; people lying in the park…all go unseen.

The city is crowded and full of surprises. As parents and teachers, we have a duty to explain, underline and point out the beauty of our daily life. We need to teach our children that the urban landscape we occupy is unique and precious. We need to draw attention to the things that happen everyday and every second in front of their tiny noses.

Dolores Victoria Ruiz Garrido.”Little Architect” Director.Architectural Association.London

April 2014

What is Little Architect? Why we teach architecture in Primary Schools?

During first decade of the 21th century, the way we design our cities is changing. The participatory model, the community voice and a fluid dialogue between citizens and politicians is being demanded or, even better, accepted. With a certain, slow pace and a big dose of personal optimism I could assert that future urban processes will be developed within a much deeper implicated social base. Today, it is more necessary than ever that we are educated from a young age in architecture and sustainability.

30.06.15 St Clement Dane School, Drury Lane, London. Little Architects.Architecture is dynamic and comprises multiple social impacts in its development. Architecture is constantly interacting with us; it evolves and gets transformed. It is always there, out in the street and giving us shelter, communicating our past and expressing hopes for new futures. That future is what we – Little Architect´s educators – want to explore with the children, to equip them with tools to understand, enjoy and consciously interact with their built environment. To create a sustainable future we need to invest time and new educational processes in Primary Schools because, as Buckminster Fuller wrote, “children are enthusiastic planetarium audiences”[1]

Torriano School 3-2Little Architect is born as an education and research platform part of the Visiting School based at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. We teach Architecture and Sustainability in London Primary Schools to promote creativity, positive thinking[2] and a better understanding of our shared urban ecosystem. We research and develop architectural teaching resources especially designed for very young children in KS1 and lower KS2.

DSC01518We promote observation and drawing of the built environment to foster awareness for the daily landscapes and hidden treasures that cities offer. We use creativity as a tool to empower children to be more actively critical and propositional citizens.

We believe that architectural teaching in the national curriculum since the early ages is extremely necessary; it would expand children enormous and innate creative potential [3]. They will learn not to fear new shapes and colours, new materials, and least of all new inventions in technology and energy. It would make them more open to architecture evolution and also more critical and propositional about their living environment. In some years we could build a more questioning society and this, ultimately, I think is good. The most effective change should start from the root, and at the AA we have started already!

Little architect-Presentation-Future 9

One of our main goals is to teach children that cities are remarkable environments where we, as humans, should do our best to realize our own happiness and well-being without compromising either the Earth’s resources or the existence of other urban species.

We aim to teach life-long skills that will enable children to discover the amazing amount of beauty that surrounds them on a daily basis.

Dolores Victoria Ruiz Garrido. “Little Architect” Director. Architectural Association.

April.2014.London


 

[1] Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. R. Buckminster Fuller. 1969

[2] Positive education: Positive Psychology and classroom interventions. Martin Seligman. Oxford Review of Education Vol. 35, No. 3, June 2009

[3] Why Creativity Now? A Conversation with Sir Ken Robinson. September 2009 | Volume 67 | Number 1 Teaching for the 21st Century Pages 22-26