Teaching The Future

Future cities and citizens

Extract of EdgeCondition Issue 4. For the full article click on the link below. http://www.edgecondition.net/vol-4-teaching-the-future.html

“London through Florence Nightingale´s life” Three sessions project at St Luke´s Cofe Primary School. London

Teaching architecture to young children can be approached in many different ways, due to the richness of our discipline, so we have tried to choose and compile some inspirational theories to shape our programme. We could start with R. Buckminster Fuller´s planetarium concern, his opposition to specialization in education[1] and his practical examples of children’s endless capacity to understand complex concepts[2]. Colin Ward and his book “The Child in the City” inspires us to look for teaching resources in every corner of London, and Paul Goodman´s educational theories add a pinch of insurrection and sabotage[3]. The life of Ruth Asawa[4], American artist and former student at The Black Mountain College, is an example to follow, as she transformed and improved the whole school curriculum of what today is called the San Francisco School of the Arts (SOTA) in San Francisco. Meanwhile, Sir Ken Robinson[5] and Martin Seligman´s books[6] encourage us to create enthusiastic and positive lectures so we talk about hidden monsters and magnificent treasures in windows, roofs or doors in every presentation, since fostering curiosity and observation is key for us. “The Eyes of the Skin”, J. Pallasma’s already classic book, leads us to talk not only about observing architecture but also about feeling architecture. We look for textures, we tell children to touch everything (sorry parents!) – facades, stairs, floors, grass – to smell every material, and even listen to buildings, for there are many times unnoted sounds in architecture are amazing discoveries for children.


Having an imaginary walk with Florence Nightingale to show her: London in 2015!

A long list of architects and artists with utopian proposals and a deep concern about the public realm provide core material for our presentations: Yona Friedman, Peter Cook, Haus Rucker Co, CJ Lim, Lucien Kroll, Archigram, Lina Bo Bardi, Richard Rogers and Gego, Oiticica, Leon Ferrari, Antony Gormley, to give some examples. We try to accommodate in our sessions different ways to engage with architecture, following Howard Gardner´s multiple intelligences theory[7]. We encourage drawing and lots of conversation; sometimes we nearly run out of time for finishing the class exercise, as children’s commentaries can be so sharp and interesting. I still remember last year’s debate about MRDV “Rooftop Village” in Rotterdam: Thumbs up or Thumbs down for the blue house. It was only after a long and heated debate that those who liked the blue house won.


London Town Hall ( stair case) more beautiful than ever.

After sowing the idea that architecture can be much more interesting and playful that they thought, we mainly want to let children express themselves in their favourite way. We set up a creative environment and drawings are taken as communication tools. As children learn about the evolution of cities from past to present, about fauna and flora, transport and clean energy, the urban ecosystem is revealed. They have a moment to think and meditate: What do I want to draw, what am I designing? What do I want for my future house, city, local area or school? We teach them to think about their future; they are the decision makers, they are the main characters in the play. The process, in this case, is much more important than the result. We want them to learn that they can do the same activity while they are sitting at home, travelling by bus or waiting for food in a restaurant: They can observe, draw, comment and imagine their future city inside and outside our lessons.

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A future block of flats. No boundaries, pure creativity. 5 y.old girl- We love it!

Our aim is definitely not to indoctrinate children to become architects. Rather, we want children to be much more active in urban processes. We want to trigger a new relationship with their local surroundings, in which they are caring for, but also enjoying and being critical of the cities we all inhabit. That is our main task – to teach them that the future is theirs.

Dolores Victoria Ruiz Garrido.Little Architect Director


[1] R. Buckminster Fuller. Operating Manual for Spaceship.p24-26


[2] R. Buckminster Fuller.Utopia or Oblivion.P28-29


[3] Colin Ward. The child in the city. P176


[4] The Sculpture of Ruth Asawa. Contours in the air. 2006


[5]   Ken Robinson .The arts in school. 1982


[6] Martin Seligman. The Optimistic child. 2007


[7] Howard Gardner. Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. 1983

Little Architect Projects Review!!

clenkerwell greenLittle Architect, the new AA Visiting School Programme, is preparing  lessons for the next school year and contacting primary schools in and out of London. During July, our aim is to summarize and explain to you, the objectives that we achieve during our in-school lessons.  Stephanie Taylor, a year four teacher, from Hugh Myddelton School penned a review after the completion of our project. It was developed during Geography lessons and the topic was “Your local area”.

We designed an activity called “Your future local area”  working in partnership with two teachers Stephanie Taylor and Simon Evans. Here is the fantastic review:

“The involvement was over 3 sessions with two Year 4 classes with children with a range of abilities, including a child with significant visual impairment.

Our first session was a visit around the local area following a short introduction about features of buildings, encouraging the children to look for the details. Lola (Dolores Victoria Ruiz Garrido, the programme director) was fantastic in leading this activity, challenging children to find interesting motifs in a familiar environment. Having the sessions firmly rooted in the area the children are familiar with was very effective. The children enjoyed this greatly and were activly engaged and excited to find new and different perspectives on their environment.

The second session took the information and images gathered on our local area walk, and then older images were incorporated in an accessible visual format to identify changes in the local area and why the buildings have changed. Giving the children a broader perspective on their area, and an understanding that our world is not static. The children were then encouraged to think of what they would change if they could. There was plenty of opportunities for the children to develop their understanding both by discussion with their peers and with the expert input from the “Little Architect” tutor.

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Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 22.58.54 The third session built further on this idea of change and the Little Architect presentation shared images and information on a range of real, and concept buildings which really engaged the children’s creativity. The ideas of sustainability and the use of renewable energy were very clear and the children took these ideas and utilised the inspiration from Lola to design creative and ‘green’ buildings that could shape their local area in the future.

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Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 22.45.13The three sessions worked well as a progressive theme and the children were fully engaged and inspired. Their creations were far more complex and thoughtful than I anticipated and this is due in the main to the inspirational images and knowledge that Little Architect built up over the sessions. This work has helped the children to become more aware of the environmental impact of architecture and possibly even begun to shape the future. The children are much more proactive with regards to recycling and energy consumption. Another important thing, is that the children were able to see and experience a different perspective on their area and hopefully begin to have ambitions for the future that are more varied than before.

The children and I are very thankful that we were involved in the project and we are justifiably proud of the designs that were created, this would not have been possible without “Little Architect”. I hope that many other children get to experience this project, it was fantastic.

Many thanks. Stephanie Taylor. Year 4 teacher and ICT leader. Hugh Myddelton Primary School. Islington. London

It was our pleasure to work in Hugh Myddelton School and its creative students!


Little ArctF uture 01020_croppedToo often, when we talk to friends about drawing skills, our insecurities are revealed: “I don´t know how to draw”, “My drawings are rubbish”, “I am not good at art”.

What drives us to think so badly of our ability to draw? I am pretty sure that it starts at the beginning of our learning process. The way in which we were guided towards a “more beautiful and correct” way of representation, has led many of us thinking, too early, that we can´t draw.

Drawing is a communication tool, so it is time we start paying attention to this matter.

Parents, teachers and educators in general, face children´s drawings nearly each day. We tend to correct or to give advice to our children rather than to observe and recognize individual style. It is vital that we avoid judgment and negative evaluation, especially during the early years, and rather push our children to explore. Children should be encouraged to express whatever reality they see and understand, and to do that through whatever medium they can express themselves best.

As adults, we have a tendency to approach children´s drawings through established rules that we were taught as children. We tend to follow the traditional canons of beauty.

Picasso used to say that we are wrong in our understanding of beauty: “Academic training in beauty is a sham. We have been deceived, but so well deceived that we can scarcely get back even a shadow of the truth…Art is not the application of a canon of beauty but what the instinct and the brain can conceive beyond any canon”


So, who is right, who is wrong? How can we understand the artistic side of a child when we analyze with such predispositions?

DSCN1177We must forget as soon as possible the drawing teacher inside us and let the creativity flows!

Often we unconsciously make suggestions about the drawings that our children produce; the colors, the lack of proportions; the unrealistic details. Further to this, our commentaries can relate directly to the subjective beauty of the thing; “this drawing is ugly” or “this drawing is not so beautiful as yesterday´s one”. Such sentences are enormously dangerous for the creative development of a child.

Where we see ourselves improving our students and children skills, we are actually generating the harmful idea of failure.

As Sir Peter Cook says I´m more interested in ideas and originality than I´m interested in something that is beautiful”.

Let´s allow children to freely explore and enjoy while drawing!

littlearchitect-web1Dolores Victoria Ruiz Garrido. June. 2014. London

1 Christian Zervos. “Picasso Speaks: A Statement by the artist” 1935, p 273.

2 Architecture and Beauty. Yael Reisner, p72

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!

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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.



[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




Let´s start…

Peter Pan Bedford

Today, 21st January 2014, we are launching this site!

Little architect, is aimed to be a place where we will be posting and sharing with you our activities in London primary schools.

In this site we will be gathering everything related with architecture and children education that, under our point of view, is interesting or challenging.

This first step is very special for us! We are willing to start sharing ideas about architecture with  you as teachers, parents, students or children. In this site we want to create a sense of community  around architecture and children education, as we feel now ourselves part of the big early years education family.

Let´s start fostering creativity, observation and imagiantion to improve our children creativity and global awareness.


Photo: Peter and Wendy. Author JM Barrie. Illustrated by Francis Donkin Bedford. 1911.