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
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 and his practical examples of children’s endless capacity to understand complex concepts. 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. The life of Ruth Asawa, 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 and Martin Seligman´s books 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.
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. 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.
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.
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
 R. Buckminster Fuller. Operating Manual for Spaceship.p24-26
 R. Buckminster Fuller.Utopia or Oblivion.P28-29
 Colin Ward. The child in the city. P176
 The Sculpture of Ruth Asawa. Contours in the air. 2006
 Ken Robinson .The arts in school. 1982
 Martin Seligman. The Optimistic child. 2007
 Howard Gardner. Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. 1983