Can Architecture Help Our Children Learn? Czech nursery school puts Montessori principles into practice
In a Montessori classroom, “learning corners” promote autonomy and arouse children’s curiosity. Concretely, they allow children to independently choose their favorite activity for the day and to go to the arts spot, or cooking in the kitchen.
This concept was at the heart of NoArchitects’ design of the Astra Montessori Kindergarten in Klecany, a small town near Prague. Erected between 2014 and 2019, the resulting building is formed of five different zones, each starting from a central core, but always connected to each other by rounded corners. In addition to the raised structure, the garden is also segmented into terrace and lawn.
In addition to its ideological roots, the shape of the building was also based on practical needs: NoArchitects chased sunlight, with the aim of avoiding dark corners. “If you’ve ever seen a graph of daylight intensity in an interior, it looks a bit like this layout,” said Jakub Filip Novák of NoArchitects Calvert’s Journal.
White and minimalist inside and out, the interior of the kindergarten is decorated with natural materials, aligned with the Montessori philosophy of treating children with the same respect as adults.
Among the very few purely decorative elements of the design are wooden and gray origami-like sculptures of animals. The architects were inspired to create the pieces after a meeting where their clients presented them with “tools” (a key concept in Montessori education is to avoid the term “toys” and use the concept of “tools”. learning ‘instead). “We liked it and the idea it represents: small children learn to develop their understanding of the world they live in and the people they meet,” says Novák. Indeed, the key principle that the architects cite at the head of their Montessori project is: “The world does not belong to obedient children. The world belongs to those who know the world well enough to be able to change it.
By design, NoArchitects also hoped to instill in children a curiosity about architecture itself. “Our ambition was to prepare a segmented environment on the little land available, in a way that would catch the interest of children and help them perceive the world and think of architecture as something new and intriguing. », They explain.
As a public place, the kindergarten has also become a must-see meeting place in Klecany. Located in a small suburban town, the building was initially an “island” between three roads. Architects and owners have since been able to pedestrianize one of the streets, which has made the place quieter and more convivial. “[The building] has since become a landmark, “adds Novák,” the locals have their own nicknames and arrange dates there – everyone knows that. “