Throughout the evolution of childhood educational theory, the immediate environment of learning has been critically considered by pedagogues since the Enlightenment. Reacting against the status quo of rote memorization and a disciplinary ethic, educational reformers argued that the setting of learning should be designed by the teacher with specific objectives for a child to learn by freely engaging with the provided surroundings. For Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the curated educational environment consisted of prearranged situations; for Friedrich Froebel, it was geometrical blocks; for Maria Montessori, it was sensorial materials. These thinkers were not only concerned with teaching children specific skills, but with the fundamental relationship between a person and the world.
Designers of the built environment at large, however, have not acknowledged their role in crafting the educational setting, although it is physically the most dominant factor. Since the establishment of schools in response to child labor laws in the 19th century, educational architecture has evolved from a space to contain children while parents are at work to a place for education and protection. Nonetheless, designers have not specifically acknowledged children at different stages of physical, mental, and psychological development as the subject of their designs. Nor have they seriously undertaken the task of designing a space that influences how children relate to society and the physical world.
This project proposes a preschool building that challenges the existing social and spatial relationships between a child and an adult, and between a child and space. It explores ways to offer spatial authority and autonomy to the child by recognizing the child as an autonomous actor in her learning environment. While negotiating between the necessary functional adult-oriented space and the unconventional child-oriented space, the project recalibrates architecture with respect to her scale, perspective, and activities.