ARCHITECTEM met with Iñaqui Carnicero earlier this year at the Venice Biennale to discuss the Spanish Pavilion for which he received the Golden Lion along with Carlos Quintáns. We now explore RICA Studio’s representation of an innovative teaching method, a place to booster creativity, imagination, and to stimulate the senses.
‘English for Fun’ is a place for learning. With a revolutionary approach employing the five senses geared towards children of any age or physical condition. This pedagogical technique is derived form the basic understanding that every child is special and unique. Founded in Spain in 2011, the new flagship center in Madrid is designed by Lorena del Río and Iñaqui Carnicero of Rica Studios.
This commission represented an opportunity to investigate how design can shape experience and affect the subject in processes of playing and learning.
The Reggio Emilia approach is an educational philosophy based in a self guided and very open interpretation of learning. Based on three core principals:
The child as an active part of the learning process. Based on a non-guided way of playing where the kids have their own interpretation of natural and artificial play-objects.
The built environment of the school is considered the third teacher, following the teachers and parents.
The process of learning must be made visible.
The proposal was to overcome cliches of spaces designed for kids, being non figurative and open to multiple interpretations. The goal, as expressed by the architects, was to create a space in the spirit of the adventurous playgrounds where the play-objects [not toys], develop their full potential in the interaction with the kids.
The design needed to operate at the adult scale as much as the kids’ scale, so it was important to create spaces that children could inhabit and own. The answer was to propose a tinker tray, where all the objects involved in the play and learning process could be stored, the work produced exhibited and where the kids could feel involved.
The strategy employed by Rica Studio proposes a thick structure instead of thin partitions to configure the class room space. An inhabitable wall that would store all furniture and objects when not in use, making the reconfiguration of the class very easy.
The broken geometry of the structure creates a series of nooks, to be inhabited by the kids. Different typologies of objects were reduced to a minimum, establishing a generic module that can be used in multiple ways. It is not simply a chair, table, tower, play kitchen, car, box for stones, or helmet, but all the above.
The function of this thick inhabitable wall was twofold, first creating smaller spaces to be owned by the kids, and second to provide storage space facing both, the classroom and the corridor. So the space that usually only serves as circulation, is now activated and can be used as common ground for kids, teacher and parents. It also transforms the corridor into a showcase of the learning process, blurring the limits between the classrooms, and expanding the perception of the space, avoiding the conventional compartmentalisation of the classrooms.
Architects: Rica Studio, Lorena del Río and Iñaqui Carnicero / Contributors: Takuma Johnson, Monica Molinari, Paula Manzano
Photography: Imagen Subliminal, Miguel de Guzman