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Architecture the ‘third teacher’ in this Reggio Emilia Bogota school

| October 29, 2013 | 0 Comments

Giancarlo Mazzanti epitomises a new kind of architect; one who builds preschools in communities riven by social unrest. The Bogota-based architect has already completed 12 schools for very young learners in his native Colombia, a country where political unrest and violence have existed for decades. Santa Marta is a typical victim of the violence.

The coastal city is full of displaced Colombians; there is little infrastructure, healthcare, education or work. However, a private–public collaboration has enabled Mazzanti to design active, safe preschool environments in two areas: Timayui and La Paz. For Mazzanti: “Form and space, visual expanses, piazzas, abundant natural light and effortless access to the outdoors are the primary elements of a pedagogical environment.” Mazzanti bases all his school designs on the theories and practices of Loris Malaguzzi, an Italian schoolteacher and pioneer in early childhood development during the second half of the 20th century.

The Reggio Emilia approach, named after the region where Malaguzzi lived, maintains that how children develop socially and intellectually from an early age determines what kind of adults they will become. Mazzanti follows Malaguzzi’s dictum that architecture is the ‘third teacher’, and that schools should be specifically planned to fuel a child’s imagination. At Timayui and La Paz, each preschool comprises three pyramidal enclosures (the tile-covered structures mimic the neighbouring mountains) surrounding a courtyard and connected by covered walkways. Mazzanti calls them “modules” and each contains bathrooms, two classrooms and a sensory room connected to the outside.

Particularly important to Mazzanti are “educational situations” – locations that just occur coincidentally within and around the built structures. Each preschool was designed with environmental purposes in mind. The pyramid shape allows warm air to rise via convection and escape through operable skylights at the top. Louvred vents in the sloping exterior walls also control heat and air, as does the northsouth orientation. As is popular in other parts of the developing world, construction relied on local material, labour and resources. Load-bearing concrete walls have prefabricated polystyrene cores to maximise thermal efficiency. What excess rain falls in this dry area is carefully collected and stored for other essential purposes.

Category: Summer 2013

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