Madrid’s Reggio School: Where Children Design Their Learning Environment

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In Madrid, one can see the result of what would happen if students helped design a school. Madrid’s Reggio School is a fantastical, pupil-led property, designed by Spanish architect Andrés Jaque, that offers an innovative learning environment for children.  The school has a zigzag roof. The school’s window-illuminators look like eyes peeking out of the scalloped walls. Plant and animal life to colonize its exterior walls, while classrooms are arranged around an indoor rainforest.

The Reggio School’s approach to education is based on the Reggio Emilia method – a philosophy of education developed in postwar Italy. According to this method, children are not empty vessels to be filled with education, but active participants in defining their own curriculum.

Designing the School with the Children

Andrés Jaque spent two years quizzing students and teachers to create a design that would arouse children’s curiosity and desire for exploration. The Reggio School’s architectural environment is configured to encourage open-ended exploration, with classrooms looking out onto gardens. Ecologists created these gardens to attract birds, butterflies, bees, fostering a connection with the outdoors that is central to the Reggio-Emilia method.

Living and Learning in Nature

The Reggio School’s living exterior walls are clad in an insulating mixture of mashed cork. This surface supports the growth of plant life, further fostering a connection with nature. The interior of the school features a courtyard that hosts a miniature temperate rainforest, which rises two stories to the glass canopy above. Laboratories and workshops are arranged around the edges of this living rainforest.

The Reggio School is a remarkable example of how involving children in the design of their learning environment can lead to inspiring space. By encouraging a connection with nature, and creating spaces for open-ended exploration, the Reggio School is shaping a new model of education, one that is focused on learning through experience and discovery. It is likely that we will see more innovative spaces like the Reggio School emerge, that inspire students.