Last week we received some lovely photos of the outdoor play space at the Renown Park Children’s Centre, completed last year for DECD. The plants are flourishing and it’s wonderful to see the children playing in the space. As the trees mature it will be even better, with more shade and variation in height across the landscape. We used predominately local native plants as well as some fruits and veggies and deciduous trees.
I’d like to reflect on how the concept of the competent child has changed the way I work as an architect.
I can be a procrastinator. There are bits of the house extension we did over 20 years ago that aren’t quite finished. But I like getting things finished. Those involved in building projects at home or at school will know the final touches can take a long time.
I’m lucky enough to have been involved in the Galilee Catholic School at Aldinga Beach, South Australia, with Tina Adamo and then Jodie Higgins and the staff since its inception in 2005. I’ve worked on additional research projects related to early childhood, been involved in the Carla Rinaldi residency and was fortunate to have been on the SA study tour to Reggio Emilia at the beginning of last year. Throughout all of these experiences what has stood out for me has been the honesty involved in not pretending to have all the answers. So for me the interesting outcome of really taking to heart the concept of the competent child is that it’s never finished.
Sure, you can finish the new building. You can design for flexibility and adaptability. But if you are listening to the competent child, you will celebrate the changes that they make to what was planned. That environment will never be “finished”.
Paper given by John Held at CEFPI World Congress, San Antonio, Sept 2012
Widening the vision- a time for reflection
As we are talking today about designing excellent spaces for education, I would like to take some time to take a broader look and talk about our approach to design- the questions we need to ask. Rather than talk about specific designs of school buildings, I’d like to refocus our vision and look at how ideas of citizenship, the home and current scientific thinking on the development of children and educational thinking can inform our work.
John Held was fortunate to be part of a South Australian Study Group which visited Reggio Emilia in January 2014. The group met for lectures (in Italian, but with fantastic translators) and visits to early childhood centres in the city. Led by Carla Rinaldi, SA Thinker in Residence, and Daniela Lanzi, the group was able to better understand the underlying philosophy of their approach to early childhood education.