Invisible Garden in Urban Park | Option Studio

Option Studio: Invisible Garden in Urban Park

Professors Lorena Bello and Takeharu Tezuka

Spring 2017


For the Spring of 2017 at MIT, we intend to teach an Open Studio regarding the subject of learning and the city. The studio, entitled “Invisible Kindegarten”, will explore the hybrid condition of park and play and how this condition interacts with an educational ensemble.
Together with the students, we want to re-imagine a building type. We want to imagine a structure with-out walls or corridors that engages with play. We want to imagine a school where architecture promotes the engagement with nature. And there are all good things that come with that engagement, as evidence shows that children learn more, learn better, they are braver and bolder, and they are having more fun. This raises a lot of interesting challenges for architects: How do we design an invisible building when you want the building to fully engage the child with nature and to promote the child desire for play?

Through the design of new learning environments for children, the studio will also investigate how design can reduce educational costs to make urban environments more competitive with suburbs. Such a change, we envision, could benefit a new generation of professional parents. I will teach this studio in collaboration with Professor Takeharu Tezuka from Japan, and the studio will include a site visit to Tokyo to see some of Professor Tezuka’s educational work as well as to hold a three-day workshop with him and his collaborators. Thank you to the support of the Dean’s Office, we will start the trip with a visit to the sacred city of Kyoto where nature and architecture fuse together.

Diverse learning configurations have frequently been tested within classrooms and have been found to be highly effective from a pedagogical point of view, but this approach has not been applied yet in the design of whole schools. Professor Takaharu Tezuka anticipates these projects to become mainstream in school design within the next few decades. In order to advance and test this possible revolution, “Invisible Kindergarten” seeks to re-interpret the typological discourse in learning spaces. To do so, we will like to launch the design research with the following typological constrain: “No Corridors Allowed.” We envision that this premise will guide the design research towards learning cluster configurations that promote and enhance creative processes for all kind of students. The learning cluster typology should be driven by a current understanding of effective teaching and learning processes. Professor Tezuka’s findings in the topic which come from research and practice would also be incorporated into the studio brief.

Area allocations for classrooms need to be combined, and then distributed into a suite of organically connected different sized learning spaces. Transparency throughout the learning cluster must ensure excel-lent visibility for teachers to support students in their learning. The key to the design is diversity. Teachers and students have choices in the types of spaces which meet their teaching and learning needs. In the school, teachers and students shouldn't be restricted to singular classrooms, as learning clusters combine three to four classroom spaces together. It would be desir clusters to encourage collaborations, and for teachers and students to collectively curate their learning within the space. Every space in the school must be connected to the external environment. Green must be woven into the planning so there are always vistas of leaves outside windows and around every corner. Constantly changing shadows from trees enhances connection to nature, brings cool air into learning spaces, and creates a calming and peaceful environment improving student well-being. School landscaping connects the green of surrounding environment. We hope the school becomes a new focal point of the local community and contribute to develop a beautiful culture starting from this location.