The Bauhaus-trained architect [sic] will know that only closest collaboration in every aspect guarantees a unified building, co-ordinating appliances, furniture, color scheme and design, a finished product that guarantees welfare and satisfaction.41
The approaches of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and the Bauhaus may have been very different, Painting ideas but they had the same goal: to establish a process for visual research and investigation. However, both schools focused almost exclusively on visual literacy and artistic discovery. Although their methods remain critical to the teaching of design, they did not instill any direct understanding of the human experience of objects or spaces.
While examples of programs that partially integrate the teaching of formal design skills with experiential principles can be found at some design schools, the most compelling model is in a completely different arena, at Reggio Emilia preschools. The Reggio Emilia method was developed in Italy in the aftermath of World War II, and is designed to encourage children to learn through discovery and sensory experience. The approach relies on a wide variety of representational tools – including, but not limited to, words, movement, drawing, painting, building, sculpture, shadow play, collage, dramatic play, and music -to develop a child’s thought processes and render them visible through his or her many “natural languages.
Reggio Emilia schools use the classroom not just as a backdrop for discovery but also as a space that is integral to learning. The program’s website reads: “The environment is conceived and lived as an educational interlocutor [to give] structured spaces with stimuli for play, discovery, and research.42 The classroom is organized as an atelier (subdivided into smaller ateliers) with an emphasis on creating learning experiences that last longer than a single day.
Teachers do not lecture in front of a class but instead guide children by asking questions and responding to queries. Rather than simply providing the answers, they gently guide their pupils to discover them independently, as revealed through their own experiences. During this process, children explore many facets of a problem in a physically secure and intellectually supportive context. There are no wrong answers or choices, as they are part of the process of discovery. The experiences are invariably complex and often deal with an individual child’s relationship with the world. This, of course, includes carefully planned and intentioned human encounters as well as the random and unexpected interactions that life and nature provide. By learning
Page of diagrams from Peter and Michael Angelo Nicholson, The Practical Cabinet-maker, Upholsterer, and Complete Decorator, London, 1826. Architect and mathematician Peter Nicholson and his oldest son prepared this manual, which included extensive exercises in constructing perspectives. The teaching of three-dimensional visual literacy in design has a long history. Sophisticated exercises, as evident in this engraving, allowed designers to imagine a furnished room in three dimensions.
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