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Day proposes a rethink of how environments are designed for young children

"If we love our children, why do we accept environments for them shaped for adults' - not children's - needs?" - (Day, C 2007)

Christopher Day, a trained architect and sculptor questions environments that are supposedly designed for children in his book 'Environment and Children' and attempts to answer these questions by offering some solutions. He says the 'kidification' of spaces, that is bright colours and illustrated wallpaper does not support children's developmental needs. Our environments affect how we feel, think and behave, shaping our habits and affecting us physically, mentally and socially; and it affects children even more. Children experience places with a fresh view, whilst adults have a preconceived view of a place.

A child jumping off a ledge.

"Children use the environment to improve themselves; adults use themselves to improve the environment." (Day, C 2007)

East Bay Waldorf School

Day has designed many early childhood education centres, and here is an example of a school in San Francisco he helped to redesign which included a nursery and kindergarten. The brief was to reinvent an existing and very unattractive building. Day worked with the teachers, community and two other architects. Upon visiting the site they analysed the physical, looking at how the journey flowed, the moods of the journey and finally what the place said. All agreed that the place had no love for children, rather treated them as nuisances to discipline and process, and agreed the place should say something about how children are valued, cared for and nurtured. The goal was to transform the spirit of the place, from somewhere oppressive to a place nurtering development and inner freedom.

Some pictures showing the before (left) and after (right). Images taken from the book: Consensus Design.

The design process included diagrams (plan and section) of the physical landscape, movement patterns, and mood mapping; and then applied on top possible activities, which then in turn informed more of the design.

The first of the new (straw-bale) buildings.

The whole design process was a (five and a half days groupwork) consensual design.

Christopher Day is also the author of Spirit & Place, Places of the Soul, and Consensus Design.


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