During the Architecture Fringe Festival 2016, Calum Duncan Architects led a group of architects and artists to explore how the general public, but more specifically, Scottish children, are forming relationships with the environment that surrounds them. As citizens (and our future public, parliamentarians, shapers and builders of physical stuff), the buildings we live in, work in and walk between have an enormous effect on our quality of life. On a macro scale, we need to agree how many houses ought to be built in the years to come. What should these be like: in scale, form, quality, ownership, and how will our existing building stock be managed, altered and maintained in a fashion which is enjoyable, fair and efficient?
We posed the question: ‘To what extent is the subject of Architecture and the Built Environment explored in schools, and how can this be improved or expanded, to further the links between architecture and the current curriculum in practice?’ A better understanding, or just a closer connection, between children and these fabulously interesting issues will mean our future cities, towns, villages and green spaces will benefit in terms of their practical usefulness and design quality. By improving the level of discussion for school children, we are encouraging more knowledgeable construction and planning professionals, future clients, local community members and neighbours. Significantly, we are interested in making the general public able to facilitate and be a proactive part of change in the build environment.
Following considerable debate, investigation and exploration, we worked towards a one off workshop, as part of the Architecture Fringe Festival in July 2016. This wouldn’t been possible without the help and support from Arts & Creative Learning Team, City of Edinburgh Council. Our morning workshop showed a participation and enthusiasm which was genuinely inspiring. Everyone actively embraced our request to undertake four experiments. These were intended to test ideas and dissolve some preconceptions about where the subject of the built environment can be brought into current school subjects. The experiments allowed the group to think through a process of doing, which brought a fresh attitude from all involved. It was quickly understood that architecture is not only attached to the subjects of art and design. We involved mindfulness, dance, mapping and bus stops no less. The experiment I instigated was designed to investigate ways of experiencing our immediate environment through dance, largely developed under the wing of a suitably magnificent choreographer, Mathew Hawkins. Dance is currently in vogue with teens and younger years.
As yet we do not know where Archischools is heading, but our ambition remains high. We are considering a pilot project in schools; a manifesto on children’s architecture or maybe even an Institution to help attract interested minds and carry momentum. Our ambition is to progress the debate further in 2018.
Archischools Illustration by Michael Kirkham