Architecture, Space and Pedagogy in Pistoia: The Integration of Space, Design and the Learning Process

In: Educational Tales of the Unexpected: Children and Creativity

The chapter will report on a visit to Pistoia, Northern Italy in February 2008, with teachers and practitioners from Derby. We went to observe the architectural space, organisation and pedagogy in the ‘nidi’ scuole materne and aree bambini. I was conducting a research project in two Derby primary schools into ways in which children respond to everyday and found materials, and use them in processes of making they devise for themselves. Spaces are structured in Pistoia for children to experiment, invent and play with materials, as well as to observe, analyse and reflect. The influence of the ‘Arte Povera’ movement, from Tuscany and particularly Turin, remains very strong. The movement was anti-consumerism, and strongly socialist, using common, poor and everyday materials to construct both simple and complex structures, and used space as an integral element in their work. The amount of three-dimensional construction we observed was remarkable. In this country, an action research project’ conducted by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education, reported: ‘The teachers were shocked at the children’s general ‘lack of skill in basic craft techniques such as cutting and sticking. It was observable that many children were inexperienced in, as one arts partner described it “the rhythm of making things”.’1 In Pistoia the children are given the opportunity to determine the selection of a topic for learning, and this is pursued in an interdisciplinary fashion over a considerable time. It is an emergent curriculum in which ‘filo conduttiore’ (lines of research) are pursued for as long as they bear fruit. They could be described as the optimal conditions for the flow state to occur2.