Victor Horta is regarded as the father of Art Nouveau architecture and designed some of the most iconic buildings in Brussels. Sadly, many of his early Art Nouveau creations, most notably Maison du Peuple, were demolished in the 1960s and 1970s as these were deemed old fashioned.
120 years ago, Horta was commissioned to design a kindergarten in the working class neighbourhood of Marolles in Brussels. Not only did it survive the horrid Bruxellisation, Jardin d’Enfants – which was completed in 1900 – continues to serve its original function today.
Normally not open to the public, you can visit and see its interiors on a guided tour on 17-18 October, 2015. This is because the time has come for Biennale Art Nouveau et Art Deco in Brussels, which offers visitors the chance to enter conserved buildings and learn more about the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements in Brussels.
I visited the kindergarten, which is located at 40 rue Saint-Ghislain, in 2011 during the sixth edition of the biennial. It was the first Art Nouveau building that I had visited in Brussels and left a strong impression. In particular, I love the luminous interiors with its wide open spaces bathed in natural light thanks to the large windows and skylight features. If I were a kid, I would enjoy going to school if it looked anything like this!
More often than not, the design of schools can be uninspiring or even uninviting. Which is why it is refreshing to see designs that focus on the needs and behaviour of children – places where children can learn and play at the same time, be inspired, and spark curiousity and creativity.
For instance, there is Fuji kindergarten in Tokyo which came into global prominence following a TED talk given by Takaharu Tezuka who designed the school together with his wife. I also like the creations by another Japanese architecture firm, Hibinosekkei, which include a preschool that collects rain water so that kids can splash about in puddles and a kindergarten with interactive spaces that encourage movement and play.
Come to think about it, why can’t workplaces be designed with a similar ethos? After all, we spend a big part of our daily lives in an office. Isn’t it logical (for companies) and fair (to employees) that offices are designed to inspire creativity, encourage teamwork as well as facilitate concentration and efficiency?
Then again, given that today’s technology enables us to be more connected than ever before, do we even need to work from an office from Monday to Friday?