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?

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5 replies on “Kid’s play

  1. Good questions you raise here Angelina. There has been a lot of talk about offices that encourage team work in my office building, e.g. open work spaces etc. but everyone seems to think a cubicle single office with proper walls is preferable! On the other hand, many agree that teleworking is a good option (and may even be necessary in over crowded work spaces).

    Looking forward to the Biennale! Won’t visit the kindergarden this time but will keep an eye in the future.

    1. I like open work spaces and find offices divided into cubicles rather depressing and unwelcoming/cold. I eagerly await the time when it becomes commonplace for employees (especially those who have desk-bound jobs) to work anywhere outside of the office. Imagine all the time that will be saved. Plus there’ll probably be less traffic –> less pollution and stress for commuters/motorists. Win-win situation for everyone!

      We were in Schaerbeek last weekend for the biennale and the highlight of our visits was Maison Strauven. We got lucky for the guide for our tour was the owner of the home and he had spent more than a decade working on restoring the building 🙂

  2. I love the schools you’ve highlighted in this post, Angelina, and I join you in wondering why we don’t put more effort into creating buildings that invite exploration and promote creativity. Perhaps we each need to be more vocal in our own workplaces and communities about the need for shared spaces that foster teamwork and productivity. Thanks for a great, thought-provoking post.

    1. Absolutely, we need to be more vocal. Also, the management needs to be open to changes in the workplace, adapt to the needs of their employees and embrace the possibilities (such as working from home) that didn’t use to be as feasible once upon a time.

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