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Can the School be imagined as a playful activity?

Eliza Yokina

At the beginning, when I and my colleagues laid the foundations of the De-a Arhitectura* cultural program, I had a clear idea in mind, namely that architec-ture is not a closed discipline, only for architects, but it must belong to culture, which is acquired through tradition and education and should be accessible to everybody. 

In the first year of the optional course  Let’s play Architecture in my City**, as a pilot lecture in several schools in Bucharest, we, as members of the asso-ciation, attended some classes in order to observe the flow and the reaction of the children, so that later we could adjust certain aspects of the course and of the process of teaching architecture to the children. For us, that period brought a lot of light on school and education, our hopes being confirmed and our fears dismantled. We were then witnessing, in classrooms full of curious and enthusi-astic children, a sense of strong energy in the air that instantly changed the space into a place of discovery, experiment and knowledge. Stories, images, but es-pecially experiments and games were instantly absorbed, with an extraordinary capacity for understanding. I was often amazed to find that children can work with abstract notions such as sustainability, section and plan, regulation and more, with an ease characteristic of college students. In a very short time it was made clear to us that sometimes complex ideas and concepts that we were trying to explain to the students through examples, schemes, words, exercises will be assimilated much more easily and directly through play and experimentation. A game has been invented for each subject of the course and the biggest challenge for architects was to extract the essence of a concept in order to generate that game or experiment.

We, as architects, come to reflect and express us in a theoretical, philosophical or professional-technical way. However, the main ideas and values   of the built environment form the foundations of urban society and therefore their direct availability is important for all of us.

The initiative to imagine architectural and built environment education in schools has involved challenges for everybody involved- teachers, architects, sometimes parents or school staff - except for students, who took the lessons as a playful activity. The usual sobriety of the architects towards the the pro-fession had to be transformed into flexibility, certainties into questions, theory into stories and values   into arguments. The formal judgment of the final result was abandoned in favor of the play. Architects have rediscovered not only the social dimension of the discipline, as promoters of good building principles, as integrators of the sciences of the built environment and, last but not least, as a mentor, they found themselves in a situation of doing by playing. The informal buid environmet education performed by architects in scools had impact not only  on the students and eventulally on the scools but also  in the opposite direction, towards the architects, who rediscovered this new role by extending their professional limit, only with the condition of accepting to play. 

*„De-a Arhitectura” working group was set up in 2011, when the six founding members gathered together to write the “ De-a arhitectura [Playing architecture] in my city” course. The working group operated until January 2013 as part of the cultural project of the Romanian Chamber of Architects – Bucharest  Branch. During this period, the group managed to test this new study subject in seven schools from Bucharest, with the help of eight volunteer architects. * * „Let’s play Architecture in my City”, optional course (curriculum at school’s decision or extracurricular) which is part of the national offer, approved by the Order of the Minister of National Education no. 4422 of 28 August 2014 for 3rd, 4th or 5th grade students.

liza Yokina is a founding member of the “De-a Arhitectura” Association - which brings the culture of the built environment to schools. In the past she founded SYAA architecture studio, currently being an associate architect in Cumulus office, founded in 2017 together with her partners. She has graduated UAIM Bucharest in 2004. A sensi-tive personality, careful with details, Eliza has a disposition for sensory reinterpreta-tions and towards architecture strengthened by a story. She is a three-time winner of the Bucharest Architecture Annual and awarded at the “Good Printing Gala” in 2012 with her book “Dreams About Houses”. Eliza seeks through architecture a form of relation-ship to people and life. She is an active presence in the artistic landscape of Bucharest. The projects she coordinates are noticed by their sensitivity and vigor, a mix that cap-tures the essence of Eliza, as a human being and as an architect.

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