“Da Vinci” STEAM Hub.
client“Hristo Botev” School
usersPrimary and secondary school students and teachers
Before our intervention, the school had already created a STEM center on the lower floor. Despite its modern appearance, the space failed to provide a truly integrated experience for the innovative teachers and students: it did not include arts as a crucial discipline for a truly integrated renaissance type of person that the school strived to develop–the modern “Da Vinci” student–and teacher, as well. A challenge the school continued to face was that some teachers continued to lecture in an isolated manner, failing to recognise the links between all subjects – a characteristic of project-based and interdisciplinary education. The “my classroom is my fortress” attitude not only affected the space but also the dynamics of the teachers team as a whole.
A key task for this space was integrating the school’s library and updating it from a room with stored books to a social place, where students not only come to read, but to work on projects, develop their interests and collaborate.
Last but not least, despite the high goals the school had set for itself, it lacked most of the necessary funding to transform the whole space it had designated for the new “Da Vinci” STEAM Hub, so the entire project had to be designed so that it could be executed in stages, depending on future state and municipality funding programs.
We designed and executed an immersive co-creative process with the school’s learning community, during which our team came up with more than 15 working scenarios for the space. We finally settled on a design that not only fulfilled the school’s goals and challenges but also was in line with the heavily limiting fire safety regulations.
Da Vinci STEAM Hub is not only a flexible ground that enables interdisciplinarity and project-based learning. We extended the notion of “STEAM” and designed spaces whose function is purposefully blurred and left open to the imagination of the teachers and students.
The first phase of the project was completed in March 2023: a cutting-edge laboratory and a studio for creating stop-motion animation and podcasts. Their placement next to each other emphasizes the connection between art and science and gives a floor for scenarios where the result of science experiments can be narrated as an animation or failed experiments can be analyzed in podcast-like discussions.
The rest of the center still remains to be constructed, pending financing from the state. It contains the following spaces.
The foyer is not only a welcoming space for gathering and socializing, but also a creative study where students can explore math and science in a playful way. The floor is especially graphed into margins of ten centimeters – and students can build geometric models on top of it using colorful soft seating cubes as building blocks. Our goal was to enable play and body movement and this is why we decided to make the floor the biggest canvas of this space, inviting teenagers on the floor and encouraging them to explore proportion and form. The entire ceiling turns into a display area for 3d models thanks to the metal frames below the acoustic ceiling, which also give the space an industrial and creative vibe.
The Makerspace is located right next to the foyer and invites the curious student right in, thanks to a wide glass door. The space is flexible with abundant storage space and can extend into the open space. We designed it to be open to the center, showcasing the creative processes that happen inside and in that way engaging more students to join.
The White room is located right next to the makerspace and is an unprogrammed space for experimentation and brainstorming. Its design is based on the idea of “leaving a trace”: its walls and ceiling are white, the furniture consists of just an amphitheater. The idea is to free the space and to provide a blank canvas for the mind. All of the surfaces of the White room are covered with a special whiteboard marker paint.
The Library is a space that embodies the spirit of Da Vinci: a space for immersion, concentrated learning and play. It is not meant to be quiet: we designed it with the purpose of making it a social place for gathering. Its centerpiece - an oval structure that acts as a stage from one part, and is a cozy “nest” for reading with large cushions, divides the library into two spaces: a quiet study with separate reading nooks and a mutlifunctional hall with ample tables and presentation spaces for large groups of students.
To further the connection between all the different spaces, we introduced all-glazed doors and large windows that had several purposes. First - all the activity in the center was evidenced - lab experiments, recording of animation, reading, brainstorming happen all at the same time and are visible to everybody; it invigorates the curiosity of all students. But most of all, this high visibility pushed all teachers to experience the space as no longer their classroom box, where they ruled unseen. Instead, this created a healthy competition to come up with more interesting activities to capture the students’ imaginations