Young Innovators Lab.
client1 “Nikola Vaptsarov” Primary School
usersPrimary school students and teachers
This was our very first project and the reason why we became interested in educational spaces in the first place. The school received a grant by the America for Bulgaria Foundation in order to create a modern laboratory and adjacent spaces.
The greatest challenge for the school was they had no model for how a modern school lab should function and feel like. Most school renovations at the time were mere touch-ups: repainting the walls and buying new furniture and technological equipment. However, the school knew they were searching for something more than a face lift.
What is more, the selected existing spaces were challenging; they consisted of a cheerless corridor, two separate small classrooms and a storage space. Structural restrictions made it difficult to imagine somehow connecting the spaces, and fire safety restrictions prohibited the placement of furniture in the corridors.
Yet, the children had shared their ideas about the space in drawings - they dreamed of having real animals in the center, being able to not just study, but also play and have a cozy space where they could relax, read and socialize with one another. They imagined this small and constricted space full of life and meaningful learning - how to achieve their ideas in the problematic space became our primary challenge.
We transformed the space radically by creating large connections between the separate classrooms and the corridor that allowed the space to function as a whole organism. Still, the space offers seclusion as a sliding glass door allows the teachers and students to have multiple simultaneous activities. The static storage furniture is situated in the periphery while the tables and chairs are light and stackable in order to be moved around by the children. The whole space responds quickly to the teaching and learning needs.
We worked in a close collaboration with a structural engineer, who developed a solution on how to create the large openings and reinforce the existing walls. Also, through the help of a fire safety expert, we also had a solution on how to allow the corridor to be treated not as an evacuation space; it became a relax zone with furniture, which was a huge win for the design and later became the children’s most loved space.
Our greatest concern was to create a cozy feeling for the children instead of the usual cold soullessness of classrooms. We integrated body movement as an essential part of the learning process and for that reason the furniture offers different options for changing the posture: light chairs, benches, poufs, little mattresses and carpets for sitting on the floor.
The so-called “rabbit’s hole” stands out in the space – a hiding place and climbing frame with a built-in aquarium. The swings in the relax area also invite kids to play and move, which turned out to effectively impact their ability to focus in class.
What is more, we invited nature into the center, just as the children had dreamed of. Besides the large-scale aquarium with salt-water fish, the kids can learn about biology through observing parrots, snakes and iguanas, whose cages are embedded in the walls. All this life, coupled with natural materials in the furniture and the diversity of spaces, managed to create a next-level learning experience in the new center. It warms our hearts that even today, children do not want to go home after their lessons have finished and instead prefer to stay in “their space”.
Wall illustration: Andrea Popyordanova
Photos: Svetoslav Anastasov