Maria Montessori was an Italian educator who worked between the 19th and 20th centuries. Her experiences with children from the peripheries of Rome culminated in the development of an educational method based on child-led activity and the teacher’s observation and support. The “Montessori method” laid the foundation for what childhood education would be like in the twentieth century and the adaptation of school spaces to a new pedagogical concept, in which the child was at the center of learning. With Montessori, education ceased to be exclusively the responsibility of religious institutions, and school buildings changed forever. Montessori schools now number in the thousands around the world and have remained very active in the implementation of new pedagogical strategies, accompanied, of course, with a continuous critical thinking on the physical space where learning takes place.
One of the architects who made more relevant contributions in this regard was the Dutch architect Herman Hertzberger, who put into practice many of his thoughts at the Montessori school of Delft.
Hertzerberger’s buildings, whether for school use or for other programs, contain aspects that later have been central to contemporary architecture. One of them is the building’s ability to vary its configuration and functionality over time. Another is the ability to combine private and intimate spaces with others for collective use whose versatility favours social encounter without determining the functions they can hold or how they can be used and lived. Both aspects connect deeply with the “Montessori” vision of what a space for pedagogy should be. Above all, Hertzerberger’s buildings always incorporate the human dimension and are capable, with a calculated complexity, of creating rich inner micro-worlds that constantly stimulate creativity.
In Delft’s school, the architect also wanted the user, in this case, the child, to be able to understand the construction, even participate in it, as if it were an assembly game. That is why he chose to use small and manageable construction elements such as the concrete block: a prefabricated and inexpensive piece that could adopt structural functions, as bearing walls, when, once assembled, they were filled with concrete. The concrete block can also be left as it is, with no coating or finish, facilitating the understanding of the construction system of the spaces, once the process is finished.
Through these and many other strategies, Delft’s school becomes a great built device for playing and learning; the interaction and relationship that the child establishes with architecture is one more element of the creative stimulation that the Montessori method pursues in its students.
More information in: https://100of20.innovaconcrete.eu/delftse-montessorischool-delftse-vereniging-voor-montessori-onderwijs-delft-association-for-montessori-education