The Early Childhood Learning Center (3-4-5 year old’s) is a new major renovation on the first floor of the Col-legi Montserrat, a celebrated, innovative school located in Barcelona, Spain. Col-legi integrates the multiple-intelligence theories of Howard Gardner with their unique approach to project-based cooperative and student-directed learning. The new space was designed to allow for teaching and learning within a student-centered environment with spaces and furniture that could adapt to the students’ multiple intelligences.
While designing the transformation of the Schools’ existing “Cells and Bells” classroom spaces into the more open “Learning Community,” we thought back to watching the preschoolers’ morning ritual of swimming along the slippery vinyl floor like little fish (large motor skills). Thus the idea of “Flow” began to grow into our organizing concept of a flowing river that would link the commons spaces, each with its own special quality.
Flow, discovered by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is an optimal state of consciousness of being happy while doing things that stretch our skills and help us grow and fulfill our potential. In this state, people/children are completely absorbed in an activity, especially an activity which involves their creative abilities.
To create this special environment, we removed the existing corridors and classrooms, replacing them with an undulating pathway that passes through three distinct community play zones themed with the forms and colors inspired by the surrounding landscapes indigenous to Barcelona: the beach and ocean, the mountains (Montserrat) and the forest. These spaces are scaled for preschoolers.