Creating the right physical environment- learning from the Reggio Emilia Approach by Linda Thornton
28th February 2017
In the Reggio Approach to early childhood there is a synergy between the design features of the infant-toddler centres and preschools and the pedagogy of the approach. The architectural aspects of circularity, relationships and communication reflect the values of the educational philosophy.
Connectivity and visibility
The concepts of visibility and connectedness underpin the internal designs of the early childhood centres, linking internal spaces together and connecting the inside with the outside. The piazza is the central space of the centre shared by children, parents and teachers. The piazza reflects the image of Reggio Emilia, a place for encounters and journeys which changes with the rhythm of the day, the week and the time of the year. The atelier, or studio, classrooms, dining room and kitchen are physically attached to the piazza and are visible from it.
Being able to see in and out of rooms helps us to see ourselves as part of a wider community. When centres in the UK are being designed, or refurbished, it is possible to look at different ways of dividing off rooms and spaces. Walls can be half-height, made partly of transparent materials or have internal windows. Porthole windows in doors, at child and adult height, can give glimpses of what is happening beyond the home base. Doors can be replaced by open archways or ‘saloon’ doors.
Furnishings and materials
In the early childhood centres in Reggio Emilia colours are subtle and are chosen to give a varied landscape. Vibrant colours are used as signature effects and are usually reserved for large structural pieces of equipment including large pieces of furniture, kaleidoscope mirrors and dressing up capsules.
Materials and finishes are carefully selected for their aesthetic, sensorial and functional qualities to create an environment which is culturally appropriate for babies and young children.
(Adapted from ‘Understanding the Reggio Approach’ and ‘Bringing the Reggio Approach to your early years practice’ by Linda Thornton and Pat Brunton)
Reflections on Learning and Morleys Early Years offer a full range of high quality, furnishings and equipment suitable for early years settings and schools who are inspired by the Reggio Approach. They also offer a free design and space planning service.
Pop along to Linda’s seminar at Childcare Expo London on Saturday 4th March to find out more about the approach.