A historical overview: form becomes feeling
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A historical overview: form becomes feeling book
The history of childhood and early childhood education is long and complex. It is argued about up to the present time, with important educationalists claiming their doctrines to have been the first or the most significant. If radical thought is at the very root of innovative ideas in education, then experimental pre-school systems have perhaps been the most radical, initiating ideas like ‘child-centred learning’, ‘open teaching’ and the ‘outdoor classroom’, which anticipated many later developments in general education. A number of landmark buildings reflected these progressive ideas. It is fair to say that they have on various levels acted as prototypes for progressive school design, as well as early-years education up to the present day. The aim of this chapter is to set out, in the briefest form, these key ideas as reflected in the visionary individuals and the environments that followed. This forms my own somewhat potted history of nursery architecture. I wish to describe some of the key buildings that illustrate the ideals in action, and reflect upon the more recent late-twentieth-century examples of architecture for early years which provide an ethical template for the next generation of nursery school architecture yet to be built. We also explain how some of the key educational pioneers managed to bring about a convergence of progressive educational and architectural thinking, thus creating environments which could, and often succeeded in, transforming the lives of children for the better. It is important to consider the nursery or kindergarten within the framework of a generally progressive and longstanding tradition based on two key principles. First, child welfare or protection with professional and hopefully loving care within a secure building; and second, accelerated child development in particular through the catalyst of an environment which supports learning through play. It was and remains a socialist concept based on fairness and equality of opportunity for the most needy in society. However, often in those early years it was adopted by middle-class visionaries who recognized the benefits which came to their own children. The view that the child’s earliest years are the most critical in defining his or her future success is now more widely understood.