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Tema - arquitectura – niños/as
Tema - Education

Fernández Palomares, F. (Coord.) “Sociología de la Educación”, Madrid: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2003.

What Can We Learn from the City?

City in an Egyptian perspective. Author: Virginia Navarro

The city grants us social importance through its spaces, and the categorisation of those spaces educates citizens. So when a fenced-in play area is designed for children, for example, with swings and a rubber floor, children learn that they are socially separated from the adult world, that the main design parameter is their safety and that their fun involves the acquisition of playground furniture that can be found repeatedly in any urban setting, as if each item were a fashionable toy. There’s therefore no identification of the children and their play activities with the neighbourhood or the surroundings. On the contrary, they are imbued with a kind of globalised vision of common space.

That globalisation is reiterated and reinforced in adult life. Local businesses are gradually disappearing, giving way to international franchises which occupy urban locations where beauty, in an irresistible, fatal turn of events, has become a consumer good. The urban harmony that’s taken so many centuries to achieve is now a product that sells. This pushes autochthonous residents away to new locations where, dispossessed, they realise that the emblematic spaces in their city can be marketed and turned into settings completely devoid of their old, familiar immutability to cater to the fleeting caprices of passing visitors.

However, any excessive swing in a given direction spontaneously generates its own pockets of resistance. We’re seeing, for example, how minority groups (disabled people, old people, residents’ associations, women’s and children’s organizations) are vindicating a democratic space where the city will treat each and every one of its inhabitants as equals. At the same time, schools – aware of cities’ educational potential and their capacity to transmit values and opportunities – are fomenting the notion of “educational cities” in an attempt to generate a sense of social commitment.

At a time when labels abound, it’s important to place this initiative, the founding charter of which was signed in Barcelona in 1990, in context. Its main objectives include some interesting proposals:

  • Creation of an egalitarian public system which transcends school boundaries and includes all educational actors.
  • A project for the whole city, structured to allow decision-making at local level.
  • Bringing teachers, the principal human assets in education planning, into close contact with the community.
  • Improving family-centred education practices by developing forms of social support for them.[1]

All these objectives are aimed at developing sustainable, co-educational cities where social justice and cohesion are based on equal rights; where education equips people to keep learning throughout their lives and to transform information into knowledge; where illiteracy is combated and where citizens are culturally active.

One experimental initiative based on the idea of the city as an educational space was the radical yet fascinating proposal developed by the anarchists in the 1960s. Paul Goodman (USA) argued that the most important education takes place outside the school environment, and proposed using public buildings and spaces directly as places of learning. This meant the disappearance of classrooms and the use of factories, museums, parks, etc., as settings for social interaction where topics of interest to small groups of pupils (not more than 20) could be discussed. Similarly, both in his article Schools No Longer and in his contributions to the book Education Without Schools (Buckman,1973), Colin Ward (UK) proposed that learning should take place outside school buildings, using the urban environment as an educational resource and creating a school not demarcated by spatial boundaries.

Today, at a time when education is generally accepted to be a holistic undertaking and schools demand the collaboration of communities and local governments as a crucial component in the teaching process, it is perhaps especially necessary to show our support for the egalitarian, cultural and respect-based values of our cities by using the resources they offer us. Because the metropolis will continue to educate, whether or not we actively intervene in the process, and at the moment the highest bidders are imposing their economic muscle.

Text translated by Andrew V. Taylor
Notas de página

Fernández Palomares, F. (Coord.) “Sociología de la Educación”, Madrid: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2003.

Es arquitecta por la ETSA de Sevilla (2003) y Máster en Arquitectura y Patrimonio Histórico (2008). Primer premio por su fin de carrera en la XXI Edición del Premio Dragados. Se forma en el estudio de Ricardo Alario, con quien comparte actualmente actividad profesional . En 2011 funda junto a Tibisay Cañas, Laura Organvídez, Ana Parejo y Sara Parrilla cuartocreciente arquitectura, una iniciativa creada con el objetivo de mejorar los tres espacios principales en los que se desarrolla la niñez (casa, escuela y ciudad) a través de la investigación, los talleres de arquitectura, la realización de proyectos y el diseño de objetos. Actualmente desarrolla un tesis sobre el espacio de juego exterior en la infancia, dirigida por Ángel Martínez García-Posada. Ha escrito y presentado diversas comunicaciones sobre el playground y el juego del niño en la ciudad.

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