Scholae Piae - Piarist School in Mosonmagyaróvár
The 21st Century School concepts revive the essential pedagogical declarations of St. Joseph Calasanz, the founder of the piarist order. Student-centred learning, personal development, communal learning, the integration of formal and non-formal education, professional and useful knowledge reflects the contemporary 21 CLD (21st Century Learning Design) and SCL (Student-Centered Learning) models. Collaboration, knowledge construction, self-regulation, skilled communication, real-world problem solving and innovation all consists of open questions, that can be answered through research and team-work. To serve this type of contemporary education the new Piarist School in Mosonmagyaróvár provides a versatile spatial structure for various learning methods and situations.
The Piarist Space represents the piarist presence through its spatial structure. Every feature serves personal encounters and diverse learning situations. Personal learning as well as small and large teamworks happen both inside, in covered in-between spaces and outside. The built fabric is woven into its social, urban and natural context. The structure of physical, spiritual, mental and communal dimensions open up to invite users and facilitate their relationships.
The Co-Operative Design process provided the continuous communication between the large spectrum of designers and clients. Children, teachers, families and piarist leaders all participated at various workshops to co-develop the spatial and pedagogical programs of this new school for 800 students. The designer community of the whole range of disciplines sherad their researches and professional experiences, to create an innovative environment both in its spatial use and technical solutions.
The Garrison and its premises are the last large area in the city that is big enough to provide suffincient space for the school. The currently used barroque building became too small for its growing community. The new location bears historical significance: it is a reminder of the monarchy’s developments at the turn of the 20th century and it was the scene of on of the largest massacres of the 1956 revolution. It has been abandonded ever since, waiting to be filled with joyous life once again. Therefore the school opens up it’s spaces, creating public facilities both outdoors and indoors (sport functions, library, cantine, chapel). The scheme offers two public squares with arcades at the entrances, and even the central court-yard opens up to the locals after school time.
The Court-Yard is the school’s spatial memory of its historical premises. It organizes life around it as the central meeting point. While it grew larger than before to accomodate everyone, it’s main attributes remained: the giant sycamore and the transformed ridge turret help maintaining the local piarist identity. Intensive contact with the environment is also important around the classrooms. The ground floor spaces open up towards the surrounding gardens, while the first floor spaces have a more abstract connection with nature through their skylights. Roofed terraces belong to every two classes to provide outdoor learning opportunities even in-between inside and outside.
The Learning Landscape offers various pedagogical situations to complement the classrooms. It’s alcoves are semi-private spaces for individual learning or teamwork, from small nooks and crannies for quiet reading to open amphitheaters and workshop spaces for whole classes. The learning landscape for the smallest ones is a protected world around their own atrium. For ages between 10 and 14 it provides larger learning bays shared by two classes with stronger physical and visual connections to the classrooms themselves, complemented with a “bon-fire” arrangement. For the secondary school it can turn into the primary learning space through completely merging together with the classrooms, and integrating a large open auditorium. Certain areas are designated for arts and crafts education or function as coffehouse-like discussion corners for language and communication training. Even the library’s open spaces merge into the learning landscape, which connects all the building annexes around the court-yard.
The Learning Clusters are specialised for the different age groups of users. The scales of these building annexes were determined by Dunbar’s number. The spaces follow the changing needs of their inhabitants, with a connection to dwelling: in the first years children have a home-like safe environment, between 10 and 14 the spatial distribution is based on the structure of tenement buildings with private spaces around a shared indoor atrium, while the secondary classrooms for pupils over 14 act as the highly mobile possibility structure of the city. Hence children, adolescents and young adults can grow into increasing freedom with its responsibilities through their spaces. The environment significantly changes every two years, for children to experience different learning schemes during their 12 years here. When moving to a new cluster, students spend their first two years on the ground-floor, then they move to the first floor. Parks around the clusters are also designed specifically for their age-groups: the garden for children below 10 is for play and gardening, for adolescents over 10 a wide range of sport fields and facilities open up, while the young adults can learn around a lake with the natural vegetation of the area surrounded. These environmental settings stimulate the connection between physical and mental development.
The Turning Classroom is the most significant innovation of the design. For the children who come from kindergardens, the L-shaped classroom from the last decades of school architecture is proven to be a useful solution. We transformed one end of the L into a soft alcove, which works as the space for tales, relaxation and play. For students over 10 pedagogic methods are becoming more dynamic, therefore we needed to develop new spaces. The geometry of the Turning Classroom is based on pedagogical, spatial psychological, school architecture and acoustic researches. We also build a prototype in 1:1 scale to fine-tune its final dimensions and details. The cyclic quadrilateral floor plan with two right angles provides different stimulations when facing different walls, each situation designed to serve a given pedagogical situation (frontal lecture, individual learning, small-scale teamwork or large-scale discussions).