Fig: 1 – A world of the challenge for the specially-abled – An illustration
The dawn of new-age progressive schools was started around the 1900s by John Dewey as a movement of bringing up kids in lab-like schools where they learn by doing. The model helped break the stereotypes of traditional conservative methods of education which belief in teaching through books and preset lessons.
But with passing time, the curiosity of children is far by leaps and bounds. Questions raised in the classes today are far more expansive as a generation compared to previous centuries. From being students following a certain curriculum, their rigour is challenging every dimension of learning. These times push for new means to learn constantly, no matter what the subject is.
This becomes a privilege for schools that have people who are able and can be provided such exploratory means of teaching.
But children who are differently/specially-abled and the facilities available to them are never pushed so far – nor even looked at in the same light.
Fig: 2 – The Blind School: Pioneering People and Places– Credits
School for the blind has been around for a while in various informal to retrofitted scenarios. The first formal educational institute was established in 1795.
Before formally schooling blind children, only asylums were sought for these kids as the civilization did not know how to handle them. These schools had bare minimum braille scripts that only taught them manual crafts and menial work at large.
Today a lot of these blind children go to the same schools in their neighbourhoods that abled kids go to and are assisted by special faculties but still have the same environment and means.
The design attention that goes into such spaces is fairly limited to the users they are catering to.
What if we could bring equal curiosity and attention to the issue to this uncharted territory of barrier-free design? How would be a tailormade school for the blind be? How would the open/liberal values of today imbibe into the built fabric of these educational institutions?
Fig: 3 – Education for the blind can be more than braille – An illustration
Designing learning spaces for children with low or no sight requires a lot more attention than designing for abled kids.
Can there be various models for implementing such education environments that multiply their potential? Can design help us identify modules/methods of upgrading existing schools for differently-abled teaching? Can we implement a new kind of pedagogy for the users in consideration?
The challenge here is to design a school for the blind that engages – promotes - teaches almost as good as a general school for the abled children.
Taking into account the parallels between these learning environments can’t be equal, but exercise looks more towards raising the bar than to meet it at equal capacity. The design must also focus on methods to mentally stimulate the kids through other sensory ways.
There are various forms of learning a child deserves and should learn, but this varies from place to place. In this challenge, we anchor this on a very fundamental level of universal learning and build it from there onwards. The design process can also look at picking a part of K-12 education to include in their learning framework.
The choice or the framework of education method is up to the participants. While picking an existing education method, explain the reason and your adaptation based on it.
Physical: How the body can be trained for wellness using various activities. How children can be taught what’s good to eat, etc.?
Mental: How traditional learning can be translated into more fun/experiential ways of developing reasoning?
World: How can children discover their connection to the planet, nature, culture and the world around them?
Creativity: How can a child explore learning by doing things and exploring how things work by doing?
Art forms: How can a child explore various forms of art forms.
Eg. Dance, Music, Painting, etc.
Evolution: How these forms of teaching will constantly evolve with time considering the larger span of time.
The site for this concept school is located in the Krylatskoye district in Moscow, Russia. It is a green neighbourhood with bustling establishments around it. With two adjacent streets running next to the triangular site, the site has very good accessibility from the road. River Moskva is right next to the site in the north direction.
Site area – 19,788 sqm
Max. FAR – 1
Ground coverage - 40%
Height restrictions - 15 m
Coordinates - 55°46'14.1"N 37°25'42.0"E
Fig: 4 – Site Plan
Children (Suggested): Age group of 5yrs - 12yrs - (150 - 200 children)
(Expandable to 400).
Educators: 20 years and above (Quantity on designer’s research)
Managers: 4-5 managers including principals and supervisors.
Support: 5-7 support personnel or more depending on the design.
Services: 5-15 service personnel or more depending on the design.
Externals: Any visiting staff or parents for events or daily visits.