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New Horizons: Woven School

Part 1 Project 2011
Kit Stiby Harris
Newcastle University, UK
“For children, … being of all others the least corrupted by custom, or borrowed opinions, one might reasonably imagine that in their minds … innate notions should lie open fairly to every one’s view ...”
John Locke

The Montessori pedagogy releases infants from the strictures of curriculum, instead aiming to release the individual’s potential. The environment of a Montessori school, therefore, should give that potential room to grow: it should be safe and secure, but with arms thrown wide open to the world. This Montessori school, situated in one of the UK’s most disadvantaged areas, aims to provide a unique learning environment for 200 of Gateshead’s children.

Through a thorough investigation of the Montessorian pedagogy, and the socio-cultural history of the site, I resolved to provide a school for a community. The investigation began with Gottfried Semper’s notion that the woven infill walls of the primitive hut were representative of communal interaction, and ideas of ‘presence’ in architecture led to observations of how a bird builds its nest, and the instinct to stack seen in every child. The outcome of this research was the development of a child’s nest – an educational environment that can be created by an individual child, and therefore becomes a physical manifestation of that child’s environmental intention. This in turn formed the basis for a unique tectonic system for the school itself. As a common tectonic language is used throughout, at all scales, the children are able to weave their own spaces into the fabric of the school.

Kit Stiby Harris


Ms Diana Leitch
Dr Hentie Louw
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