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Individuality, Pedagogy and Empathy: The modern Belfast schools of R.S. Wilshere

Part 1 Dissertation 2015
Laura McClorey
Ulster University | UK
This dissertation explores the circumstances that led to the development of both education and school accommodation in Belfast. Through considering the work of R.S. Wilshere as Education Architect in the city from 1926-1954, this paper will analyse the progression from nineteenth century views on mass education to twentieth century pedagogical reform. Analysis of Avoniel Public Elementary School provides an insight to how the programme of Wilshere’s schools was developed through the adoption of revolutionary pedagogical thinking, as well as being influenced on a formal level by modern design such as that of Dutch architect Willem Dudok. Through the example of Avoniel an argument is made that Wilshere’s design is in line with nineteenth century Empathy Theory, as he strives to design in order to meet the needs of the developing child. The theory considered is Prolegomena to a Psychology of Architecture, as written by Heinrich Wölfflin in 1886. Whilst it cannot be stated that Wilshere was aware of this theory, this paper postulates that through his design of a school tailored to the wants and needs of the child, he permitted the child to relate to the school.
Laura McClorey

Tanja Poppelreuter
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