school in beauty, an example of architecture for the child

The school in beauty, an example of architecture for the child

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Has after his residence, one of the first places where the child apprehends space is school kindergarten first, then primary school, finally secondary school.

But were these premises where children, young people (and often adults!) spend many years of their life, always designed to familiarize them with the spatial and aesthetic qualities that characterize quality architecture? We are going to explore a time when we wanted to make the school building an element of education in itself. An education towards the outside, by the location, the choice of the style of the facade and the monumentality; an education towards the interior, towards the teachers, towards the students whose aesthetic sense we wanted to develop, to whom we wanted to give an example of moral beauty and increase confidence in their own abilities

On the construction and interior arrangement of the rooms…

One of the oldest texts on the subject for our country, entitled ” On the construction and interior ordering of school rooms “, was printed in Leyden, in French, without an author’s name, in 1818.

 The author poses the problem directly: it is impossible for a teacher to teach well in a school room whose poor construction makes any good interior arrangement impracticable.. Besides the buildings threatening ruin, what are these poorly organized premises? Rooms that are too narrow, badly laid out, dark, unhealthy, without the necessary furniture (tables, benches, cupboards, black painted boards). Rooms where students breathe an unhealthy air, where they are either sitting or standing but are in any case crowded and have no space to write without embarrassment, on their knees. Not only do you risk losing your health and learning nothing there, but, he continues, the master himself will not have the strength to exercise there with zeal and ambition. Sufficient space both in width and in length and in height, the shape of the room, the appropriate furniture, good ventilation, lighting, are the essential qualities of school premises, even before Belgium. A high ceiling height (which constitutes a hindrance today) is then recommended, because it allows good air circulation. As for the humidity, coming from the ground (covered with bricks or stone) or from the walls, it must be fought. Lack of air, light, humidity, overcrowding cause headaches and indispositions, but above all contribute to the spread of contagious diseases that frightened our ancestors so much before the progress of medicine in the XXth century. In addition to keeping the child in good physical health – that’s the least! –the school must also contribute to the development of its intellectual faculties by creating an atmosphere conducive to intellectual development and not to melancholy or the confusion of ideas . But the school must still contribute to the propagation of good morals, to combat immorality by accustoming the youth to the practice of all that is decent and praiseworthy.

From this first text concerning the architecture of the school in our country, a relationship is established between the school premises and the behavior of the child. If there is disorder in the school, there will be disorder in the heads of the children. The building itself should lead by example. Thus it is written: Instead of inspiring docility, submission, obedience, good humor, civility, love of work, order and cleanliness, vices contrary to these social and Christian virtues will cast deep roots . It is therefore through the organization of the school room that we hope to obtain moral behavior in keeping with the spirit of the times.

After this long preamble, the pamphlet gives the directions to follow in laying out and organizing a suitable school room . This adjective takes on its importance because, throughout the 19th century , all the qualities required by suitable will be characterized . The dictionary of the Academy indicates that “suitable” means conforming to the norm, conforming to usages and rules, appropriate to a function. The application of the law indicates that to be suitable, a school must be large enough and meet all the educational and hygienic conditions recognized as essential for the good and complete organizationof education

Monthaye P.-A., Methodical and reasoned legislation on…. It must be located in a clean place, cleared of any dangerous object, well ventilated, therefore high since the air there is usually freer and purer . We therefore want to avoid humidity which is concentrated in low places. The facade should face east. The reason is not given but we have always preferred lateral lighting coming from the east or the west rather than from the north or the south. Finally, the path to school must be level and passable in all weathers. Of course, there must be  secret places  , sanitary facilities, exteriors until well into the 20th century .century, to avoid odors. The room must be proportionate to the greatest number of pupils that the municipality can provide. For a very long time, school was only attended in the countryside for a few months a year, when the parents did not feel the need for extra hands to help them with the work in the fields. The school was for the winter and the dead time of agriculture. The temperature must be  moderate there , especially not suffocating but not too cold and above all, without drafts, dangerous for the health of children often struck by respiratory diseases. Make no mistake, if the temperature of the school is not mentioned here, during a good part of the 19th centurycentury, it was 14°! Sufficient foundations, good drainage of rainwater, thick walls two bricks thick, a good floor rather than cold slabs, large windows whose upper part could be opened (sash or tilting frame) to illuminate the room while avoiding the famous drafts, roller blinds for the summer, walls painted in light colors, fans to facilitate air exchange. At that time, for ventilation, square holes flush with the floor were recommended, which closed and opened at will.

Universal Exhibition of Paris 1878. See among others:…because we then adopt the long bench and the long table slightly inclined but leaving enough space for each student so that he is not bothered by his neighbour. All painted in a light color, preferably pearl gray. As for the teacher, he must be able to pass between the benches to control the work. You also need black boards, ancestors of the blackboard and individual slates for writing. As for heating, we recommend a kind of central heating before the letter: pipes heated from a hearth located outside the classroom. Otherwise, a stove will do, but away from the students and protected by a fence. To complete the installation: coat racks in the vestibule and not in the classroom where they would bring the miasma from the outside, in addition to the bad smells. The recommended teaching then being mutual teaching, all the children are gathered in the same room, sometimes separated by light partitions, since the teacher must be able to move from one group to another.

It was a little later, in 1823, still under the Dutch regime, that the State made financial means available to the provinces to build and improve rural schools, but above all, the municipality had to prove that it made efforts in the interests of public education. This decision will have little success

Administrative Memorial of Brabant, 1823.but the fold will be taken and the State, like the Provinces moreover, will continue to finance the construction of schools, according to a variable percentage.

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