We have always been aware of how much the culture of inhabiting a place influences the personal identity of each individual, and in fact this awareness became one of the principles of our educational philosophy, so the process underlying an environmental artwork appeared particularly interesting to us.

The artists who create these works listen to the places and form a relationship with the space, the light, the silences and sounds, the people who inhabit or just pass through them; they attune themselves to the place, interpreting and imagining. This empathy, the prelude to an intense relationship with the place, a cultured reading and a personal interpretation that is often completely new and divergent, inspired us to propose an analogous process to the children to gain a better understanding of the children’s knowledge-building approaches in relation to a spatial dimension, hoping to glean from this research some ‘snippets’ of experience and knowledge of the children’s creative processes.

The children explored the Loris Malaguzzi International Centre while construction on the site was still underway. They chose a space that was interesting to them and designed a work of art, a gift conceived in harmony and in dialogue with the chosen place, respecting its identity while at the same time modifying it.

NOTES FOR A CHOREOGRAPHY

Among the many movements children use to explore space, running is the one they use most; a way of exploring in which perceptions and empathy are strongly tuned in to a place’s characteristics.

Children’s words convey to us all the power, sense of freedom and emotion of running, and also their competency and ability to ‘interpret’ sensory and imaginary evocations, and embark on the writing of sequences of forms and movements, co-ordinated and developed for a choreographical composition.

IF COLUMNS WERE…

The white columns are lovely but too similar. We need to let people understand each one is a column. (Pietro)

Children love communities where subjective qualities are recognised and visible. Two groups of children aged 4-6 were authors of projects whose common genesis, in an architectural space featuring several columns, was recognition of each column’s right to its own specific nature. Different forms and materials were used in the 4-year-old group and the idea of garments with which the columns can take on different appearances, thereby varying the architectural space’s general appearance, in the older group.

THE STAIRWAY VOICE

Sounds produced on a stairway by rhythmical steps, repeated jumps, running and voices are the most vivid memory of a group of children after visiting the Loris Malaguzzi International Centre.

Through re-listening, sound narratives, discussion and drawn interpretations, the children work on the sounds they have heard, slowly developing competency in distinguishing one from another and creating variations. They reach the point of conceived and directly ‘playing’ short compositions dedicated to, and in the end also donated to, the stairway itself.

SHADOW STORIES

In this project children pick out the shadow of a window as an element conferring ‘identity’ on a place; a border, but also a relation between inside and out.

The initially unsuspected movement of the shadow is investigated and re-worked into the story of a life – expectancy, birth, growth, the shadow’s full development, decline and passing away.

By also embracing the aesthetic, narrative and ‘relational’ dimensions, children’s scientific theories give a more profoundly poetic and vital nature to the place itself.