Children's House, Old Town North Alexandria Montessori School

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Virginia Tech


Montessori education is a pedagogy based on the development of a child's natural intuition and curiosity. The teachers lead rather than teach, motivating the student to explore through activity. The student's spontaneous exploration cannot be dictated or controlled by the environment; therefore, the architect's role is to create an experiential architecture, one that exploits the context of pedagogy, site, and material to create a series of spaces to inspire within the individual a feeling unique to each.

This thesis aims to create an environment that promotes the learning process through the design of a private Montessori school in Alexandria, VA on the Potomac waterfront. The concept of the thesis suggests that success in education can be associated with the school's environment and design. The building teaches by itself and improves the learning process by creating a comfortable and didactic space. Furthermore, designing an elementary school demands the architect to look at the world through the child's eyes since their scale is different from adult people. Architects should consider the scale of the spaces, both in terms of size and perception of a child, to efficiently use the space. And by incorporating design aspects that are usually disregarded in traditional schools, such as daylighting and natural ventilation, the school becomes less of an institution and more like a welcoming home, just as Maria Montessori described it.

"A more just and charitable attitude would create an environment in which children were free from the oppression of adults, where they could really prepare for life. The school should feel like a shelter from the storm or an oasis in the middle of a desert, a safe haven for the child's spirit." - Maria Montessori



School, Montessori, Children, Learning, Play