“Argo is the object the only cause of which is the name and without any other identitybut the form.”
The most important moment, the moment of turn-around in the social conception of the child and childhood, or that which it should have been, is the one where Rousseau presented the idea on the child as a unique individual with only a few social preconceptions. This moment is important for two reasons for understanding the present experience of the child and childhood by the adults. The first reason being that at that time for the first time children public acting has been identified, and the second one that by defining the child as an individual having only a few social preconceptions the attention of the public has been diverted to the space for action and an appeal has been sent out for systematic influence upon the development of the child. That which distinguishes the enlightening concepts on child development from the pre-enlightenment ones is the spirit of humanism which by its passage through enlightenment and later through romanticism gave rise to our present experience of the child and childhood and, actually which is more important, gave rise to structuring the ideals on childhood.
The space of architecture is the space with a potential for accumulation of conflicts since architecture is the place where a human ideal becomes tangible, the system visible and sensation imposed. That is not a particular issue when any other function of architecture is concerned, but when it concerns kindergarten designing, the issue become multiplied since there are many levels of expectations, namely many levels of meaning inscription. Kindergarten designing might be the only place of architecture where there is no imperative of (object) representation, in which almost every mission of architecture ends, but the focus has been shifted to the space of imagination/fantasy of the user (subject).
Regardless whether it concerns one or two prevailing approaches to kindergarten design: techno-functional, structural-system (Apollonian) or narrative, intuitive (Dionysian) approach, an architect can easily be restrained by the chains of the expected, understood sentiment for the child and the ideal of the childhood. The consequence of such expectation being a number of challenges. Before an architect there is a request for imagination, structuring the space which would represent a safe framework and at the same time inspire the imagination of a child. Imaginativeness of an architect about spatial potential for the imagination of a child necessarily leads to deterritorialization in the most essential way, not only in the spatial maps of the society, but much more important – the most powerful lines of division are those which have been drawn in the sphere of experiencing, the most radical ones are fantasmatic extractions.
Creating specific material culture for children and drawing a line between the lives of the adults and the children has constituted a radical change in the western society. Various sociologists have designated this drawing of the line as problematic and subject to criticism. In kindergartens children are rewarded with freedom of spending the time and freedom of expression which does not exist anywhere in the educational system. The only area which in our experiencing sphere by idealization remained the area of complete freedom and compulsory fantasy, is childhood. That fact is the starting point or the stumbling block in kindergarten design.
How to resolve superimposition of conceptions of something that is plausibly the only field of freedom, a space belonging to the child (which in that our imaginary has radically been separated from the space of regulations, the space of an adult)? (Superimposing of conceptions is at the same time both a cause and the consequence of relocation of the idea on childhood and the spatial frameworks for it from the worlds that belong to an adult). It is almost as if a need has been imposed to resist starting to play in the space of freedom and innocence so that it actually would stay the place of freedom for those it has been intended for. Calling über architect for help. The über architect, not in the Merlo-Python’s sense of style, namely “the spirit of design”, but in the sense of the power of critical thinking, should be the constructor of the response to challenge. Out of all possible directions of movement, in this case, somehow the most sincere one seems to be that one following the structuralistic idea of Roland Barthes, which thus becomes über architect referring to response. And indeed: should one anyway attempt to go further than Barthes’ ship Argo? Cause – name (conception, symbol, sign), identity – form? It leads to comprehension of the house as a sign, but not only at one place – at the place of the name where all narrations should start and end and as machine/system/structure which enable the corresponding spatial potential for progressing of the world of the ideal childhood as constructed by a child. Fantasies of the adults about childhood, numenian frozen images of memory, may only confine the child’s space of freedom. Threading along this path, the formula prescribed by über architect, enriched with the understanding of actual needs of the users is system/structure/machine free of meaning. Thus, there remains the house as a neutral frame, without addition of second class events.
Contemplating in that direction, the literal narratives, as alternative manner of structuring architecture, really seem problematic if not also useless if the goal is to avoid additional subjection of conceptions. “… there is no such thing as architecture for children.” said Christoph Mackler.
Balancing among the unavoidable hierarchizations of spatial entities, one’s own fantasies, real functional requirements and possibilities provided by circumstances, it is impossible not to ask oneself whether there existed anything that could be designated as architecture for children? If discussed within the domain of Disney worlds, and if one is guided by the directions of the über architect, then there is none. Insisting on the metaphors and culturally constructed frames in which children should construct their own theory of time and space quite certainly does not lead towards resolution of the superimposed conceptions. Giving up the possibility of creation of romantic, surfeited architectural stories, the system has actually taken the power over the being and built an identity. There remained only the possibility of neutral, sincere, pure, easy to read structure which truly serves the realization of the potentials of building the ideal world of childhood – building by the child.
In the subsequent analysis of the concrete and specific case of the kindergarten in Block 67 in Novi Beograd, in respect to other four locations, that which initially was an intuitive reaction to the environment in the end proved to be the affirmation of the correctness of the standpoint with an additional possibility of analysis. Namely, the intuitive reaction to the environment (immediate vicinity of the heavy intensity traffic route and rather wide profile) was “turning the back” to the traffic route and writing the space in the circle. Yet, the circle is not closed, the system is not introvert. In a strange way, compressing the intuitive reaction to the given and the analysis guided by the idea on sufficiency of the issue resolution in the key of understanding Barthes’ ship Argo, the Dionysian and Apollonian principle has been reconciled. An additional, at the end of designing process made up possibility of perception, not that significant in terms of value, as much simply interesting, is the fact that the building is a synthesis, in shaped, formal sense, of the three rudimentary geometrical forms: (circle (symbol of infiniteness) triangle (symbol of aspiration) AND rectangle (symbol of integrity). According to Friedrich Fröbel, one of the first theoreticians of education, before leaving them to explorations in the outside world, children should first master exactly those three forms. That is the only place where it is possible to read the written, however not narrative, meaning.