There are people all over the world working in the field of built environment education (BEE) for children. Their backgrounds and their ‘host’ organisations differ widely, from education officers in museums, dedicated architecture centres and the wider cultural/third sector, through design and planning practitioners working either independently or via their professional bodies, to teachers in schools and kindergartens. In many cases these practitioners work with little knowledge of others in the field and they rarely have the opportunity to learn from these other experiences or to share their practice.
Over the last 10 years, however, there has been a series of international events that have sought to bring together people working in disparate areas of the field. From the intensive ‘Soundings’ workshops of the Alvar Aalto institute, dedicated to supporting young practitioners in children’s architecture education (2004–2007), to a recent international symposium, ‘get involved’, held at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2012, these well-attended events reflect a strong appetite for support and sharing of ideas, knowledge and experience. These events also provide evidence first of the existence and second of the developing strength of the field.
Looking to existing literature, the field is more difficult to discern. Other than the resulting proceedings from such events, there is scarcely any widely accessible literature published in English for an international audience that showcases what is happening around the world.
This research project will result in a book aiming to fill this gap. The book will consolidate and define the field of built environment education for children, through a grounding in the field’s historical roots and an examination of the state of the art internationally. It will give practitioners both a symbolic sense of identity and belonging to a valued field of work and also to provide a practical handbook of examples, critically analysed in order to inform future practice. At the same time the book will open up this field of experience to researchers, to support empirical research where there has so far been very little. Part of the way in which the book will achieve these aims will be to share the local experiences and insights of experienced practitioners or ‘movers-and-shakers’ in the field.
The book will focus primarily on an overview of relevant policy and practice in Europe (including UK) and USA (where most of the formalised BEE is happening), exploring a few other geographical contexts to indicate the diversity and breadth of practice internationally. This overview will consist of a survey of policy and specific examples of practice, structured around the types of bodies organising and facilitating the BEE programmes for children (e.g. museums, out of school children’s clubs, architecture and environment centres, universities, schools, NGOs, networks, trusts and heritage agencies), highlighting specific ‘beacon’ organisations or programmes within each sector. These beacon examples will be analysed and presented in-depth, via descriptive accounts which reflect the ‘speciality’ and expertise of the organisation or progamme. The case studies are intended to provide readers with insights about how success was achieved, and the conditions that supported this success at local/regional/national, even international levels where appropriate. The beacon cases will be chosen to represent a diverse range of countries, conditions and organisation-types, including varied working practises.
In addition to this core analytical overview of international policy and practice, there will be an introductory summary of the theory, historical roots and the existing research on children’s BEE. The book will conclude by drawing out the major themes and lessons from the survey and case studies, identifying areas for future research and policy- development and exploring the implications of the survey for future practice.
Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
Prof. Dr. Angela Million
Prof. Dr. Rosie Parnell (NU)
Asst. Prof. Dr. Marta Brković Dodig