Architectural spaces within neuroscience and pedagogy
The idea that learning processes, memorization and cognitive development can be supported by an adequate formal configuration and by a suitable organization of the architectural spaces, is the basis of the interdisciplinary approach that emerges from merging the fields of neuroscience, pedagogy, environmental psychology and architecture, and of which Tuned Lombardini22, directed by Davide Ruzzon, has long been the interpreter and representative.
We have often stated the importance of three aspects that must be taken care of by the architectural design of school environments, namely:
– Emotional strengthening;
– Freedom of movement;
– Sense of belonging to the territorial context
For the meeting organized by the Order of Engineers and Architects of Milan, we retrace here some fundamental issues.
If it is true, in fact, as Emma Buondonno argues, that architecture is the result of the integration of elements of empathic nature, such as the original idea of the project, the purpose and meanings, and of physical elements such as materials, construction techniques, the structure of a building and its functions, it can only be emphasized that learning processes – not only knowledge, but also and above all cognitive, emotional and relational skills – are the result of the integration between the subject engaged in learning – because knowledge is built and not transmitted – and the place where the subject acts and interacts. (Gomez-Paloma 2019)
As early as in 1945, the philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty argued the need to think about the space no longer as a mere container of bodies and activities, but as an existential space, inextricably linked to the concrete experience of life and the body of those who experience it, and as a place in which the being manages to renew and perceive itself.
The new paradigms of educational research, in the light of phenomenological considerations first, and neurophenomenological ones after, invite us to
rethink about educational spaces in terms of freedom of movement, flexibility and inclusiveness.
The first to understand how important moving is for concentration, reflection, and memorization of a child at school, was the pedagogist Maria Montessori, whose obstinate psycho-pedagogical research allowed her to fully understand the intrinsic psychicity of movement, without separating the “res cogitans” from the “extensa” one, the body and the mind. (Fogassi 2019) The latest neuropedagogical research has shown that Montessori’s intuition, according to which the exploration of space, through body mobility, was able to stabilize knowledge, imprinting it in long-term memory, was true.
Besides these pedagogical considerations, we must then consider the climatic conditions of school environments. We cannot forget, in fact, that a correct use of light, an excellent air quality, a comfortable temperature, and other general climatic conditions of the environment, if not accompanied by the possibility of being regulated, can scarcely respond to the needs of its users. Each environment, whether it is a classroom, a laboratory, or a gym, in fact, to be comfortable, must be adaptable and be characterized by adjustable climatic conditions, in order to create a series of microclimates managed by users and not by centralized systems.
Educational environments, intended as spaces for growth and sharing, should be able to provide support to the processes of learning, memorization, and cognitive development, promoting psycho-physical well-being of students, teachers and school staff, enhancing interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships, instilling a deep-rooted sense of belonging to the territory, and facilitating emotional strengthening. Physical space, in fact, if it is well designed, flexible, adaptable, and inclusive, has good chances to be interpreted as an extension of the human body, to facilitate movements, and to influence the complex learning process and, consequently, on results (Oblinger, 2006).
Merleau-Ponty 2021 – Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Fenomenologia della percezione, Bompiani Editore, Milano 2021 (I Edizione 1945).
Falcinelli 2021 – Riccardo Falcinelli, Guardare Pensare Progettare. Neuroscienze per il design, Stampa Alternativa & Graffiti, Città di Castello 2021;
Vanacore-Gomez-Paloma 2020 -Roberto Vanacore, Filippo Gomez-Paloma, Progettare gli spazi educativi. Un approccio interdisciplinare tra architettura e pedagogia, Anicia Editore, Roma 2020;
Fogassi 2019 – Leonardo Fogassi, Raniero Regni, Maria Montessori e le neuroscienze. Cervello – Mente – Educazione, Fefè Editore, Roma 2019;
Gomez Paloma 2019 – Filippo Gomez Paloma, Marco Borrelli, Emma Buondonno, a cura di, Scuole innovative. L’Embodied Cognition Design come paradigma dei nuovi spazi scolastici, Edizioni Nuova Cultura, Roma 2019;
Rivoltella 2012 – Pier Cesare Rivoltella, Neurodidattica. Insegnare al cervello che apprende, Raffaello cortina Editore, Milano 2012;
Damasio 1995 – Antonio Damasio, L’errore di Cartesio. Emozione, ragione e cervello umano, Adelphi Edizioni, Milano 1995.