Outdoor classroom grows as students learn

Architecture studio AP+E has designed an evolving outdoor classroom for alternative learning.

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The Hedge School is architecture studio AP+E’s answer to alternative, informal learning. The primary school based in Carlow, Ireland uses an outdoor pavilion to teach children the basic principles of living.

Its award-winning design places nature in the centre of education. It is an environment in which children are meant to learn from the elements around them such as growing food and plants, cooking in the open, ecosystems, the climate, seasons, and flora and fauna.

“In this way the natural elements become a stimulating part of the space and the experience; creating an engaging & adventurous learning environment; where children can hear the rain and feel the wind,” write the architects.

A circle of columns on a green lawn defines the Hedge School’s structure. Its pavilion shape connects the learning space to the outdoors. As the greenery planted by the students grows, the more sheltered the pavilion will become, creating secret passageways into the centre of the classroom. However, there are additional hinged doors for easy access.

The evolution and maintenance of the structure will become part of the learning process. An important part of the learning experience is that the pupils will be able to grow their own food and follow the development of their plants as they progress in school.

The pavilion is made from sustainable and living materials. The appearance of the pavilion will change continuously because different plant varieties will grow all year round.

“The interplay of architecture with nature in Hedge School, turns a learning environment into an ever evolving and changing art piece,” write the architects. 

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