The ideal of every Waldorf School is to create a sacred place, grounding the child within human experiences of living life alive in an interconnected world environment, which extends above and below the physical plane of everyday existence.
One could say that a Waldorf School is designed from the grass roots up, and a hierarchy of mature experiences down. In the middle a child learns to balance life, learning not to fear life, but rather address life in an understanding of what exists behind our confines of life. A Waldorf child learns to stand up and say “I am an individual human being with purpose”
The architect of a Waldorf School, must design out of an understanding of a childs development in relationship to their age, and the life forces developing within their physical bodies, as they mature and transition through their lives. Design is seen interconnected to all measurable and non-measurable layers of human experiences manifested in their social and physical environment.
The architecture of a Waldorf School is about making connections to the environment, the cosmos, humanity, and all living life shared in the experience of the child’s life, as they unfold to life through their education. Waldorf architecture articulates this unfolding in the actual details of the school building’s design, to provide learning opportunities.
We list here, a couple of examples of our discoveries in designing Waldorf Schools to show this design intent and outcome;
A student sitting in a classroom, without a clock, can learn to tell time intuitively in relation to the movement of the sun through the course of the day, if, high south-facing windows are located behind them in their classroom. In this design detail the opportunity of watching a play of light and shadows arc across the wall in front of them, sets as a seed, thoughts in their observations of the changing celestial path of the cosmos through each day and the four seasons. At its simplest understanding there is a sense of rhythm to the day. Even if that simple understanding is in the direct experience of knowing when it is getting close to the time school will be ending, and they make the journey home. When a design gesture like this can be incorporated into the classrooms the whole universe is presented in a quality of time that speaks of seasons, the weather, planets moving, and home comings.
Environmentally, each new site for a school is designed for the integration of Biodynamic Gardening and Landscaping. In this practical practice of collaborating with nature through gardening, the child becomes aware of connections between social, physical and cosmic environments. In this context every exterior detail of the site and the buildings can support these important understandings. A building’s inside and outside form, as part of this garden environment, is an expression of shapes interacting with sun angles, movement of air through the spaces, collection of rainwater, views, and waste / recycling / composting management. Whether the site is in an idyllic country setting or the middle of a city, qualitative environmental sensitivities do not change, only the scale is different. The macrocosm is expressed in the microcosm of the school and its gardens, providing nourishing opportunities to view and experience intimate relationships with our physical and cosmic ecosystems.
The design of Waldorf Schools is not a process of typical problem solving. A design solution is not a product of eliminating the variables, as if designing from a checklist declared successful when a task is checked off, leaving in the end only one, finished solution.
A Waldorf School is rather a planting of many seeds for ideas academically, morally and socially, supported through the physical learning environment, as the architecture of the site. To achieve this, the design needs to be lead by someone who knows what they are doing.
A student in their growing, is nourished by living into the connections made to as many variables and solutions as possible. A healthy Waldorf School evolves over the years, it branches out from a strong trunk of ideas, through the children, parents, alumni and friends who experience in it a qualitative process of growing and maturing.
A student with a Waldorf education adapts to life situations by standing in their humanness, and so then moving all of humankind forward. A person standing on solid footings, looks into a future, that is never fully known, though is met and addressed as a human able to say “I am capable of standing up to what will come, in the qualities given me, as my Waldorf education, by all those that support my potential to learn from everything”.