26, May 2021 | Interior Design
Arka Design is an incredible architectural practice with offices in Venice and Beijing. They create the most amazing spaces, from residential to commercial projects, but their educational ones set the bar way up for other designers. We had the unique opportunity to interview Michele Lanari, CEO and principal architect of ArkA, who shed some light in the main challenges on designing kids spaces.
1. What do you love the most about what your work?
I think the most interesting part is about research, you always need to study more, to discover something more, every project gives you always new information and this makes the work never boring, never the same; if we talk about educational projects, as a designer, we always must discuss with different Directors and they will provide you with different ideas, in fact, on its own way, each project teaches you that there is no right or wrong question or answer, pushing you to find the proper answer according to the specific situation, and this is the challenging part, you are like a detective… you need to discover the hidden point to solve the mystery.
2. What was the most challenging time in your career, and how did you overcome it?
As a designer, I never have difficulties at my work, but my day by day is not anymore just design, is organize the design process for everyone, for the big team. As a manager, I think the most difficult part was when the team suddenly grow like double in just three-four months. I truly believe and try to keep a quite familiar environment based in an equal environment for all the team, not always the same people leading projects, I try to move that position to encourage people; that was easy when we were few people, dealing with the bigger group became more complicated, of course, because I had to find some clear rules for everyone, so find this balance to me was the most difficult moment.
3. What do you have to have in consideration when designing kids’ spaces?
First of all, is about the kids’ needs, the main point is the big age difference, maybe people don’t think so much about it, but understanding the ages range will give you a big direction to your project. Behind all our schools is a company, in one side we must combine the kids’ needs to the clients’ needs, sometimes we also need to step back from our own opinion because we also need to be open to accept the opinion of the school that we’re working with.
Space needs to be adapted for kids, mostly you have to consider two parts, on one side, the scale dimension is very different, especially kids dimension from 0 to 6 years, of course, there is another side, is the approach of the kids where we need to push them to learn; the approach of the kids where you need to push them to learn; when they grow it’s easier to push them, they have more sense of responsibility, but when they’re very young, they don’t understand anything about that, they are more instinctive, the way to attract them and to push them in the direction that we need to encourage them to learn is very different, mainly we need to attract the younger kids with the space, to the older kids the space mostly need to fulfil the classic needs and give just some more clear direction with a structured layout, instead for the younger kids even the activities are more difficult to plan, so we need to be very flexible.
Is quite accepted by everyone the concept that the environments for older kids like an elementary school can look a little bit serious and not so coloured, but if we’re talking about a kindergarten is always quite a surprise, why the environments for younger kids must be saturated? usually, because people are not so much into this field; in our the design even if we try to keep some simple white space on one side, we also try to give some points of excitement in some part bringing a balance, but probably the core of our thinking is that the child is a mini-man with his special needs and that doesn’t mean is just the funny and superficial childish point of view. Maybe this is the most amazing part with the younger kids, their imagination goes much farther than us, where we see just a white wall they see a lot of stuff, kids can be the space, the sea or the mountains, they fulfil the space with their imagination, we just need to – He continued
4. What are your main inspiration sources?
I always try more and more if I can, to observe the kids, the stronger inspiration could come from that part, there are many books about Montessori, Reggio Emilia and other educational philosophies that you can study, but the best strategy is the fieldwork where teachers, directors and parents will give some new information, they know better than you some detail that comes from their experience; because even if you can observe constantly your kids or your friend’s kids, still your observation will never be the same to be in a classroom every day.