ArkA Design, When Creativity Meets Culture

ArkA Design, When Creativity Meets Culture

February 19, 2020

CovetEDMagazine17thissue

CovetED brings you an interview of the amazing Michele Lanari, one of the masterminds behind ArkA design. Different cultures (China, Italy and Colombia), ages and educational philosophies are what makes the perfect recipe for the team, that also includes Damon Liu Dong Xin. Since the beginning of ArkA, the designers keep combining different educational philosophies like Reggio Emilia and Montessori with architecture, and the focus is to create suitable environments to improve Chinese children’s education, especially in kindergarten to encourage children to be creative and independent. Keep reading and enjoy the extra spicy creativity in the amazing team.

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What Michele loves about his work is the research part. Every new project provides a new perspective, new information on how to do the job and it never becomes dull. 

 

ArkA Design, When Creativity Meets Culture

© all the rights reserved chiaraye.net

 

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 on the main challenges of designing kids’ spaces.

 

ArkA Design, When Creativity Meets Culture

© all the rights reserved chiaraye.net

 

What Michele loves about his work is the research part. Every new project provides a new perspective, new information on how to do the job and it never becomes dull. If it is educational projects, such as nurseries and schools, the meetings with the board of directors and teachers provide the designer with new ideas and approaches. Michele believes that, unlike school, there are no right or wrong answers. There is solely an appropriate answer to a project. A ‘’wrong’’ answer can be the right answer to a whole different project and vice versa. For Michele, it is a bit like detective work: you investigate the problem to solve the mystery of the right solution to the project in hands. 

 

ArkA Design, When Creativity Meets Culture

© all the rights reserved chiaraye.net

 

While designing his incredible projects, Michele bears in mind the ultimate client: the kids. Their needs wishes and how and why they’ll use the space. One important aspect to always consider is the age gap. The age range between all the kids is problematic that needs full attentions thus a toddler and a pre-teen don’t have the same needs and perspectives. Furthermore, behind every school, there’s a company who’ll invest a lot of time and money in the project and whose opinion must be heard. Overall, space needs to be adapted to kids while always considering the scale of the project and the approach to kids, as for Michele their job lies upon the premise of pushing and encouraging the kids to learn. 

 

ArkA Design, When Creativity Meets Culture

ArkA Design – Montessori Kindergarten Beijing

 

For Michele, it is easier to do such when the children are older and have a bigger sense of responsibility, something that doesn’t happen when they’re younger. Toddlers are more instinctive and the way to encourage learning upon them is incredibly different from the older kids. For younger kids, Michele uses space to attract them, as for the older ones, the usage of a more structured layout and the classic and the fulfilment of the classic learning needs. Even though elementary schools are globally accepted as serious places of learning, Michele and, of course, the whole ArkA team tries to balance it out the same way they do kindergartens. Simple spaces with excitement bursts. Michele regards children as mini-humans with their own set of needs. It’s not just the childish, fun side of childhood that lies upon the core values of an ArkA signature project. Kids’ imagination plays an important role in Arka’s designs. The practice’s projects draw the line between the physical and the metaphysical, allowing kids to build their own story.

 

ArkA Design, When Creativity Meets Culture

ArkA Design – Montessori Kindergarten Beijing

 

Michele’s ultimate source of inspiration is the project’s end-users: the children. To observe the kids, meet the parents, teachers and directors allows him and the team to draw the inspiration required for the projects.  To read about great educational philosophers such as Montessori, Reggio Emilia and others is a great way to study the learning needs of kids. But for Michele, the best way really is to learn from parents, teachers and directors, as their vast experience dealing with kids gives him the needed perspective for each and every project. 

 

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ArkA Design - Montessori Kindergarten Beijing

 

In the words of Michele Lanari, the complexity in how great children can create and learn is commonly overlooked, which immediately distinguishes kids’ oriented projects to adult ones. Even though it is more challenging working with kids, Michele believes it is more objective than to work with adults. It is important, for the designer to properly direct the design to address the kids’ needs and issues. One has to set its designer personality aside while working on educational projects, thus the goal is to create the most effective learning environment where all the students can flourish. 

 

ArkA Design - Montessori Kindergarten Beijing

 

Michele believes that when you’re designing an educational building, you’re designing it for the future rather than the present. In his opinion, once the building is completed, you’re teaching society, and it will be used for at least the next 10-20 years. Thus, in his opinion, the inside’s have to be flexible, form everything from fixed furniture to doors, never taking into consideration any current trends. As such, the group rather design and develop their own designs.

 

ArkA Design - Montessori Kindergarten Beijing

PEPA KID PROJECT BY ARKA DESIGN

 

For Michele, it is quite obvious that kids’ design universe shouldn’t ride trends. But for the designer, the human being has a lot of difficulties to look around trends. For him, one should be able to step back from one’s own judgment and to just be as open as one can be. One as to accept the fact that an educational project is a project aimed at the future and that it is incredibly different from a residential or commercial project. 

 

ArkA Design - Montessori Kindergarten Beijing

EXPLORA Center project

 

The clients that usually seek ArkA’s expertise are rather experienced ones, which makes Michele rather satisfied. They know what they do, what they want and how they want. Usually speaking, the process is very collaborative. If Michele had to describe their typical client, it would be a rather experienced one, very detail-focused and whom which has its own unique way of running the business. This brings diversity to ArkA’s rich and festive table, thus something that can be a stupid little detail for a client could be something of huge importance to another. 

 

ArkA Design - Montessori Kindergarten Beijing

EXPLORA Center project

 

For the experienced designer, what makes a  project unique is a rather sentimental answer: the kids. For him, when they design a school, the project won’t be complete without the children. They will complete it with their own creations, drawing, chair-moving and running around. What could be designed as a resting area can soon turn out as a play area, as you never really know how the kids will use it. And that’s what makes a project unique. 

 

ArkA Design - Montessori Kindergarten Beijing

Explora Center Project

 

For anyone who has a kid’s related project at hand, Michele advises to study and read as much as you can and to have a conversation with people who are experts in the field. One should always ask, talk and, most importantly, think. And Above everything else, never forget the end-user of the space, kids. 

 

 For the experienced designer, what makes a  project unique is a rather sentimental answer: the kids.

 

 


See Also:

AB + PARTNERS: UNIQUE DESIGN CONCEPTS FOR ALL

3MOMS: LUXURY LIVING SPACES FOR KIDS


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