Winston Churchill said, “First we shape our buildings, then they shape us.” Nowhere is this more true than in schools. Reggio Emilia, one of Italy’s many contributors to modern education, believed that environment was the third teacher of children. He said that, environments should support “complex, varied, sustained, and changing relationships between people, the world of experience, ideas and the many ways of expressing ideas.”

NEXT Architects and Cladia Linderal designed the Hestia Day-Care Center in Amsterdam to be in line with Emilia’s philosophy. Rather than having classrooms that are only for certain students and off-limits to others, the building works more like a city that the children can explore. The spaces are connected allowing for free movement. The building is U-shaped and centered on a beautiful tree. Huge siliding doors allow for the outside to be brought in. During the day, the Center is awash with light from the bulbous skylights that float like bubbles in the roof. Inside, the walls and ceilings have been clad in light wood paneling with the floor finished in a light off-white tone, allowing children to input themselves into their environment, rather than having cartoon characters imposing themselves on them. Scale is central to defining the spaces, with the central space being large and open, with more sheltered spaces with lower ceilings being created around it.

Hestia is truly a place where children can be allowed to explore their world, rather than have adults define every last detail for them. With all this freedom to roam, children can charter their own journey in learning.