Primary School "Bertha von Suttner"
Aunt Bertha's Cabin
The project’s title refers to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, and also has a socio-cultural background: 96% of the children here do not have German as their first language, and the school is fighting for better opportunities.
The project familiarized schoolchildren with architectural production processes and raised the children’s awareness that it is possible and fun to actively influence public space. The aim was to sensitize and train the kids’ sense of place, and to raise their self-confidence and teamwork skills by participating in a group project.
In addition, the associative thinking abilities of the children were sharpened. By building the cabin, the dream of their tree house came true. They also playfully learned about the proper use of tools and strengthened their mathematic, building and spatial comprehension skills.
Context - The school was built in 1906 and space is cramped - therefore the pupils spend much of their time outside. However, they had no place to playfully deepen their creativity. The cabin is a multi-functional space: by folding up, out, over and down, it can be adjusted to the needs of the moment.
1. - Collective wishing - Cabin types were playfully tested with a specially made memory game. This enabled the children to create a contact to and an awareness of their cultural homeland. The results were used to develop the needs to be met, playability and design.
2. - Planning - “Collective wishing” developed into specific project planning. Together with the teaching staff, the involvement of the other classes and position of the cabin were discussed.
3. - Implementation - The cabin was built mainly with Class 3B, although almost all children at the school had opportunities to actively participate.
For safety reasons, not more than five children were on the building site at one time. Except for during a few critical stages of construction, the children could participate in various ways: measuring, sawing, drilling, sanding, screwing, painting, etc.. Seat and shelf cubes were built and hands for the facade (school logo) made. A daily building journal was kept.
Highlights were a topping-out ceremony, a tour to a nearby construction site and the official inauguration.
Looking forward - This year, the green space will be redesigned and replanted. Plans for the future include painting the bar and entrance door.
The prescribed goal, construction of the cabin, and conceptual communication aims were successfully achieved as planned.
The topic of the “Cabin” as an agent of multicultural unification needs a closer examination than was possible in the time limits of this pilot project.