So, I'm reading about, and, thus, thinking about, the physical spaces we occupy and what makes them appealing - with the ultimate target of classroom and building design that is conducive to learning. As I've been doing this, I've been recalling the depictions of physical spaces that have captured my imagination. Part of this is inspired by an article which uses a quote from one of the Harry Potter books in which one of the classrooms is described (the classroom of the really spacy potions professor, if I recall correctly) making the case that along with many other characteristics, classrooms should be, I think they say, "enchanting."
My list of spaces that have captured my imagination:
Sam's tree in My Side of the Mountain
Whangdoodleland in Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles
Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory (first scene in the movie where everything is made of candy minus the Oompa-Loompas who just freak me out)
Wonderland of Alice in Wonderland
The museum in The Mixed Up File of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
One of the books I read relates a story about Jonas Salk being stuck on his work on the polio vaccine and spending a few weeks at the Abbey of Assisi where he said that the space itself was so conducive to creativity that it sparked the idea that ultimately led to the successful vaccine. What is it about particular spaces (whether built by humans or existing in nature) that is conducive to imagination, creativity, curiosity? That gives us the freedom to consider new idea or questions? That encourages us to do so? Encourages us to go beyond ourselves? I don't know what the answers are, but I'm certain that white rooms with white plastic tables, white boards and fluorescent lights are not the answer. I think it's the same reason we can sit for hours sitting and staring into a fire without getting bored. To be continued.