"Wonderful things often happen here, but a day of such great symbolic worth is rare." These words were spoken by Pietro Barrera, Executive Director of the MAXXI Foundation, the futuristic museum space in Rome designed by Zaha Hadid and dedicated to 21st century art. The inspiration for this eulogy was the "F.A.R.E. Verso un’architettura dell’educazione (Shaping an architecture of education)" event on 6 November that marked the inauguration of two new educational areas in the museum, known as EduLab 1 and EduLab 2. The spaces, which had hosted workshops for 15 years, were reconfigured and repurposed by Enel Cuore Onlus and the Fondazione Reggio Children – Centro Loris Malaguzzi, with the involvement of the Labics architecture practice.
This is the first time that the Fare Scuola project has ventured beyond the boundaries of scholastic institutes to explore the educational potential of museum spaces by establishing a contemporary craft workshop at MAXXI. The chosen areas, located on two different floors of the museum, are open and light-filled, embodying the idea of a learning space that stimulates dialogue between art, architecture and the principles of good pedagogy, starting with the walls themselves. The Museum’s new, completely modular EduLabs, available for use by schools as design workshops for unleashing the imagination, invite the youngest of visitors to play an active role in the institution’s initiatives.
"MAXXI is giving young people a totally central role with the new EduLabs," continued Barrera, referencing the workshop in the hall in particular: "Situated between ticket office and lifts, this is a visible space with glass walls, where, rather than being hidden from sight, what the children and youngsters are doing can be viewed by passing visitors, thereby making this space the true nerve centre of the museum."
"The new areas created by the F.A.R.E. project encourage learning about the art and architecture of our century in an innovative way, offering space for creativity and interaction," commented Patrizia Grieco, Enel Chairman and President of Enel Cuore (from May 2014 to May 2020).
On the day of their inauguration, the two EduLabs were transformed for several hours into architecture practices where the classes from a high school in Rome were challenged to be "Curators for a day". Provided with an empty display space (a wing of the museum) and a range of works of art, the schoolchildren were asked to come up with a creative theme for an exhibition, imagine how it would be set up, and then create a scale model of it.
"This is an initiative in which education and children play the central role," emphasised Andrea Valcalda, Enel Cuore Board Member, during the inauguration ceremony. "This is, of course, the philosophy of the Fare Scuola project, which has already reached about 90 schools across Italy, with over 10,000 children being given the chance to learn in more welcoming spaces, because going to school in an upgraded environment means attending with more enthusiasm, and, therefore, learning better. And, from our perspective, this also means bringing the school back to the heart of the host community: this has happened with every structure that we have worked on, many of which had previously been in states of particular degradation." Valcalda continued "Today, however, we take a step even further forward, because bringing children and teens to a museum and closer to art is a way of stimulating their civic sense and making them better citizens, capable of appreciating and respecting beauty and nurturing a desire to create it wherever it may be lacking."
Working to ensure quality schooling is not just about shaping the citizens of the future," says Massimiliano Massimelli, Head of Communications for Fondazione Reggio Children: "Young people, no matter how young, are already citizens of the present, so it is essential to listen to their views concerning their surroundings and how they would like them to be, something that doesn’t happen enough. Their ability to observe the present is precisely the strength that will allow us to build the future."
Barrera summed up that the "extraordinary step forward that we are able to take today has been made possible thanks to a team of specialists in many disciplines with architects, teachers and members of staff from Reggio Children and Enel Cuore who have created an excellent model for designing and planning together."