|The Annual International Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectural Design Excellence 2023|
[ID:1908] Nurturing a creature of nature
Despite the picture that modern architecture presents of modern cities- an active, noisy city; they just brought stress and commotion to their inhabitants. In place of humans, machines progressed day after day.
Today all citizens know that the level of satisfaction, calm and joy enjoyed by today’s city dwellers is less than that of their forefathers, although we have more advanced machines.
Thus people became close to machines and comfort, but estranged from calm, because they got far from their nature, a nature which depends on all creatures. Nowadays nature is replaced by cities which have become the context of children’s growth. Our cities have omitted children from the scene of city life and don’t let them live their childhoods.
Children are free but we cast them in our own molds. Do we never ask ourselves, Am I happy? Am I satisfied? If not, how can I raise my child in a way which I tried and failed? How many of us hope to return to our childhoods? Running and playing, laughing and learning. We are just concerned with teaching children to act as adults. But we ourselves are looking for our childhoods. We try to teach them the rules of urbanism, but we ourselves run away from urban spaces! Such a funny attempt!
“Don’t try to make a child old before being old; don’t crush him. That’s what has happened in the world. Old people are dominating children, and they tend to pull them out of their childhood faster than nature allows. The child loses something forever.”--
Children live in cities which are intended to serve adults. Cities have become places where life is only taught to children in schools. Life is taught to children from school books, not from reality. Children in schools just deal with words and images, so we have a fault in our training. Then we send our children into society with an incomplete training; the children who will be the adults of tomorrow. This process will continue and lead to these chaotic cities which can’t even serve adults, much less children!
Every body is a love of nature genetically; but we have lost this feeling in our ordinary life. In ancient cultures throughout the world, components of nature such as water, air, soil, sun and plants are sacred because ancient humans had understood their link with nature. They had known that their being depends on these elements. But with progress in urbanism, this link is eroded.
This problem is more serious in my city, Tehran. About 20 years ago every house had a courtyard which a big family consist of parents and grand parents, children and grand children lived together. Of course these courtyards were not a completely natural place, but let children play there, experiment soil, sun, air and plants. Also their parents were able to watch and look after them. But by passing time, apartments replaced with houses and gardens. Buildings grew every where and made stuffy alleys and dangerous streets. Children led to these insecure streets to play. Of course some children were forbidden from playing in streets. So now children live a childhood of imprisonment.
Children of elementary schools stay 6-8 hours a day in schools, indoors and then they return home and this is their daily schedule. Most parents are busy and can’t go along their children to natures, even parks. In other hand, this inaccessibility to nature is made parents afraid of nature and animals. Also because of insecurity parents choose not to send their children to parks and playgrounds by themselves. We have lost our gardens and courtyards without situating parks.
Tehran has lots of parks of various sizes, but these are just places which are "parked" in the city! They may beautify the city, make the air fresh, but they teach nothing. We can’t bring the city to life with them. We need to turn parks into learning places with creative designs which prompt children to prowl, roam and discover, designs that provide a space for children to experience nature, and which reassure parents of their safety. We can look for parks which serve as a public courtyard. Parks can provide a safe learning place, which one of the teachers is nature.
Experiments have shown that children who in their childhood played in nature and experienced its pleasures are less interested in playing computer games. Researchers have found that simply looking at green scenery has a big effect on the operation of the brain. The ability to concentrate can be renewed through contact with natural settings. The greener views translated into better self-discipline. Greenery has become a new form of medication! The researchers found that symptoms were reduced most in green outdoor settings, even when the same activities were compared across different settings. Spending time in ordinary “urban nature” – a tree-lined street, a green yard or neighborhood park – may offer additional relief from illness symptoms (both mental and physical), when medications aren’t quite enough. Some kids might be able to substitute a “green dose” for their medication, allowing them to get a good night’s sleep. Also parents of children who participated in a hiking in nature program reported:
"One little child used to draw only in black. After seeing the colors of flowers and leaves he wanted different colors, the colors he had seen in nature."
"As inner-city children, many students only read about nature. This program provided them with the opportunity to explore the vivid colors, sounds and scents of "Nature's Playground. I thank you for the invaluable memory you have instilled in our children."
These experiences gave me the courage to pursue this idea, the connection between humans and nature— especially children— because children will grow up and form cities of future.
The solution is not complicated; complicated problems usually have simple solutions. In fact, with the recreation of the connection between children and nature, we will completely change our cities.
In this project, students in the first grade will choose at least two plants to grow: one that grows quickly and a second that grows more slowly, such as a tree. The former provides practice for the latter which will grow as the child grows up. The children are responsible for looking after their plants, and thereby learning about them and those of their classmates. Children will spend several hours a day in the park with their teachers, like they do in their schools. Actually, we want children pass some hours in nature and nurturing their plants is just an excuse to achieve this goal. So I don’t mean an increase in the number of parks (of course this will happen), but I mean a new event in parks. In other words there is a neighborhood, a little park and a school; the children will experience the experiment of house and courtyards. Parents confide to schools and teachers; they know that their children are safe.
In this way, children will learn to be a friend of nature, and they will learn lessons which will apply to all of their relationships with others. It will begin between children and will extend to their relationships with their parents, teachers, neighbors and finally to other adults. In this way adults will learn friendship from children.
The children who grow up with such experiences, certainly, will be different urban dwellers. They will remember that there is a tree in their city that they themselves grew. This child will know he is a part of this city. S/He will learn to be tender with others as s/he has with her/his plant.
This course will not be limited to first grade students. It will continue in upper grades. Older students can help younger children in looking after their plants. This experiment can continue with nurturing animals. In this case they will learn how to protect animals and keep them without hurting them. Teachers will help them in this understanding. Probably they allocate some time to feed birds and etc. may be these are common views in European and American countries, but we do not have such these experiments in our society.
This program can take place during lessons of biology and natural sciences. In this way each child will have one tree in the city and with what she/he has learned, she/he learns to be tender towards other creatures in nature. The project also trains other people passing through such parks. They will be attracted to this new happening in parks. They will pass through parks and ask themselves what is happening? Maybe they will decide to attend to children and learn from them. Therefore this would be a lesson for people passing through these parks too.
Of course the outlook of happy children which are playing in parks instead of being hidden away, studying in schools will change the face of the city and adults will remember that children are associated with the city. In this way, we will use one of the components of the city which until now has been only an element of beautification, as a connector between children, nature and the city.
But how can we do this?
To make it work, an alliance between teachers and park managers, designers and children is needed. The Municipality of Tehran offers some programs which can be helpful. There are several plots which are allocated for parks; these plots can be assigned to schools. They will be programmed to be a place to experience nature and nurturing natural creatures. So here we need an alliance between designers and children. Furthermore, every year on March 6 which is Tree Planting Day the municipality dedicates many saplings to this purpose. These saplings can be given to schools.
The most difficult part is the responsibility of the schools in this project. Of course working with children requires patience which is a feature of every teacher. Having schools manage this project has several benefits:
? Children will spend more constructive time in schools
? Playing and learning would be combined
? All children would participate because enrolment rates, especially at the elementary level, are very high in Iran.
We have perceived some efforts to recreate the connection between children and nature, but most of them failed and did not lead to the expected results. Some independent groups which were interested in nature and aware of the effects of nature on humans organized regular activities such as monthly hiking trips, but after a while they terminated their program; because only a limited population who were already aware of the value of nature took part, but what about the others? What about people who have never experienced the enjoyment and happiness that nature brings to life?
This is the reason that I choose schools to conduct the project. Schools have the ability of administering the program. They have fixed schedules which mean the program can be regular and mandatory. In this way all children will experience nature uniquely.
Of course we should not forget that we are not looking for a miracle. It is hard to change adults, but we can train healthy children. These children will form healthier cities and this correction in cities will be continued. We want our children to grow up naturally. So we are responsible for preparing a suitable context for this.
And this is what nature gives to children. Nature lets them remember enjoyment which they experienced, to learn it and to use it. There is no difference between children and adults, poor or rich for nature. Nature gives to all people and this proposed project is just an experiment; an experiment which we hope will continue throughout the lives of our children.
“When you are really mature, you’ll become childlike. Then your life becomes fun again, you’ll enjoy it, every bit of it. You will not be serious; a deep laughter will spread all over your life. It will be more like a dance and less like a business.”
- Giedion,S., space, time, architecture: the growth of a new tradition, Elmi farhangi Publication,1995
- Osho, the little book of osho, Nasimedanesh Publication, 2002
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