The pilot project of prototyping a co-designed space for arts and well-being in a school from Cluj-Napoca has come to an end and now the students of Onisifor Ghibu High School can enjoy the result.
A space for relaxation, emotional and cognitive development through art
The space is the result of a participatory process that took place in several stages (Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver) and actively involved the school community – teachers, students, parents – along with artists, designers, architects, landscape designers, and researchers in psychology and public health.
With an area of 40 square meters, the space was designed to stimulate the emotional and cognitive development of students through art, play and sensory exploration. The theme chosen for the arrangement was “the mysterious planet”, inviting children to express their curiosity and creativity in interaction with a multisensory panel, an astronomical mini-observatory, musical instruments and other playful tools.
Art and involvement in creative activities play a significant role in the emotional and cognitive development of children, as shown by numerous studies. Our intention was to develop a model that supports the long-term presence of art in school and that contributes to shaping an educational environment that considers and cultivates the attention for well-being, collaboration skills and the imagination of children. We hope that in the future students from all schools in the country will be able to benefit from this type of space.
The Onisifor Ghibu High School, where the space was created, is one of the schools that has already experimented various cultural education practices, being part, since 2019, of the Art’n’Play network, a local programme for cultural education in schools, through which artists in residence facilitate creative workshops for children. The space was an opportunity to move to another level and provide students with an environment that stimulates imagination and exploration. The space can be used for art and music classes and for experiential learning of various other disciplines, to perform extracurricular activities, providing also a very good framework for recreation and relaxation.
We have a long term collaboration with the Cluj Cultural Centre through the Art’n’Play project, thus this is not the first attempt to bring culture and art to school. When they proposed to me the creation of this space I directly and enthusiastically said “yes”, before I had even identified the room for it. I first said “yes”, then we started looking for options for this wonderful space. I am extremely proud and happy that we can do something else for the students.
Perspectives for iterating the project in other schools
The co-design process leading to the development of this space was coordinated by the Cluj Cultural centre and facilitated by a team of experts, specialized in urban innovation projects focused on community, culture and well-being from Urban Scale Interventions (UK). The intention was, from the very beginning, to prototype sustainable solutions that can be later scaled up and replicated by local authorities and educational institutions. Such spaces provide effective, long-term solutions for increasing the well-being of students and teachers and for cultivating, both through their facilities and the cultural activities they host, healthy lifestyle and social interaction behaviours.
Through the investment program in schools, at the city level, we will launch over 10 international competitions for solutions for the modernisation and expansion of some schools in the city. We want to take this example and integrate it from the implementation phase of the technical project and, of course, in this process we intend to involve children, parents, teachers, so that the new arrangements can be as close as possible to what those who benefit from these spaces and from the projects for the modernisation of the educational infrastructure want.
The participatory process that led to the creation of the space took place in several stages and involved 60 students, 22 parents and a group of teachers from the High School Onisifor Ghibu – Monica Bereș | director, Mihaela Coța | deputy director, Raluca Popa | school counselor, Adina Câmpean | primary school teacher. The experts who contributed to the creation and development of the landscaping solutions are: Jak Spencer and Khadidja Konate | architects, Urban Scale Interventions; Eliza Jurca and Simona Or-Munteanu | architects; Alin Tănasă | artist / creator | Blajin; Maria Brudașcă | visual artist, Tamás Márkos | photographer, musician, educator; Monica Bartucz | psychologist, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Babeș-Bolyai University; Adela Hoble | Landscape architect and researcher, University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine in Cluj-Napoca; Teodora Morar | Landscape Architect and Researcher, Romanian Landscape Association and Hanna Ugron | consultant. The process was coordinated by Cristina Rogoz and Claudia Cacovean and curated by Rarița Zbranca, from the Cluj Cultural Centre.
Special thanks to: Ștefan Teișanu, Ovidiu Cîmpean, Simona Baciu, Carmen Muntean, Adrian Balcău, Marius Mariș, Daniela Maier, Raluca Mășcășan, Paula Feșnic, Septimiu Cioara, Mihaela Orosan, Adela Nicoară.