Architecture in schools
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Architecture in schools

The SOUx school opens in Genoa, with the support of Alfonso Femia and Simonetta Cenci

Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia

Architecture in schools
By Editorial Staff -

Genoa’s new architecture school for children aged 7–12 years was founded on the cornerstones of city, civics, and directing children’s imaginations to the practical world of architecture.

Heavily backed by Alfonso Femia, founder of Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia, who’s on the school board, and principal Simonetta Cenci, the school is part of the broader SOUx project. Named after Japanese architect and professor Sou Fujimoto, whose first project in Italy was the Favara Cultural Farm in 2016, the project is conducted in schools – and, in some cases, homes – throughout Italy.

Open to 20 students and free of charge (apart from an upfront insurance payment), the school’s key activity will be a project to transform Genoa’s Villetta di Negro Park by the children themselves with the help of their teachers.

Besides the experiences and awareness gained through their profession practice, what really motivated Femia and Cenci to get behind the project was a desire to stimulate a connection between people and architecture, between people and their local area. In other words, to make up for what is a frequent failing of the traditional school system by providing an optional subject in architecture in much the same way as is done for languages, music, and sport. The architecture school for children therefore echoes the words of Claudio Abbado, but in terms of architecture: “Music should not be taught to children to make them great musicians, but so that they can learn to listen, and, therefore, be heard.” The same can, and must, apply to architecture. The course therefore has the very specific aim of ensuring that new generations don’t walk the streets of their city without seeing, without understanding, and, therefore, without loving their local area. A lack of knowledge of the working of cities can snuff out interest in them as well as any desire to engage with public spaces. It can stifle the desire to play an active role in places and communities.

“First and foremost, we’ll work hard to share stories, histories, and tools to stimulate imaginations and encourage a love of architecture. Then we’ll teach design. But I’m sure that the children will enrich our visions, impressions, and dreams tenfold,” said Simonetta Cenci, principal of the school and former councilor for urban planning with the Municipality of Genoa (2017–22). “Through their eyes, we’ll learn to look at our beautiful city differently.”


When, where, and the main topics

SOUx Genova ©Ileana Notario, courtesy of Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia

In Genoa, the SOUx architecture school for children will basically follow the 2023–24 school calendar, with lessons starting in October and finishing in May. Weekly meetings and workshops will be held in the afternoon, and last two and a half hours (3:30 – 6:00 p.m.). The locations will be different but will all be important elements of the cultural, social, and administrative life of the city, such as Genoa’s university and Urban Lab. In addition to the teachers and tutors who’ll be holding the workshops, there will be contributions from professionals from different but related sectors, including designers, doctors, artists, journalists, graphic designers, and illustrators.

Beginning with the language of architecture – a prerequisite to understanding its concepts – the course will provide tools for recognizing the different elements of a city: observation (size, proportions, points of view); recognizing the relationships between art and architecture; understanding what design is; knowing the materials used to make architecture; the use of photography for contextual analysis; understanding the relationship between architecture and nature, water, flora, objects, and light; and understanding urban mobility and how streets, squares, and thoroughfares work.

Complementary teaching workshops will center on a project by the students for the Villetta di Negro Park in Genoa’s historic center.

“Children need to grow up with an awareness of relationships, space, and objects. They need to be able to think for themselves and not simply accept decisions that sometimes run counter to the needs of their city,” said Alfonso Femia. “We don’t want them to think like we do; we want to stimulate curiosity, and a sense of exploration and discovery. Inside and outside, above and below – there are a thousand different ways to look at architecture to free up creativity and imagination.”

>>> Also read the interview with Alfonso Femia on Sangiovanni Housing, an urban redevelopment project for students and others.


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All images courtesy of Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia

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