Psychoindustry – II

This is a school.

More precisely, it is a secondary Montessori school, which is one of the freer kinds of Dutch schools, where children are supposed to follow their own curiosity and where the role of the teacher is to facilitate that. This school hosts about 4000 people, who spend the majority of their adolescence here. It’s where their minds take shape.

In 1973, Edward Relph wrote his dissertation on ‘Place and Placelessness’. In it he worked out a theory on how the place we find ourselves in shapes our feelings, our beliefs and behavioural patterns. We identify with our places, and partially become them. The theory is used by some architects, and proof for it is accumulating in psychological studies.

Take a look at the school again. Straight, squared lines, regular shapes. The rooms enable just distribution of space, equal for all students. The place is fair, overseeable, easy to cope with, efficient and justifiable to whichever authority paid it. An efficient school to efficiently educate kids into efficient members of society. It does look a bit like an industrial grid, doesn’t it?

Without looking at important factors such as the educational rules and programs of this school, or the structure of society in general, I think this building has huge impact on the development of the personalities of the younger generations. To speculate: it may increase a person’s preference for a predictable life where he or she feels in control. It may subconsciously decrease creativity, openness to the unknown and innovative thinking, but strengthen skills such as the capacity to structure data, perceiving people as numbers and following rules. I believe that school buildings such as this one stimulate more machine-like, cold and lifeless attitudes than, for example, a school composed of little huts in a forest. More industrial minds, capable of more industrial decisions. In that sense, the building fits the age.

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11 thoughts on “Psychoindustry – II”

  1. Looks like a computer server rack to me, right off the bat.

    My daughter goes to a hybrid Montessori pre school, and I’ve nothing but good things to say about it so far.

    1. Cool, yes my argument was not against Montessori schools. I just think it’s weird that even they do not take more care of their buildings. Though I haven’t seen this one from the inside, either. Thanks for reblogging!

  2. How interesting…for me it was always the sheer size of the schools(in the US and Australia, both of which I attended schools in). They are enormously intimidating and I was genuinely afraid of school(enough to see a Counsellor at every start of term). And they are, more often than not, literally gated which made me feel like they were attempting to contain me and mould me into a less creative being. To this day, I get nervous and feel physically sick in the presence of a large building. However, I have come out more creative for it in the end! -But I am very self aware and the same can’t be said for my peers-maybe they were influenced! Extremely interesting article!

    1. Thanks! Sounds like you had a scary youth… I can relate to the fence thing. In fact, fences got introduced during my stay at highschool. The rules were not yet very clear for our years, so we used to just climb over them. But yes, I remember being repulsed by the idea. ‘Safety’. More than anything, it felt like we were being controlled.

  3. Great article Gilles. Sadly I think public and more school orientated architecture mostly come down to cost. I don’t know if free thinking and expression is included in the guide lines for this kind of architecture. We sometimes forget what kind of impact the space we live, work and socialize in has on us, especially when we are still young and being molded and shaped into the people we become. Thank you for this piece.Very interesting.Also I have only heard great things about Montessori schools.

    1. Thanks. Yes, I think Montessori schools are generally good. I also agree about the cost orientedness, and that we forget about the impact of buildings. That’s why I wrote the article in the first place. I do feel things can change in spall steps.

  4. I think you are right. Yesterday I saw a document on TV about Danish architects’ homes. There was an architect Julien De Smedt, who had created a centre for young people. The influence of that centre was just the opposite than that of the school above! For example the young could go and skate on the surfaces like on the roof. The efect was very stimulating in every way.

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