Nestled between the two large Victorian buildings of the Edinburgh Steiner School, the purpose built Kindergarten is a physical realisation of the principles of Steiner Waldorf education which emphasises how young children are profoundly influenced by their environment.
From the main approach, the visitor is met with a view of a series of gables leading the eye to the entrances snuggled underneath. The roof symbolises the mothering elements of the building, while the windows and column branches add lift to the elevations. The steps wrap around a smooth moraine boulder, brought from a glacial valley outside Edinburgh, which the pupils use as a slide.
Built in 1990, the basic design for the building was conceived by Wilfred Bohm, a Steiner teacher, who began the process as part of a student project.
As part of the design process, Bohm observed the daily rhythms of the children and their teachers to ensure that the building and resulting environment was wholly geared towards their needs and requirements.
Demonstrating a community-led approach to construction, the foundations were dug by a parent with a digger and the building was set out by the school's administrator who was a trained structural engineer. Parents with particular skills worked free of charge in the evenings and at weekends.
One of the key principles of Steiner education is learning through observation so, at every stage, opportunities were taken to involve pupils from Kindergarten right through to final year pupils. Two pupils were also welcomed onto the project team to gain formal work experience.
Pupils worked on the building in organised sessions with younger children forming brick-carrying crocodiles and laying concrete for the balcony. Every child had a task according to his or her own abilities. Parents often worked into the night to ensure that the building was ready for contractors to come on site the next day.
The quality of the building and its finishes highlights the dedication and care taken by the volunteer work force. Craftsmanship is clear to see, for example, in the four kitchens (one for each classroom) which were built by a parent.
Each classroom has its own individual atmosphere, with low windows providing a view of the garden and high windows revealing the sky. A natural environment has been created using soft colours, natural materials and hand crafted fixtures. Organic paints and tactile wooden handles made by Upper School pupils provide a calming atmosphere.
A Steiner Kindergarten, although first and foremost a place of learning, is also another home to the children, so it is domestic in scale and decorated in warm, calming and soft colours.
The Edinburgh Steiner School Kindergarten demonstrates how a community can come together and create a lasting legacy.