Erika-Mann Grundschule II by Baupiloten in Berlin

published in: Interiors By Guest, 05 May 2009

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Snuffle garden / photo © Jan Bitter

Guest Contribution by Pascal Panagiotidis

What are the standards for a happy work environment? Every day multinational companies are doing their best to create a good work environment in order to improve their employees’ efficiency and reduce stress. That’s what happens in the adults’ world. But what about the children? Many of them spend significant part of their time in sterile even hostile buildings instead of pleasant and warm ones. What if children turned into the designers of their world? Besides who could know better about their needs than the children themselves? Baupiloten gave them a chance to be the co-designers of such an environment.

Snuffle garden / photo © Jan Bitter

Susanne Hofmann founded the Baupiloten in June 2003 giving fourth and fifth year architecture students practical experience on architectural projects and also the chance to develop and realise a design. Erika-Mann Elementary School is part of The Carl-Bolle-Grundschule project where adults and children use their talent to set their own standards in what we call the “work” environment. A project that invites children to enter the adult’s world and use their imagination to create their own place. Besides where else would Silver dragons, fire flowers, treasures and kaleidoscopes coexist harmonically under the same roof?

Childroom / photo © Jan Bitter

additional text by Susanne Hofmann Architects

Following the successful modernization of the Erika-Mann Elementary School in the Utrechter Strasse 25/27 - 13347 Berlin, the Baupiloten have now designed the building’s interior for all-day use. With new seating-landscapes and worlds of recreation, the Baupiloten – together with the schoolchildren – expanded upon the concept of a comfortable learning environment to include the school’s hallways and classrooms. Until recently, the hallways of the school building (designed by Ludwig Hoffmann in 1915) embodied the sterile and authoritarian educational atmosphere of the early 20th century. In their redesign, the hallways were made to suit modern educational concepts of a “rhythmic” learning atmosphere, thereby serving the current need for communal areas of varied use.

Snuffling Corridors / photo © Jan Bitter

„Form Follows Kids’ Fiction“
Working together with the Baupiloten in a series of workshops, the students created fantastical and poetic worlds, culminating in the fictive “Snuffle of the Silver Dragon”. This was a further development of the “Silver Dragon World” created in the school’s hallways in 2003. The “Snuffle of the Silver Dragon”, a veil covering the floors and ceilings of the schools 3 upper stories, functions (depending on weather conditions) as a brilliant light filter.

Snuffling Corridors / photo © Jan Bitter


Children as Designers of their Worlds

Beyond the collaborative process, children should be able to form their daily environment – not only suggestively in the form of ideas, but as actual co-designers of their world. In the school’s three upper stories, a seating landscape was created in a series of openings contained within the “Snuffle of the Silver Dragon”. In these openings, the children can relax upon soft, warm materials. The landscape is composed of five modules: couches, caverns, lairs, pedestals, and tables with fold-out benches. These modules allow the children to test their bodies and find the most comfortable position in which to learn or play, without having to conform to seating norms. The children can communicate via the “Snuffle Beatle”, a total of 34 reflectors placed around the building.

Snuffling Corridors / photo © Jan Bitter


The “Snuffle Garden” on the schools second story offers a series of horizontal and sloped surfaces on which the children can lay, sit, or slide. Particles such as the “Wings” and “Fireflower” float inside the “Snuffle of the Silver Dragon”. The particles are fold-out chairs and sculptures on which the children sit or retreat into – either together or on their own. Warm rays of light shine into the particles from the ceiling, covering the seats in a golden glow.
The hidden „Dragon’s Treasure“ is also located on this story. The children decorate its magnetic walls with colorful mosaics that can be changed however they please. On the 3rd story, the “Snuffle of the Silver Dragon” is entangled within the “Kaleidoscope”. A gallery of mirrors optically dissolves the geometrical space; the walls and ceilings of the hallway are equipped with highly reflective field of metal panels, penetrated only by a collection of images composed of 270 picture frames. The children decorate the picture collection with their own creations, allowing their images to be endlessly reflected and providing for a constant change in spatial perception.
The “Chill Room”, also located on the third story, is a landscape of seating-pedestals covered with foam, tarp, and various textiles. A series of one-meter high “Petals” form a protective island around the pedestals, large enough for two to three children. These protective islands are made of wooden frames and can be individually formed by the children. Thus, the children are able to form their own environment according to their wishes through the manipulation of sound, light, and laminate.

Dragon's breath / photo © Jan Bitter

Die Baupiloten carry out building projects as part of their architectural education under the guidance and supervision of the architect Susanne Hofmann, AA Dipl. The Baupiloten-course has been set up at the Technical University of Berlin as a “Studienreformprojekt” to support a stronger interface between academic and professional experience.

Erika-Mann Grundschule II
2006 - 2007 Utrechter Str. 25-27, 13347 Berlin
Stattbau GmbH
Project Management

Susanne Hofmann
Maximilian Assfalg, Ania Busiakiewicz, Andrea Ceaser, Fee Kyriakopoulos, Ansgar Schmitter, Irmtraut Schulze, Thilo Reich, Wojciech Wojakowski und Urzula Ramus (Gastpilotin)
Helmuth Hanle, Rainer Schulze
Neighbourhood Management
Quartiersmanagement Pankstraße
EU, BRD and the Federal State of Berlin as part of the program for "Wohnumfeldverbessernde Maßnahmen"
Start of Planning: Winter Semester 2006/2007
Date of Completion: December 2007

Dragon's breath / photo © Jan Bitter


Die Baupiloten

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