Spanish architect Andrés Jaque spent two years talking with students and teachers at Madrid's Reggio school before designing a school that brings nature indoors and encourages plant and animal life to colonize its 'living' exterior walls. Clad in an insulating mixture of mashed cork, it offers an ideal habitat, not unlike the surface of a tree, for fungi, insects and microbial life. Classrooms look out on gardens created by ecologists to attract birds, butterflies, bats and bees. Inside, a courtyard hosts the miniature temperate rainforest which rises two stories to the glass canopy above. Labs and workshops are arranged around its edges. It embodies the Reggio-Emilia educational philosophy developed in postwar Italy which sees children as active participants in defining their own curriculum. Experience – touching, listening and first-hand discovery – lie at the heart of learning. Connection with the outdoors is key and the physical environment is imagined as the 'third teacher', with spaces configured to encourage open-ended exploration.

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