Learning through ‘Play’| Athens, Greece | Unit 21 | 2019

Awarded Distinction for Design

Click to see Thesis
Click to see 4th year work

Education has always played an important role since ancient Greece. Plato strongly emphasised an intimate relationship between learning and playing, and the importance of education by metaphorising ‘light’ as knowledge in the ‘Allegory of the Cave’. 

The current Greek education system has been evolved into a competitive and standardised scheme where students are classified by exams, rankings and comparisons.  Although it is designed around the principle of equality, the severe INEQUALITY resulted from the economic gap between the rich and the poor has led to a ‘SHADOW EDUCATION’ system in the Greek society, which is a parallel system that contains both private and public education.

The majority of Greek students take private lessons in the evenings and weekends in order to get better results in the exams,  students from the wealthiest families receive nearly four times more private tuition than the poorest, and Greece has the highest percentage of private education in the EU, at around 74.9%. Since the financial crisis in 2009, Greece has suffered from a large debt crisis until now, and due to the austerity policies, no school has been built or renovated for the last 6 years.

Therefore action is needed to improve on the current situation and to provide Greek students with a better learning environment.

Operating as a school during the daytime that provides both preschool and primary education for Greek children between 2-11, the school uses architecture as a testing bed for challenging the conventional way of teaching by imposing the idea of ‘learning through play’. It provides Greek students with a ‘playful’ learning environment through different play equipment and moving shadow and light, it encourages different forms of play (physical, object, social/cognitive, symbolic), and suggests students to establish their own interpretation with education through playing, and it argues that architecture is not only spaces but opportunities for students to explore, imagine, and learn.

Inequality in the Greek Education System and Definition of ‘Play’

Physical and Motor Play

Physical play includes activities that use physical movements to allow children to use their energy, and it gives children the chance to develop gross and fine motor skills, learn new things and socialize. Physical play also benefits a child’s health.

Object/ Constructive play

Object play refers to playful use of objects such as building blocks, jigsaw puzzles, cars, dolls, etc. With babies, this play is mouthing objects and dropping them. This type of play has children learning cooperation, problem-solving, and creativity when building with loose parts like “stack and build” materials. Large blocks, planks, and tube sections give children opportunities to create the spaces in which they play.

Symbolic play

Symbolic play is the ability of children to use objects, actions or ideas to represent other objects, actions, or ideas as play. 

Social play/ cognitive play

-Solitary play

Solitary play occurs when children play alone and are unaware of those around them. Characteristic of children through 3 years of age, this type of play involves little interactive give and take (often referred to as reciprocity) in play and particularly in language-facilitated play.

-Parallel play

Parallel play, playing beside but not with others, is characteristic of pre-toddlers and toddlers. These children are aware of the other children around them and might mimic their actions by playing with a similar toy. However, they won’t actively engage in play with the other children. Multiple play activities, dual steering wheels, small niches, and lots of loose parts all work well for parallel play.

-Associative play

Plays with others; conversation is about common activity, but does not subordinate own interests to groups

– Cooperative play

Activity is organised;differentiation of roles; complementing actions


Forms of ‘Play’ and Spatial Transformation

Applying the lighting philosophy to the facade that is being used as constructive play, children will be able to experience the change of shad- ow through moving/taking elements from the facade, rotating the facade etc. The encouragement of object play through the entire school is highly linked with manipulative building elements

The running track promotes the idea of ‘The Daily Mile’, to improve the physical, social, emotional and mental health and wellbeing of our children through running or jogging – at children’s own pace – in the fresh air with friends. Children can occasionally walk to catch their breath, if necessary, but should aim to run or jog for the full 15 minutes.

Located near the entrance hall, the climbing zone enables children to access different levels through climbing up the wall/net. It promotes physical play and train children’s muscle at the simultaneously. In terms of safety, the net protects the children from falling off and avoids potential injury.

The brick facade encourage object play: these movable bricks can be taken down from the facade and used to con- struct objects. using children’s own interpretation to affect the output of the shadow and helping them to understand the relationship between solid objects, light and shadow

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