architectural festival where children and adults together
explore, design and build

Spaces we continuously move through shape our emotions, reflections, and actions while we have the power to shape them. It is essential not only to become aware of the underlying qualities of space but to acquire knowledge, skills and courage to change it. Therefore, we engage children and adults in the processes of conscious exploration, design and construction of public spaces.

Together we merge education and craftsmanship in order to transform "void" spaces into playful — meaning lively, engaging, sensory-active —landscapes. Eventually, we form fulfilling relationships between space and human beings and construct our own realities we identify with.

We work on the edge of architecture, education and child development. The festival is created to explore the future of the participatory design practices that incorporate children. Our research interests are built around investigating the following questions:

What do interaction and play mean for public space design?

How to create a constructive dialogue between users (children and adults) and architects?

How do children perceive space?

If we incorporate children in public space design, what are the benefits for their personal development?

Arch Dacha is an experimental festival that unites children, parents, and professionals in the process of design and construction of public space in 1:1 scale. The festival was founded in 2015 on the bank of the lake near Saint Petersburg, Russia, and has been visited by more than 1000 people. One project is created by averagely 30 children and 20 adults in 3-5 days.

The festival attracts families, architects, artists, thinkers and other creative professionals who are interested in innovative collaborations and working with children. Participants not only design and construct wooden structures but play, perform, interact, walk and enjoy a peaceful time in nature.

We document the construction process and gather feedback from professionals, parents and children. Our experimental investigation shows that collective design and construction practices that incorporate children have an equally strong potential to change the way we approach public space design and simultaneously to foster a higher level of intellectual and emotional intelligence:

Children are actively engaged in learning; professionals find new perspectives on design; construction process is very efficient; built spaces promote social interaction and generate an emotional response from its users; unexpected scenarios of play and interaction arise between people.

+ creating the vision for the project
+ program development
+ scenarios design
+ analysis of a building site
+ adoption of the concept
Participatory design
+ initial modeling and drawing
+ structural schemes development
+ prototype modeling
+ materials specifications
+ budgeting
+ final project
Collective building
+ construction site set up
+ foundation re-enforcement
+ sanding and painting
+ screwing, nailing, sawing
+ assembling
+ testing
Play and adaptation
+ inhabiting the space, play
+ adaptation of the space
+ emergence of new functions, interactions and possibilities
"Everything you can imagine is real." Pablo Picasso
Collaboration of participants of different ages, backgrounds and professions allows to exchange competencies and skills, expand perspective on design and increase tolerance in the community.
Engagement in shaping the physical space gives participants a practical experience of pro-active participation in making a change and empowers them to act. It helps to connect learning to real-life experience.
Facilitation rather than prescription encourages a flow of creativity and motivates to explore. Participants take control of a learning process. It is a catalyst for development of new ideas, forms, meanings and interactions.
Judgement-free creative space is a non-evaluative learning environment and an experimental laboratory, where participants express themselves freely. It is a drive for higher self-esteem and a motivation to act.
Edutainment is a synthesis of "education" and "entertainment". It is about the balance of freedom and responsibility, that deepens the interest to learn.
Safety is about finding the balance of responsibility and freedom. Children learn to set up their own rules, to follow them responsibly, to be aware of a risk and to develop self-reliance.
Immersion in a sustainable environment and ecological building teaches children to practice conscious decision-making from the early age.
Craftsmanship is a practice of presence and concentration. Hands-on building activities help to develop patience, fine-motor skills, spatial understanding and logic.
We're happy to hear your opinion, answer a question,
collaborate on a project, organize a workshop
together and exchange experiences.
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Saint Petersburg, Russia