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The Atelier

atelier [at-l-yey,] a workshop or studio, especially of an artist, artisan, or designer.

  • atelier EY
  • atelier EY 2
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  • atelier EY 5

During the learning reflection conferences, some parents asked, ‘What is the Atelier?’ 

The Atelier is a laboratory that gives value to the expressive potentials and creativity of each individual and of all the children. It is a place of experimentation and research where all of the children have a delightful presence.

“Although we did not come close to achieving those impossible ideals, still the atelier has always repaid us. It has, as desired, proved to be subversive – generating complexity and new tools of thought. It has allowed rich combinations and creative possibilities among the different (symbolic) languages of children. (The Hundred Languages of Children).”

Loris Malaguzzi

I love to work with the children in the Atelier. It is a place where the children can further explore their creativity and work with children of different ages. Here the children may dance, sing, make music, build with a range of materials, paint, collage, create installations on the light table… They always come with ideas or are inspired by the work of others. Given that this is a treasured space for so many, I asked the children how they might describe it to a visitor,

“It is the funnest place ever. Painting and drawing.”

“It’s for blocks, you can build giant towers.”

“We can use cardboard boxes. We can make like a person from cardboard boxes.”

“It’s a place so people can build and paint and make stuff for their mum and dad.”

“You can make a rocket there and I like painting.”

“So we can build here. So we can make stuff. I like to do art. I just think in my head what I can do for my mum and dad.”

“It’s a place where we can make art. I get my ideas just from my head.”

“My ideas, I just think about it.”

“My idea goes into my tummy and into my head.”

“You have to take your mum to the Atelier so they know what it is and what they can do there.”

One of the primary innovations of the Reggio Approach is the atelier, the school studio and laboratory. The atelier is a place for experimentation with separate or combined visual languages, either in isolation or in combination with verbal ones. The Atelier thus becomes the place of research, invention, and empathy, expressed by means of “100 languages”, which extend beyond childhood to include adulthood up to advanced age. In this way, the expressive and poetic languages became part of the process by which knowledge is built.


The Hundred Languages

No way. The hundred is there.

The child
is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.

A hundred always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds
to discover
a hundred worlds
to invent
a hundred worlds
to dream.

The child has
a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.

The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.

They tell the child:
to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and at Christmas.

They tell the child:
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.

They tell the child:
that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
are things
that do not belong together.

And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says:
No way. The hundred is there.

Loris Malaguzzi 

Founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach

(translated by Lella Gandini)