An odd scene: an architectural model of a section of the Occupational Education School is placed upside-down, as it were, on the plaza in front of the school. Upon closer inspection, you can discern the layout of a classroom; opposite the door is a wall of windows. On the short end of the room, which is on the ground, a rectangular plant bed replaces the blackboard that would usually be in a classroom. Out of this bed grows a honey locust tree. Like an entrance gate more than ten meters high, visitors are greeted with one of the school’s sample classrooms. Interior and exterior, school and plaza are connected to each other.
At the same time, the model of the classroom is “emblematic of instruction, encounters, and education,” as the group of Dutch artists writes in its concept. Observatorium was founded in Rotterdam in 1997 and consists of four artists who work primarily with architectural sculpture, installations, and actions in and with the public space. In the process they like to transcend the boundaries between architecture and urban planning, everyday culture and art—even the group’s name is programmatic!
The title of the piece is also a metaphor referring to growth or the process of maturing into adulthood. Like the honey locust tree, which continues to grow every year and will at some point completely fill the classroom—or even leave it behind entirely—the classroom laid out on the plaza symbolizes the necessity of education as well as the desire for freedom that every student has, the urge to escape school. Unexpectedly, viewers are reminded with a grin of Erich Kästner’s The Flying Classroom,” a profound parable about the basic human values of friendship and civil courage.