The Cottage that Kids Built: Jack's Mill School and the significance of architecture for progressive education in New Zealand in the late 1930s
Keywords:Model houses, Children's playhouses, Miniature objects, Architecture in Education, Kotuku, New Zealand, Interior Architecture, History, 20th Century
Even today, the tiny West Coast community of Kōtuku is difficult to find. In 1935, when Edward Darracott arrived to the position of sole teacher at Jack's Mill School, it must have felt very far removed indeed from the rest of New Zealand. Yet here, in what might be described as a Department of Education backwater, Darracott implemented an audaciously progressive educational experiment. Central to his teaching, Darracott embarked on two major projects with his students. The first (and in keeping with an interschool competition at that time) was the design and establishment of a garden. The second project would prove more ambitions. With responsibility for the planning and building passed to the students, Darracott initiated the construction on the school grounds of a three-quarter scale bungalow, complete with furnishings, running water and electricity. The "miniature bungalow" received national attention at the time, and survives today under the care of the Department of Conservation, but outside the interests of back-road tourists, Darracott's educational experiment remains largely neglected. This paper will provide an overview of Darracott's achievements in Kōtuku before focusing attention of the specific architectural interests he activated. This begins with the self-conscious civility on display in the garden, before moving on to the opportunities and consequences of domesticity at work with the cottage itself. Viewed in this way, it is hoped that the isolation of Darracott's achievement (geographically and educationally) will begin to be replaced by a well-informed alignment with international practices of the time. Moreover, it will be shown how these "radical pedagogies" saw architecture as a necessary - perhaps inevitable - tool of implementation.