Labyrinth and Paper Planes: ISP’s new Learning and Innovation Centre

The new school year is always a special time, ever filled with anticipation and excitement. And so, like many schools around the world, we once again welcome students and families to the International School of Prague.  In spite of the challenges posed by the pandemic, ISP has fully reopened and is anticipating an inspiring, engaging and empowering year of learning.

In fact, over the summer, a major building project, fully funded by our generous donors, is going full steam ahead with a remarkable transformation of the ISP library into a new Learning and Innovation Centre, to be completed in the next few weeks. Upon entering this visionary facility, learners will find a future-focused learning environment, infused with an adaptable and flexible design, developed with Czech architects Studio Perspectiv.  Much more than a library, this space will inspire ISP learners to not only read and research, but also to design, collaborate, innovate and create for years to come.

While there is much more to say about the new ISP ‘library’ in a future blog, I want to focus here on the influence a prominent Czech artist, Peter Sís, has had on the design of this stunning facility.

I actually have a personal connection to the art of Petr Sis. After all, I grew up in New York City, and until I ventured out into the world of international education over 25 years ago, the city was my center. If you’ve ever spent any time in the New York subway system, you would have encountered some of Sís’s work. While not a native New Yorker, (Sís was born in Czechoslovakia), New York is his adopted home.  An internationally renowned artist, author, filmmaker and illustrator, Sís has won many awards for his illustrated stories, which portray a world of fantasy, great voyages, adventures, reminiscences, and dreams. His whimsical art reflects his love for this quirky city as well as an uncanny ability to communicate big ideas. His work ranging from large pieces like his Yellow Submarine tapestry which hangs in Ellis Island, to his thought provoking and iconic subway art and mosaics have become an influential and instantly recognisable thread in my city’s rich tapestry.

Bono, right, and The Edge, left, of the Irish rock band U2, flank Yoko Ono, the widow of John Lennon, at the unveiling of a giant tapestry depicting the island of Manhattan as a yellow submarine piloted by a waving Lennon at Ellis Island Wednesday, July 29, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Short video about the NY subway mosaics of Petr Sís

One reoccurring theme that often appears in Sis’s work is the labyrinth, a complicated network of paths in which one is challenged to find one’s way, kind of like learning itself!

Petr Sís speaking at a retrospective exhibit of his work at DOX museum in Prague

We are thrilled that Petr Sís has permitted ISP to prominently display a large rendering of one of his iconic symbols, the labyrinth, in our new Learning and Innovation Centre. Upon entering, this striking image will be a focal point , creating a sense of wonder, as well as being a reminder of the peaceful frame of mind and focused strength necessary for deep exploration and profound learning. 

Inside the new ISP Library with Sís’s labyrinth in the background

Another striking feature of the library design, the paper plane acoustic baffles soaring across the ceiling, is inspired by Sís’s bird mobile (pictured below). We hope this permanent installation will remind our students of the joyful, expansive and infinite nature of learning, i.e. the sky’s the limit! Having grown up under communism in Czechoslovakia, the bird theme has special significance to Sís.

I think growing up in the communist country behind the iron curtain, the birds never needed passports. The birds would always fly over the head. And I remember that we always felt like the birds can go wherever they want. We couldn’t, really. So the birds were very much the symbol of something which doesn’t have to follow the rules of whatever country. So I think the bird’s are the very symbol of the free movement for me.

Petr Sis speaking during a 2011 NPR Interview on “All things Considered”: ‘Birds,’ Sis Makes A Dream World For Grown-Ups
Bird mobiles installation in a recent exhibition at DOX Museum in Prague
Rendition of new library with paper planes
ISP’s new Learning and Innovation Centre getting ready to “take off!”

This new space, inspired by the aesthetic of one this country’s most renowned artists, is a reflection of ISP’s over 70 history in the Czech Republic. As we anticipate a remarkable year of learning at ISP, even during these challenging times, the ISP Learning and Innovation Centre gives us renewed optimism about the future and much to be thankful for.

Sneak peak of the new ISP Learning and Information Centre

 

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