Aug 21, 2014

An international business group gift this after-school care to a small EQ-torn town in Japan

Yamada-Machi  is a small central coastal town of Japan struggling after the 2011 tsunami and earthquake. International corporations thus gifted the town an after-school care and community facility as a place to play, heal and come together.

Designed by the Dutch firm Van Der Architects, the simple structure employs an irregular plan and a limited material/colour (natural timber, translucent polycarbonate and aggregate concrete) palette. Providing a neutral backdrop to the activities occurring within.

The building's other characteristics including skylights, built-in joinery, an internal courtyard and deep inset sills for sitting on. The building also takes into account the winter and summer sun path to maximise the potential of the sun.

The project shows how building for children post-disaster may create a seed of regeneration - instilling happiness and hope for a community.

Jun 25, 2014

A centre like an 'Aussie backyard'

New Zealand-based architecture firm Context have harnessed a childlike sense of curiosity and combined it with thoughtful intent in designing this new flagship Mother Duck Childcare centre housing up to 130 children in Brisbane.

Key to Mother Duck's philosophy is in providing a nurturing "home-like" environment that is aesthetically pleasing. Also that the environment caters for the child's curiosity, uniqueness and ability to learn through play.

To see their philosophy realised, the architects worked closely with the early childhood educators: "Context took our values and culture and translated them into an 'Aussie backyard' design concept. An extension of the home where the learning spaces extend from the lounge onto the covered deck and into the backyard."

Light and transparent within, the centre is shielded from the street and wrapped around the perimeter of the site maximising space, whilst ensuring visual protection and security.

Inside spaces are constructed from enduring and familiar materials including weatherboards, board and batten sash windows, providing a home-like atmosphere of belonging.

Australian Minister Sussan Ley whilst at the opening day heralded the centre as "state of the art", saying "what stood out...was the homeliness. Everything isn't little, there are big things too - big chairs, big floor boards. Children see things they see in their own homes..." (via Scoop)

Attention is paid to the child's experience upon first walking into the centre, the entrance featuring a vibrant entrance way and fish-tank reception area.

Seven individually themed 'homes' adapt to children's changing activities and needs throughout the day. The 'homes' opening onto 'Rainbow Street' - a flexible covered indoor-outdoor play space, and which acts as a permeable boundary between outside and in. Again, child-oriented details are included, with letterboxes, street lamps and louvres that the children can operate themselves.

Outside the centre's design reflects it's philosophy of the curious child - providing a wonderful magical landscape ready for exploration, including a water park.

Play structures - ramps, walkways, sandpits, a pool and a slide are combined with natural plantings - offering a dynamic and exciting place to play loudly or quietly, depending on the mood of the child.

The centre shows that through careful consideration of materials, site placement/orientation, colours and child-centred interactive details - a place that is both homely and fun is born.

May 28, 2014

The AEC now on Facebook!


Be sure to follow us to get your dose of early childhood architecture and design daily news.

Furniture that grows WITH the child

As seen on The Clever!

A number of designers are today recognising the benefit of designing products and furniture that last longer, that actually grow with the child.

Above, high chair to... well, a chair. This simple (yet bold) design by Maartje Steenkamp for Droog comes with printed "notches" indicating each stage of the chair. So when you feel the time is right, you can saw off what is not needed any more. 

Another "growing" chair is the Tripp Trapp. Designed originally by Norwegian furniture designer Peter Opsvik in 1972, Peter noticed that his son Tor had no chair that could position him at the correct height at the family dinner table and enable him to participate with the rest of the family.

While the Tripp Trapp concept was not at first popular, it has now sold more than 6 million chairs. Showing that the concept of adaptable design is now being slowly recognised.

The design's seat and footrest may be adjusted in both height and depth, thus it is possible to adapt the chair to the child as he or she grows. Additionally, the chair's design enables the child to safely climb up and into the chair all by themselves.

Made from beechwood, the chair now comes in a variety of rich colour varnishes.

Below, Swedish architect and designer Mia Cullen has produced this range of benches / stools for Orkester with adjustable seats, taking inspiration from traditional wooden peg furniture and piano stools.

The adjustable seats which were first designed for schools and nurseries, allow adult and child to comfortably sit side by side and are now used in waiting rooms, entrances and public spaces.

From chairs, benches to... beds. Also from Norwegian company Stokke is the ingenious Stokke Sleepi.

The Stokke Sleepi is one clever cot slash bed, which can be used from a child's birth to 10 years of age. Made from beautifully crafted solid beech wood, additional parts mean that the cot can grow as your child grows. It also looks pretty funky too.

These tables features adjustable legs, a simple yet oh so clever idea.

Consisting of a solid wood body, four coloured legs and rubber rings, the CASPAR table below designed by Martin Pabis and Thomas Maitz for Perludi allows the table to grow vertically with the child. 

Additionally, the table may be easily dismantled and hold it's legs inside the tray for simple storage.

Another growing table is one from German company Pure Position, which grows with the child in four stages. Each stage introducing a section of leg. The table also includes a number of handy boxes for pens and notes - for work and play!

And from one of our own, is the New Zealand designed Wishbone Bike.

The Wishbone was born when Industrial Designer Richard built a bike for his son Noah to keep up with him on their daily walks. The bike's design has no pedals, which teaches the child balance and co-ordination.

Starting as a three-wheeled ride-on toy for children who are just walking to a two-wheeled bike, the frame can then be flipped and the seat adjusted to accommodate children up to the age of five.

These clever designers show you need not fork out for a new piece of designer furniture every time your child grows a few inches! Rather, designing with the future in mind results in furniture that grows, adapts and lasts (hopefully) for many generations.

May 27, 2014


Modular construction is a topic I've been blogging about a fair bit recently (see Make it Modular post). I just think the concept is so fitting for early childhood environments. For the functional possibilities and the flexible nature of their use.

Take this 'Z' shape - termed the Zoo it is designed by Madrid based studio Mayice.

It can be stacked for storage, arranged side-by-side into a coffee table or table, be a seat, a magazine rack, display shelving... oh the possibilities!

Children roam amongst colourful critters at this new kindergarten designed by Baukind

I love the work of Baukind (read previous post here), who source sites in Berlin and then work to transform them into vibrant and "kids friendly" early childhood spaces.

This is the latest of their growing themed and colourful portfolio

The unique custom-design "critters" encourage the children to interact with the space and move freely around the kindergarten.

Kita Sinneswandel (or 'Change of Heart') takes its inspiration from the tree - as a symbol of growth and development. Each space metaphorically employing aspects of the tree for inhabitation and play.

The carefully considered colour palette giving the kindergarten a unique identity.

Baukind with Atelier Perela designed a colour concept and animal characters that correspond to and live around trees.

Baukind collaborated with visual designers Atelier Perela to create their animal characters.

The area that depicts the root of the tree (and uses warm, earthy red, brown and violet colours) is dedicated to young kids between one and three years.

Seen above the 1-3 years area, the "roots" of the tree. Ramps are integrated with storage and irregular and moveable blocks become a landscape for physical play.

Soft mats, carpet, cushions and soft cylinders further encourage floor play.

The first floor resembling the trunk of the tree uses multifunctional furniture to encourage active play and exploration.

The cube may become tables, chairs, storage boxes or building blocks.

Uplifting greens and blues on the second floor represent the crown of the tree. All of the spaces in Kita Sinneswandel utilise movable furniture modules - serving both functional and playful functions. Surfaces are "activated" with textured feature walls (brick), graphic murals, or blackboard for creative expression.

Bathrooms are designed with the scale of the child in mind. The sinks tapering down for the smallest children.

Carefully selected materials and colour are used to blur the boundaries of space (stretching over walls, floors and furniture), thus creating a space for adventure and play.

Via Frame.

May 26, 2014

An Apartment for Kids

This renovated apartment designed by Ruetemple in Russia has an entire section dedicated to the youngest inhabitants of the house.

Termed the "Loft Apartment" - it is indeed designed like a loft. Or a treehouse of sorts. It is in fact similar to an early childhood centre design I did as part of my thesis studies.

An architectural pallette of pale wood and light helps to provide a sense of space. While a layering of elements, including vertical wooden slats, criss-cross mesh, boxed storage walls, horizontal railing, safety netting, ladders and a whiteboard wall is combined to create a multitude of living and playful experiences to the apartment space.

The diagram above showing where the child can go as opposed to the adult.

A large space to play - with bean bags offering a place for rest.

A steep narrow stair case goes up to the loft level, as does a ladder, which goes up the wall. Seen right is the loft or "attic". Clad entirely of plywood and housed with large cushions, it makes for a restful space in which to do some quiet activity.

A whiteboard wall allows for brainstorming sessions and/or for purely creative expression.


An Apartment for Students

Ruetemple have also designed a similar apartment, except for students.

Again boxed storage walls, stairs, skylights and built-in desks are combined cleverly to maximise the use of space.

All ideas which could quite easily be translated into early childhood environments. Although those stairs look potentially rather hazardous!

Kids in Museums

I like to see initiatives that recognize children as competent individuals with abundant creative ideas and skills waiting to be realized. Therefore Kids in Museums gets a big tick from me. Their goal = to encourage museums in the UK to welcome children and families.

Their main event is Takeover Day. Held once a year, museums can sign up to invite children and young people to take over the museum for the day. Where among other things, children, wearing "I'm taking over stickers" meet and greet visitors, set up exhibitions, gather stories to tell and design visitor guides. As the Kids in Museums website says - "there was nothing children couldn't do - proving how putting them at the heart of a museum makes it a vibrant and exciting place to be, full of fresh ideas and new perspectives."

Museums are places full of potential for learning and of creative possibility. And if given the chance, may provide children with memorable experiences.

One museum, the Moderna Museet museum in Stockholm is offering what looks to be a fantastic artistic workshop experience - love the large space with artworks and paint all over the floors, walls and tables.

Every Sunday is Family Sunday, where children aged 2-6  are taken on a tour of the museum and then taken to the beautiful workshop where they paint, draw and sculpt using what they've seen and learnt as inspiration.

Looks like such fun!

May 20, 2014

The Clever Launch

Super excited about the new launch of CleverBastards which has just been reborn as The Clever: Design Store.

What started as a search for the cleverest NZ'ers (those "clever bastards") has now gone global - taking the same "clever" approach but sourcing like-minded product the world over.

The Clever hunts out new designers, inspiring stories and clever products. I like how the home page integrates all of these things giving you loads of visual stimulation and choice for where ever your eye takes you.

And there's a blog post by little ol me in there too! Pictured above is a post on clever furniture that grows with the child (you can read it here).

The online shop also features a few kiddie products, my favs of which are below.


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