Sep 8, 2015

A sensitive and clever contextual approach is employed by these kindergarten architects

In a built-up area of Kobe, Japanese practice Tadashi Suga Architects have completed the Takeno Nursery School. 

Positioned on a prominent corner plot surrounded by busy roads, the design team positioned the playground at the center of the plan, with the building constructed along the site’s boundaries.

At the upper level, a green roof overlooks the internal courtyard. Careful scaling to the street has been paid with the levels not exceeding single storey - thus softening the junction with the neighbouring street.

The internal courtyard play area remains open to fresh sunlight and air, yet provides an enveloping enclosure for health and safety.

Predominantly natural materials, large sliding doors on the ground level and upper clerestory mechanically controlled windows continue the theme of the courtyard theme and in providing a healthy environment for the young children.

Above, the entrance is "cut" into the center's mass and is further marked with a yellow fence and signage appended to the buildings cedar-clad curving exterior.

Some parking is provided for on the ground floor with space being maximised with the top storey being cantilevered over "piloti". A glass balustrade on the rooftop minimises the frontage of the building to the street.

I particularly like the architect's treatment of the structural columns, the stained timber symbolising a trunk with a branch to hold the level above. A rounded edge is provided also at the child's height to minimise risk of injury and also allows the child to sit / stand on or jump off.

A tree in the centre further grounds the concept of the central outdoor courtyard and its prominence in the kindergarten.

A simple purple steel framed, glass panelled railing (combined with the yellow entrance version) adds subtle pops of colour into an otherwise pared back material palette.

Ground Floor Plan - showing the playground structure, a sand pit, a water play area and garden. The playroom is double height with a mezzanine level overlooking it from above (see below).

Level 1 Plan - showing the green space, a deck and even a vegetable garden. The Level 1 "L" plan allows a mezzanine type connection to the floor's activities below.

Via DesignBoom.

Sep 1, 2015

A school and nursery in France gets a makeover with facilities being shared with the wider village

French designer Matali Crasset has given this early learning and primary school a makeover, with what has been termed as “tiny architectures” or (“micro-architectures”) or as Matali Crasset puts it "extensions of generosity". Physical structures inserted into the existing school fabric to transform users' spatial experiences.

In the small village of Trébedan (with approx. 400 inhabitants) the past eight years have seen the school teachers run educational projects that closely involve pupils' parents, town councillors and elderly members of the town. Their initiatives have breathed new life into this rural area and led to the creation of a group of patrons united around envisioning a project for the school Blé en Herbe.

Their aim has been to set new standards and improve the functionality of educational spaces, as well as to strengthen the social and cultural role of the school within the village. The brief included the need to refurbish the existing school buildings, extend the existing school with a new kindergarten and canteen, and to create a physical link with the village square. 

The school has since undergone a major refurbishment of its current classrooms, playground and communal spaces to provide a more cohesive and playful environment for physical, social and creative (curious or adventurous) learning.

The school buildings are treated as platforms for many types of activity. Weather vanes, miniature windmills. nessts, watch points for birds, a vegetable patch and turrets are being created above the classrooms.

Several curving and dynamic small glulam structures are placed around the external areas – the slatted “skeletal” looking frames providing dynamic shadows and ledges for sitting or climbing on.

Each of these "extensions" are given a name in accordance to how they are intended to be used. For example "Les Sources" (the sources), open to all, hosts a library and cyberspace, while "La Rencontre" takes the form of street furniture to host public events in the village. 

Meanwhile the existing dreary “prefab” classrooms have been replaced with buildings containing deep silled floor to ceiling windows with natural pine frames, a selected (and bright) colour floor, wall and furniture material palette and ample storage and flexible space for various types of (individual and group) learning. 

All of which face onto the playground and outside areas which are shared with the village.

Along the lines of sharing – not only are the exterior spaces shared with the community, but the library, computer facilities and canteen are also able to be used outside of school hours.

Not only has Crassat designed the architectural environment, but also the modular furniture aimed to allow the children to move and work themselves – promoting individual autonomy as well as flexibility to cater for a number of activities at one time.

As Crasset says: “a school is not a closed cocoon so let’s give children the desire to move, go outside, interact with their environment. To learn how to look around and remain curious is essential. Especially as schools are where [children]  spend most of their day at.”

Based in Paris, Crasset has worked for Philippe Starck and now owns her own business focusing on the function of objects and relations between these objects, humans and human activities. I.e. focusing on domestic rites and the social and cultural codes governing our daily lives in order to experiment with new typologies and ways of appropriating them. She proposes spaces open to all, objects suited to users which facilitate interaction and sharing; inviting users to react to the world around them.

Aug 27, 2015

A cool "cubby" that's like a gypsy wagon and mini contemporary home in one

The Cubby House Challenge is an annual auction held in Melbourne raising money for the Kids Under Cover organisation to prevent youth homelessness.

A previous blog post on The AEC covered some of the fun (and wacky) entries to date. Below however is one of my favourite home fitout designers' 2015 entry - designed by the Doherty Design Studio and built by Visual Builders.

The Vardo Hut was designed by Mardi Doherty, whose inspiration came from memories of her own childhood: "Cubbyhouses represent some of the happiest times of my childhood and, today, play an essential role in my own children's recreation and creative development. I wanted our Vardo Hut to stimulate that same happy, escapist feel for other children, while also sitting in harmony with the garden."

Doherty Design's previous projects have displayed a knack for crafting spaces that pay close attention to materiality and detailing - combining a sense of play with functionality.

And the Vardo Hut continues this sensibility, the form mimicking the frontage of a traditional Gypsy Wagon and the fitout utilising a selected material and colour palette to create a number of fun and intimate "chill out" spaces.

The exterior's curved semi-transparent platic roof cleverly allows light in, whilst the forms vertical timber slat cladding fitted with mesh for creeping plants and a ledge for storage and display creates a homely feel. A ladder to a loft and various sized circle window cut-outs with tilted shutters invite the children to interact with and manipulate their environment.

The multiple points and methods of entry engaging the young mind and offering a sense of adventure, whilst encouraging physical development through the use of co-ordination and gross motor skills.

Inside, a natural ply structure, wall and joinery finish is combined with artificial grass, a black net and coloured window and cabinetry inside faces.

The hut won People’s Choice Award and sold for $9000.00 at an Auction, the highest price reached out of the six entries and well over its reserve of $6500.00.

Via Habitus Living.

Aug 24, 2015

Small Design - creating quality interlocking furniture for kids

Danish designers Eglantine Charrier and Anja Lykke have developed this fun geometric range of children's furniture.

Inspired by the child's intuitive approach to their surroundings and play the pieces are made to be multi functional.

Simple yet fun, the designs come in a variety of carefully selected colour laminates and natural muted birch plywood finishes.

The circle table and seats above reflect a type of puzzle - with the seats mirroring the table. And then easily stacked away when playtime is over.

All furniture from Small Design is manufactured by local Danish carpenters to ensure high production qualities are maintained. 

The Cube is a chair and table in one - easily turned and moved as wished.

The Cube Bench below may be used as a seat or shelf.

And again the Link Table and Bench below may grow with the child - becoming a table, then bench, then shelf for the bedroom.

The furniture also becomes flat packed for easy delivery.

The designers have also worked with Lekolar to create these shelving partitions for early childhood centres.

Combining function with play is a sure way to transform space into one that inspires fun and learning through play.

Aug 10, 2015

A centre in Dunedin that respectfully refurbishes five existing villas

The newly refurbished OUCA (Otago University Childcare Association) Childcare or “Te Pā” in Dunedin has been granted a win at the recent 2015 Southern Architecture Awards for it's "meticulous attention to the reuse of prominent building elements" and for being a "dynamic, multicultural and enjoyable building" (NZIA, 2015).

Designed by the team at Parker Warburton Architects, the now 140 child capacity centre utilises elements (including the street facade) of existing original 19th century villas.

Meanwhile the architects have extended the structure at the back, a design that both echoes the existing villa aesthetic whilst providing a more "contemporary" construction of clean lines, stained timber slats and pops of colour.

The centre also receiving a Resene Colour Award for providing a "restrained, pleasant colour palette reinforcing the rhythm of the street" and with the "mix of warm natural timber and splashes of reds and yellows adding a fun, dynamic aesthetic to modern forms."

Teepees, forts, playrooms, art spaces, gardens and teacher offices make up the playful microcosm of this centre that both promotes playful exploration and provides a warm "homely" and comfortable feel.

Says the centre director Kay Lloyd-Jones: “The children are loving the water features, opportunities to ‘climb hills’, the warmth of the floors from underfloor heating and the sense of space both inside and outside. Parents have been amazed by all of this, and also the aesthetic, the sense of enclosure between the buildings which excludes traffic noise and the feeling of community coming from the arrangement of the buildings.”

The design sensitively carries through traditional elements such as the natural stained timber trims - (skirtings, dado and architraves) through to the new structure providing a seamless transition.

A "finger" or splayed spatial arrangement in plan results in maximum connection from inside to the natural outdoors - allowing natural sunlight and ventilation to be used throughout.

Inspired by a journey from the mountains to the sea, a meandering covered walkway connects the existing villas to the row of five new buildings which enclose the site along the Water of Leith. Amidst this enclosed space is a variety of outdoor play elements - man-made and natural to encourage free and active play.

In fact a unique part of the OUCA pedagogy is the "bush curriculum" whereby teachers take groups of the older children into the bush to "explore" (ERO) - a great concept for children to further get access to the natural outdoors and use their creative imagination.

Via Architecture Now.