Nov 24, 2015

The 'Farming Kindergarten'

Reminiscent of Tezuka Architects' highly praised Fuji Kindergarten (see post here) is this 'Farming Kindergarten' designed by Vo Trong Architects with its soaring habitable roof.

Receiving the Architectural Review "Highly Commended" Award, the kindergarten design is a reaction to Vietnam's rapid urbanization (and subsequent removal from nature) that the population is facing. 

Built next to a shoe factory for the 500 children of the factory employees, it has a continuous green roof that provides expansive space for physical play as well as edible gardens. Teaching children about the work that goes into growing and cultivating ones own food.

The three loops that the building forms in plan also has the advantage of creating three internal (and protected) play spaces. All of which include trees with concrete formed curving bench seats surrounding them so that the children can sit under their shade.

The construction is kept simple - with concrete floors, walls and roof and a simple vertical steel balustrade. A budget approach, that yet works. Allowing the natural elements and strong curving form to shine.

Along with the ethos of connecting with nature, the architects have included a plenitude of openable windows allowing cross ventilation and lighting. As a result, it can operate without air conditioning, despite the intense tropical climate.

Other strategies of environmental control include using recycled factory wastewater to irrigate the green roof and lavatories and solar power to heat water.

Vertical timber slats on the building's outer facades provides semi-transparent screening whilst also acting as a trellis for creeping plants. Further allowing the building to become one with it's natural surroundings.

Via AR.

Nov 9, 2015

Smørblomsten Kindergarten reflects the "village" concept of many gabled forms

Here is an exemplary example of a rigorous design approach for designing a centre. Unfortunately a lot of the initial ideas seem lost in the final (yet finely articulated architectural) product (as is often the case).

It is a common issue in attempting a way to break down the scale of space to give at once the feeling of homeliness and meet the functional scale of the child. And this was the first thought given by architects COBE who designed this rather large (200 child-capacity) new centre situated in the town of  Frederiksberg in Denmark.

How to make a large kindergarten seem small?

The next thought was given over to how to meet the various contextual scales of the surrounding context, to ensure the facility fit within the surrounding buildings and green areas.

Diagram incorporating the urban, villa and greenery scales of the surrounding context.

Physical model

Rendered view from the playground

The overall flow of the 'village' is around the two 'village' winter gardens

Rendered view of a 'winter garden'

Providing access to outdoor play

Two houses shift position to create spatial pockets therefore maxmizing the playground

There are four roof gardens - one of them is a double decker!

All kids have access to outdoor spaces from their own floor 

Facades are clad in wood with small variations
(Further breaking up the scales)

Rendered view from the street

Colour in the interior gives identity to each little house

Rendered view of inside a play room

Spaces within spaces: 
11 small houses with even smaller houses inside these houses!

Letting nature in

Floor Plans and Section
Click on the images below to enlarge.

Ground Floor Plan                                   First Floor Plan

Second Floor Plan                                    Section

And the finished result...

The minimalist black and white forms are rather a far cry from the concept rendering showing warm natural timbers of varying texture and transparency giving a depiction of layering and allowing nature in. The final result below however seems stark and foreboding in comparison (perhaps not helped by the looming overhead clouds....)

The reflective and seemingly random placed frameless windows set in the village-like "houses" are however impressive. As project architect Eik Bjerregaard explains; The windows were carefully detailed to look frameless ‘like a child might forget to draw the frames’, and the roofline is uncluttered thanks to hidden drainage details, precise material connections, and insetting solar panels flat to the roof surface.

A wood-wrapped indoor-outdoor structure used for sports and play

A skylit central atrium with "classrooms" or "group rooms" all facing in through house-shaped window nooks.

It seems a shame that the initial concepts of warm timbers, natural elements and defining colours were abandoned in the final product which seems to me to be too stark, minimal and cold for "loose" - active and creative children's play. However, the architects must be commended for their design methodology which exhibits a thorough thought process to designing for children.

Via FrameWeb and COBE.

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.