Oct 23, 2014

'Wednesday' by Anne Bertier (and translated by Claudia Zoe Bedrick)

   
The story below by the french children's story book writer Anne Bertier reminds me of Froebel's abstracted geometries for teaching children the "essence" or basic "building blocks" of the natural world.

It is a story that also speaks to adults - teaching basic fundamentals to perhaps more complex notions.

It is the story of two friends, Little Round and Big Square who get together every Wednesday to play a game.


A game of association and transformation, where "as soon as one of them says a word, they transform themselves into it."


But the fun abates when Little Round begins to feel littler and insufficient, as Big Square begins to parade a repertoire of words beyond Little Round's capabilities.




They form a rift and go to opposite sides of the room.


However, soon they realise that if they work together, they can form an endless array of images....








Not only is the story a simple but poignant portrayal for the way we transform the building blocks of life, but also shows that whether we are big or small (age or otherwise) - each has something to offer. 

Oct 21, 2014

Two new fun-filled kids spaces in Israel designed by Sarit Shani Hay


I've shared Sarit's beautifully graphic fun-filled interiors for children before, and now she has done it again with these two new centres in Tel Aviv, Israel.

"Hello First Grade"

The first, "Hello First Grade" is actually an interesting brief, which hopes to soften or ease the transition for children going from early child care to school (the Arts & Science Elementary School).

Thus the environment was designed to be inviting and encourage childrens' eagerness for learning.



Central to the school's design is a large magnetic wall designed as a notebook page connecting rows of wooden pencils in a range of colours to letter, number and geometric magnets. Allowing children to arrange these to will.



Left is the 'music corner' - located within a large wooden drum. Here, children can listen to their chosen music through headphones. Right, is the 'dance corner', which hosts a stage and dance bar for rehearsing and performances.



A 'reading and friendship corner' situated in wooden blocks has cushioned seats, activity tables and library niches - catering for quiet or 'study' activities.



A black and white checker floor promotes physical movement or play, while a large screen embedded in a robot's head offers technological play and learning (through games and films).

The design caters for a range of learning types and stimulation of the senses.


Educational Centre in Kfar Shemaryahu

Sarit's second project is in Kfar Shemaryahu and covers 2,400m² which includes six kindergartens, a common play area and an 'empowerment centre' providing psychological services to the community's children.



The centre's design is inspired by both the city's agricultural past, as well as the "seven species" of the Bible denoting the profusion and fertility of the Land of Israel and its diverse crops.



The distinctive character of each kindergarten was dictated by the species identified with it, which served as a design code and gave rise to its colour scheme and components. Graphic and symbolic motifs meet functional learning motives, as well as serving to inspire the "fun of learning".



The Lobby

The central lobby acts as a axis binding all of the kindergartens together, whilst serving as a play area and passageway to the Empowerment Centre.



The lobby space (above and below) plays a key role in outlining the overall narrative of the centre.



The child arrives and witnesses scenes of a village, such as the large tractor and sculptural islands with raw-birch plywood trees on the floor.



And on the walls, graphics imitating the contours of the landscape: a water tower, a watchtower and various animals all made of woodcuts in Formica on plywood.

The kindergartens

The six kindergartens echo one of the three 'themes' composed by Sarit and are divided either by modular furniture or by airy wooden huts.



The first theme is the 'Tamar (Palm) Kindergarten' - the orange palette echoing the colour of ripe dates. The graphics drawn from palm trees: oasis, camels and huts with maple wooden beams.



The 'Zayit (Olive) and Gefen (Vine) Kindergarten (below) caters to toddlers. Cushioned seats and age-related activities serve the child's physical and learning capacities.



Graphically, a dove bearing an olive branch is imprinted on the cupboard doors. A symbol of peace which alludes to the the underlying 'seven species' concept - teaching tolerance and respect.



The 'Rimon (Pomegranate) Kindergarten' (below) takes it inspiration form the pomegranate tree.



A pomegranate jigsaw puzzle (like) piece is imprinted in the cupboard doors, and the pomegranate fruit is incorporated as a round hiding place and sheltered play area in the cupboard as an upholstered stool.

The Empowerment Centre

The Empowerment Centre serves the community providing special rooms and psychological services.



The waiting area contains an interactive wall combined with various textures, containing a wide range of games such as a clock with hands, a turning bicycle wheel, wooden balls threaded on a ball among more.



The reception desk (above) is made of maple wood with colourful 3D pay blocks incorporated into it, while large sculptural blocks scattered on the floor with numbers and letters help to make the waiting children feel relaxed and be occupied through play.

Both new educational spaces for children successfully celebrate the child's capacity for learning through exploration and play.

Oct 15, 2014

Architects and the people of Venezuela pitch in to create spaces FOR community

  
A fantastic initiative, the Espacios de Paz (Spaces for Peace) project in Venezuela is turning “zones of danger” into “zones of peace” through participatory design in violent areas of the country.


   
Led by Venezuelan firm PICO Estudio, the project involved architects and the community in a 6-week long workshop. By transforming unused spaces such as empty plots and unregulated landfill areas, the projects sought to create “social dynamics that invite new ways of living in communities, transforming categories that rule the daily life: the use of time and space.”

The initiative's focus was to create “a space built not only “for” the community but “by” the community,” and shows how a little thought and a new built structure can be a seed for regeneration and instill a sense of community back into a space.

It is a relevant methodology to apply to the ethos, and design and construction of early childhood centres.

Via ArchDaily.

A modular and efficient (smart) classroom

  
Following the lead of the modernists (see earlier post here), who envisaged an architecture of clean functional modular parts - are these classrooms designed by Anderson Anderson Architecture for Hawaii.



Not only does the design allow for fast and efficient construction, but focuses on the occupants' health and comfort and teaches about eco efficiency and energy consumption.



The energy performance of the building is monitored and broadcasted to students inside as well as to the web for all to view - thus the building becomes a tool for learning about energy consumption and preservation.



The design also considers lifecycle (energy and maintenance) costs and will be monitored for it's performance over two years. Thus any issues are noted, reported, analysed and subsequently improved upon - ultimately (hopefully!) improving the quality of future learning spaces for all.



Focusing not only on energy efficiency (for example with the use of photovoltaic panels) the building's design provides comfort with shaded north-facing daylight glazing and ventilation (providing thermal comfort), while materials are chosen not only for their low-maintenance but for being healthy (low-VOC) and acoustically comfortable.



The building is prefabricated in three easily transportable modules, reducing initial cost and energy. A steel frame and steel and rigid foam, sandwich panel floor and roof system with a double-skin wall metal cladding reduces heat gain. The modularity of the construction system allows relocation and future re-use of the building without typical demolition and disposal waste of materials and embedded energy.






One in four students in Hawaii currently study in poor-quality portable classrooms. The States plans to replace 10,000 of these units over the next ten years. This classroom concept being mass produced hopes to meet the demand for classrooms as required.

Via ArchDaily.

Sep 3, 2014

An external frame invites play

 
Designed by Heri and Salli, 'Office Off' is an office concept that says "why shouldn't work be fun?!"



A external wooden frame allows users to climb/interact with the building. I can imagine this very concept being applied to a playground building modular system which may cater for varying "interactive" infill panels....

Via Contemporist.

Sep 1, 2014

A kindergarten that takes its inspiration from stacked toy blocks

   
The design of this EC centre is reminiscent of the contemporary or "late modern" institutional approach. While perhaps a tad too sterile in my opinion, the architecture does exhibit fine detailing and craftmanship and some fun and playful characteristics.


"White-washed" precast concrete panels are paired with coloured semi-transparent glass facades. The architects (LBR + A) taking thier inspiration from stacked toy blocks.


Limited space (the kindergarten shares the site with an existing primary and elementary school) meant combining ground play areas with elevated terraces. 



Circular windows of varying sizes, shallow atrium stairs (for sitting or performing) and a range of regular, curving and irregular paths and forms work to create spaces for play and exploration.

Via ArchDaily.

This centre combines a community garden for sustainable living

 
The Flance Early Childhood Center in St Louis, Missouri has recently been completed. Designed by Trivers Associates the centre demonstrates a high quality build and an emphasis on promoting a healthy community.



The centre, offering a community garden for all to look after and enjoy not only reaches out to the wider neighbourhood but teaches children about nurturing natural life and then enjoying healthy eating.


The kitchen and dining areas (number 7 in the plan below) has been designed as a space for "demonstrations" - showing children and their families how to create delicious healthy food.


Whilst a "wellness and community classroom" (number 6 above) is another facility that caters for the wider community promoting wellness and acts as a space for hosting community events.

The building's design combines an approach that is both serious (or sophisticated), yet has an element of fun and lightness.



The diagram below shows the architect's consideration into how the current areas buildings might better cater to children's needs. The designed porch providing a connection between inside and out, whilst acting further as a transitory space for play.



Inside a select colour scheme and surface graphics serve to define boundaries and space, while injecting fun and play.



Outside the dynamic porch balcony, playful feature structural columns, landscaping, colour and material palette (including perforated steel and protruding bricks) combine to create a thoughtful and considered design for it's young users and the wider community.




Via Trivers Associates.

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.

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