Jan 26, 2016

At Prestwood a new infant building provides the school's children with much joy (with little cost)

Designed by De Rosee Sa, the new dining 'Little Hall' at Prestwood Infant School was designed with much thought and with careful consideration for keeping costs down.

Taking their inspiration from Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr Fox  the building was conceived as "a little underground village, with streets and houses on each side - separate houses for badges and moles and rabbits and weasels and foxes."

The architects cleverly kept costs down by using materials for both effect and durability whilst not being extortionate in their cost.

Externally, western red cedar battens stained in five graduating colours are fixed (via a horizontal batten) to white polycarbonate corrugate sheet. The profile (silhouette) of this facade matches the roof pitches of the existing school buildings. Making a nice link of the old with the new.

Internally six skylights allow for the inside spaces to be lit naturally, while stained ply is used for both the internal linings (walls and ceilings) and for the custom-built cabinetry.

In keeping with the budget constraints, the structural concrete building pad (foundation) is used also as the internal floor surface. Polished smooth and sealed.

This will also work nicely as a means to store (and slowly distribute) heat maintaining a moderate internal temperature.

The simple yet well-thought design has considerably impressed the teachers and children.

As Nicola Ratter the Head Teacher says "...Children will always learn more effectively if they are inspired and happy [and] 'The Little Hall' really does this for our children at Prestwood Infant School'.

Via ArchDaily.

Jan 12, 2016

Colourful numbered stairs reach to a winding red slide, encouraging great fun and exercise

This impressive new kindergarten located in a small Slovenian village, Šmartno and designed by Jure Kotnik cleverly maximises on all available space and in providing an abundance of choice in activity for it's young users.

Perhaps the most sought after activity for these lucky children is the tunnel slide linking the first floor with the ground.

The stairs leading up to this slide not only enticing much exercise, but with the colours, numbers and blackboard wall also acting as a teacher and inviting interaction. (Note the adult and child-sized railings also).

The building was finished remarkably after only 4 months and 12 weeks! Taking only one week to to put the whole building frame including the roof on site. This is due to smart prefabrication technologies allowing for the bulk of work to be completed off site and then assembled within the larch clad shell.

Most furniture is handily propped on wheels, allowing for the easy manipulation of space (like for shared music time as shown below).

The architects Jure Kotnik Architecture have termed the centre a 'time share' kindergarten. The philosophy being that during 2-3 hours a day, children are able to roam and freely choose the activities and with whom they interact with. Thus promoting self-learning whilst maximising social (with all ages) and spacial interaction.

In fact there are within the 1037 m2 kindergarten over 65 "activity corners" to choose from (including dress-ups, art, science-related activities, sport and music among many more).

The centres' core incorporates a central multifunctional shared space which houses the stairs and slide (including a "badger's den hideout under for children to retreat to).

The 'timeshare' concept extends also to the local community, with the upper level providing a hall for afternoon/evening community meetings, yoga, seminars, dance and pilates.

A variety of surfaces and elements for sensory learning and play has been incorporated into the outdoors. With textures (mostly natural) including shells, sand, grass, bark, timber, stone and soft (red coloured) paving.

The simple timber-clad 'box-like' form is punctuated with a yellow void defining the entrance into the building, while three round windows also add an element of fun to the centre's appearance.

Care has been taken also to minimise the impact to the environment, with the choice of natural and locally sourced material and the orientation of windows and doors (opening to the south to capture all day sun and wind).

To see more of Jure Kotnik's work see the colourful (and prefab) Kekec Kindergarten and a 'stickered' (also modular) container extension Kindergarten Ajda.

Photos by Janez Marolt Photography.

Dec 17, 2015

This centre shows that a tight budget needn't compromise the architecture serving the child. Instead here warmth, functionality and a sense of play prevail

Situated in New Zealand's Taranaki is the recently completed (and NZIA Awarded) Jumpstart Preschool designed by Atelier Workshop.

The modest building has been praised by the New Zealand Institute of Architects for its response to the difficult industrial context and a tight budget. A simple form, aesthetic and use of material is employed in a way that is conducive to the required scale and robust requirements required by early childhood education and care pedagogy.

Seen above, Mount Taranaki looms in the distance.

Externally, the simple elongated A-framed building features corrugated metal cladding, semi-transparent polycarbonate sheet sun-screening and floor to ceiling aluminium framed glazed panels and doors leading out to the large outdoor (and mostly natural) play area.

Internally, "cheap" particle board floors and walls offer both the advantage of needing minimal maintenance (no future re-painting) and offering a textured warmth to the space.

Carpet is used also sparingly and timber slats are used as a feature for the balcony. A minimal use of blue and green (doors, trims and cabinetry) adds a splash of accent colour and fun.

Seen above is an "indoor-outdoor" space (enclosed porch) offering play no matter the weather with a feeling of being closer to the outdoors.

Below, planter boxes provide the means for children to learn about and grown their own food.

And the fitted out kitchen space to prep said food! 

Overall it is a modest yet functional and thoughtful response to providing an architecture for young children.

Via NZIA Awards.

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.