In Monocle's September issue - they look at school architecture, and those countries that are with architects starting a new school building revolution: "demonstrating that a healthy learning environment with plenty of light and natural materials means happier children and long-term economic benefits".
In their article: 'Best in Class - Global', Monocle explains how in Japan recent projects are demonstrating a new breed of early childhood centres, which are designed to feel more like homes than schools.
Umenosato and Wada kindergartens in Japan, designed by Moo Architect Workshop:
When Yoshiji Takehara (of Moo Workshop) was hired to design a new early learning centre, he decided on a contrarian approach. He decided to give the school lots of "wasted space" - alcoves, cubbyholes and meandering hallways.
His aim was to make the children feel at home. "Kids find comfort in the in-between spaces that adults have no use for," says Takehara. "By having these hidden places to explore, they feel that it belongs to them."
His idea came from his wide experience designing homes and watching children play. Too often, he explains, builders make homes and schools that resist wear and tear, and can be easily cleaned, but aren't child-friendly.
Monocle suggests this new-found awareness into raising standards in the design of early learning spaces is partly down to the competitiveness in Japan. Explaining whilst reputation and curriculum is still the benchmark, schools are now having to try harder at marketing themselves. There is also now an awareness that children seem more energetic at schools built from natural materials that aren't just soulless concrete boxes.
Umenosato, in Tokyo, designed a year after Wada utilises cut-outs in the ceilings and walls - allowing sunlight to pour through. The floors are made of a mix of cherry, walnut, oak and beech and there are plenty of small spaces for the children to wedge themselves into.
Design features we can learn from:
Home away from home: to design with the 'home' in mind, so that the child feels at home.
Interest: Randomly placed wooden pillars, classrooms of varying sizes and meandering hallways create quirky spaces that children can explore and play in.
Access: Windows are set low enough for children to look outside and wide windowsills double as loungin areas.
Design: The buildings' pillar-and-beam design is a hybrid of traditional Japanese carpentry and a modern use of space.
Environment: The children are surrounded by natural materials - unvarnished wood is used for pillars, beams, walls and floors.
Via Monocle magazine.