Social Media

Amanenomori Nursery


The three-storey Amenenomori Nursery designed by Aisaka Architects' Atelier in Japan, places "play" at its core - with a grassy "green" including mound, ponds with miniature wharfs over and a sandpit, ladder and slide connecting the ground with the terraced deck level above.

Seen above, one side of the grassy mound features a climbing wall. 

Administrative spaces are aligned along the centre's entry allowing views to the playground and ensuring visual surveillance.

A key design characteristic is the fantastic decked rooftop and gardens, offering views over the inner courtyard play area and out to the surrounding neighbourhood.

The architects chose to keep the material palette natural and minimal, opting instead to celebrate the essence of the material - the natural weathered patina of timber, the cold and unforgiving hardness of steel.

The Level 1 deck leads up to a Level 2 top-storey - with terraced steps leading up like a mountain.

Internally, the neutral and minimal material palette continues. Ambient light, including natural light wells and narrow spaces offers natural cross-ventilation, creating a comfortable and healthy environment.

Seen above left, light dances across the right wall leading from ground floor to the L2 roof above.

The design with its many decks, stairs, ramps and bridges and tilting, curving planes (floors and walls) allow for a multitude of spatial experiences.

Meal times in early education & care in Japan play an important role in the day. Seen above, a window set at the children's height allow them to witness how food is prepared. On the rooftop, a vegetable and herb garden teaches children about how food is produced (and grown).

3D diagrams showing the concept - 1) Inner green 2) wrapping climbing floor around the inner green 3) external walls to cloak the interior with cuts allowing controlled exterior elements inside.

Section through mound (on left) and the levels with rooftop terrace (decks and gardens) on top. The architects integrated environmental principles into their design making the most of the natural sun, air (cross-ventilation), rain (with harvesting and recycling tanks), thermal (under-ground) heat storage and light (among others).

The architects (as often displayed in Japanese architecture) have at Amamenomori Nursery successfully utilised space. Maximising the potential for social connectivity / inclusion and in encouraging active exploration and physical movement, whilst also creating a safe and comfortable environment for the young children.

A Small woodland nursery in Germany

I would love to see this nursery photographed with a hubbarb of children in it. We can however, imagine what it MIGHT be like; tranquil, what with it being surrounded by lush greenery, the inside featuring natural timber and daylight. While it’s decentralised plan connecting spaces (indoors and out) will be providing a feeling of connectivity, community and a buzz of activity.

Timber decks, floor to ceiling glazing and a central garden at the building’s core or “heart” are other features of this nursery in Hamburg, Germany.

Designed by office Kraus Schoenberg the new centre caters for newborns to children of 3 years of age.

Influenced by the small scale of local residences surrounding the area, the early childhood centre is arranged into a cluster of units accommodating different functions around a central shared core. This ensures “everyone is able to see each other through the cloister-like central space” says architect Timm Schoenberg (source).

The glazed garden within is surrounded by open space for active play, whilst its walls feature ply “cubbies”, benches and large deeply inset windows in which to sit and admire the views to the outdoors.

Wood is used throughout as the material of choice for its tactile qualities. Glue-laminated beams supported by timber columns form the exposed ceiling and structure, whilst Finnish plywood is used for the joinery and linings internally. Externally, rough-sawn larch boards seem to justify the buildings right to be here, enabling it to weather with the surrounding trees with time and use.

Via Dezeen and Inhabitat.

A centre in Chicago which offers children a chance to interact first-hand with the world

Instead of the usual bombardment of bright colours and plastic play equipment, this child centre offers children opportunity to discover natural phenomena in the natural world. 

The UChicago Child Development Center in Stony Island designed by Wheeler Kearns chose minimally processed materials for its construction and a z-shaped plan, optimising daylight and providing plenty of access to the outdoors (of which have a footprint larger than the building itself).

The eastern wing, clad in tree bark, is designed for infants and toddlers. The bark is constantly drawing attention, the architect Larry Kearns says, noting that people "always want to come up and touch it."

The western wing is clad in unpainted cement board siding serving children up to 5 years old.

A gently folding roof (half of which is covered with vegetation) shows exposed steel beams and tray decking under, whilst internally and clerestory windows provide ample natural light. 

At the centre of these two wings is the building's entrance and heart. The journey to which is characterised with monumental boulders, a gabion stone fence and ornamental trees providing a sensual and memorable experience upon the child's arrival.

The projects' architects Wheeler Kearns were influenced by the historic Jackson Park across the road designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1871, whose principles of freedom of movement and natural equality were to create a unified and total work of art were expressed with winding and inviting paths. Further to this was the idea of 'free association' - therefore giving expression to areas that encourage socialisation or meeting places. (For more on Olmstead's parks see here).

Rather than grand design statements, the architecture offers subtle variety and an abundance of texture to encourage many types of play and learning experiences.

Says the AIA (2005 Design Excellence Awards): "[the centres' design] emphasizes the natural landscape over the built one [including] different surfaces inviting children to crawl, roll, ride, climb and walk - to learn about their five senses while interacting with nature."

And when it rains, the water falling onto that roof is purposely spilled into splash tanks, which divert the stormwater. It becomes like a fountain, Kearns explains, demonstrating a natural phenomenon to the city kids playing inside the center.

Here, the built environment not only encourages children to interact with nature, they are willed into valuing it.

Project submitted by Wheeler Kearns Architects.

A wonderful kindergarten in South Korea that's like a delicate (yet dynamic) flower

It is rare to get early childhood architecture that considers so many of the characteristics that embody early childhood pedagogy as does this kindergarten designed by OA Lab in South Korea's capital city Seoul.

Situated in a dense urban environment, OA Lab's director Jungmin Nam believed the building could be a "breath of fresh air" to the neighbourhood, stating that "most kindergartens in the city [are] poorly designed [often] reflecting economic values, regulations and small lot sizes."

The building does seem to achieve a rather perfect balancing act of simultaneously "fitting in" to its surroundings and offering Nam's said "breath of fresh air" - here it stands proud with its colourful and varying sized square windows and transparent winding internal stairs penetrating an otherwise apparently plain white 7-storeyed skin.

In fact the building's form has been derived from a considered approach in maintaining as much useable space whilst considering things like access from the street, sun angle and exposure to the sky, and creating as much access to the natural outdoors as possible (as shown in the diagram above).

This form was then broken down into ground level service spaces (such as staff facilities and parking), three levels containing three "classrooms" or group areas and a "yellow" multipurpose hall which rotates at each level creating a dynamic vertical shared promenade.

Consideration to the natural environment has been given with the designs' ground floor indoor garden, natural daylighting and ventilation, rainwater collection tank situated with photovoltaic cells on the building's landscaped rooftop.

Further enhancing this idea of "dynamic space" are the classroom's curvilinear walls - the outward planes encouraging movement, whilst inside the classroom's wall creating a "loving" embrace.

Central to the design are the stairs with a winding and continuous external window following and a SLIDE for children to travel downwards, whilst under - wee padded play dens.

Above, not only is colour used for wayfinding through the building, but large numbers are painted on the walls to communicate their level.

A language of circles and squares is used throughout the design, with round penetrations in the ceiling matching round soft "stools" or "poufs". Whilst square windows penetrate surfaces both to the exterior and inside walls creating visual connections and spaces to sit.

Colour has also been very well considered. Instead of bright (often clashing) colour on every surface, the architects have opted for a subtlely changing colour scheme according to the type of space and its use.

Each level is expressed by a different colour and tones of said colour, giving each its unique identity and experience expressed by natural daylight.

Bold colour is used to accentuate windows (to been seen from the street) and to accentuate internal cubbies or shelving among others.

Colour to the ceiling (instead of walls) casts a soft glow to the room's walls.

Perhaps my favourite feature is the facade "pockets" literally allowing the building's skin to come alive with seasonal pops of colour!

Overall, the kindergarten is like a flower in that it grows delicately in response to the complex requirements that is early childhood architecture and its context within a densely urban fabric.

Click "read below" for the full set of plans.


site by Ana Degenaar