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A new centre in Brooklyn is delicately designed to feel like an extension of the home

Pale maple timber, blank white walls (to take the children's' art) and spots of colour all work together at this preschool situated on the second floor of a new tower to create a cohesive and calming space which does in fact feel like an extension of one's home.

Three classrooms catering 16 children each are arranged linearly with sliding pocket doors connecting each. At the end of this arrangement is a multi-purpose shared space housing a flexible "food-truck like" kitchen which hosts a daily "cafe-time".

Semi-open bathrooms are positioned between the classrooms with surfaces covered in porcelain-tiled grey-muted blues and greens.

Inter-connected sinks, one of which cantilevers out to the classroom makes for a nifty water-feature and easy clean-up after messy eating or games.

The architects, Alexandra Barker (of BFDO Architects) and Priya Patel (of 4|MATIV) won over the existing Maple School (who were looking to expand their premises) and developers of the tower Hudson with their proposal that reflected the centres' ethos of being an "extension of the home".

"Where co-operation and involvement are emphasised, where each child is nurtured in a warm and caring atmosphere and where curiosity and play are central to learning."

It is truly comforting to see steps being made away from the institutional and towards architecture that nurture their young inhabitants.

Via Dezeen, Architects Newspaper and Metropolis.

Castle & Cubby

It was the kindergarten pioneer Friedrich Froebel who noted (in 1893) “play [as] the highest phase of child development”. Going on to elaborate that “play at this time is not trivial, it is highly serious and of deep significance… The plays of childhood are the germinal leaves of all later life.”

It is a notion that is often ignored (or forgotten) as lives get busier and “free-time” is spent sitting in front of some “techy” device. It is promising therefore that there are those who are beginning to rise against allowing this new “norm” - with movements popping up such as forest or “outdoor” schools, adventure parks and playgrounds, and in the creation of back-yard “cubbies” such as these picturesque examples by Melbourne-based ‘Castle and Cubby’.

Kellie and Jonathan Stores began their ‘Castle & Cubby’ business when pregnant with their second child and were inspired to create sustainable (so no bright plastics!) products for their little people with BIG imaginations.

Above, a farmers market inspired cubby.

Made from (mostly) recycled apple crates, their products aim to inspire kids’ imaginations by providing a space for them to mimic the world they live in. Having two young ones means they are constantly inspired as they watch the real-life games enacted by their kids - they are always creating, designing and testing new ideas in the backyard.

As Kellie says: “We are passionate about creating spaces not just for children but for families to connect and be reminded of what good old fashioned outdoor fun is.” Activities that inspire sharing, role-playing, interacting, creating stories and dreams. The cubbies, whilst each being uniquely hand-crafted have taken the form of farmer’s market producers to grocery shopkeepers and baristas, beach ice-cream carts and more.

The "Story Pod" is a simple yet clever black box that folds itself out to reveal a trove of books

Here sits the Story Pod - a shining example of how architecture (even small and simple as this) may impact a community - providing pockets of space within the urban framework that invite interaction, rest and contemplation.

Conceived as a community project, the Story Pod is an inventive gathering spot for learning and engagement created by the efforts of both private and public supporters.  Atelier Kasteli Buffey completed the architecture and design pro bono. HollisWealth provided funds for construction, while Scholastic Publishing and the Newmarket Public Library supplied the initial collection of books.

Simple boxes are layered to create seats and nooks for inhabiting. 

The simple material palette of clear oil stained ply and lumber sits in contrast with its black exterior.

Traditional board and batten is made modern with sleeker battens at closer spacings. Made wider where glazing offers views to the books inside.

Simple, yet well considered and detailed. These simple insertions into our built environment for all ages to enjoy provide places not just spaces.

Via Dwell.

A clever and sensitive adaptation of existing buildings into community spaces to be enjoyed by young and old

Designed by FON STUDIO in China, Town Folktales is the first installment of the regeneration of a collection of old 1950s buildings that used to contain a printing plant.

The first two old brick and tile buildings have been cleverly and sensitively re-imagined with a restrained yet bold language of curving white forms and geometric insertions (void and extrusions) playfully adapting the empty space into zones catering to a variety of uses.

Building (or Depot) A's entry features a bold white curving geometric framed form complete with wall-light and signage.

Building (or Depot) B's entry features a square black framed extrusion with green accent internally..

The open and flexible architectural programme include spaces designed for dining, reading and creative activity for the community. 

Love the ribbon-like laminated timber panelling curving around the walls to form bench seating, window shading, book display and cupboard storage.

Book shelving is integrated with the drop-down ceiling bulkhead helping to frame the space, whilst being semi-transparent to allow light and visual hints to permeate through

Folding sleek black steel framed joinery is used to subtly divide space internally.

Materially (and aged) woods are pared wtih contemporary laminated timbers and smooth white plaster.

Overall, Fon Studio have created a winning space for this Chinese Community that is inclusive of all (young and old) whilst protecting and giving new life to a collection of existing and un-used buildings.

A care facility that breaks conventional institutional moulds

This disability care and accommodation centre for both adults and children seeks to 'de-institutionalise' the typical care facility by providing a dynamic curving plan and facades, sensory-inviting materials and a 'domestic-type' layout with communal (i.e. kitchen & lounge) facilities located centrally.

Designed by Jackson Clements Burrows Architects (JCBA), the Coppel & Piekarski Family Disability Respite Centre by Jewish Care in Caulfield, Victoria provides short-term accommodation and care for children and adults with varying disabilities while allowing carers to have essential time out.

The building typology is similar to that of the late-modern approach to early childhood centres - with its curving layout in plan and all spaces leading off a central core enabling great connections to the outdoors, to natural sunlight and cross-ventilation.

Special attention has been paid to the way the building approaches the street and wider community, with the "out-stretched" and welcoming semi-transparent canopy (an abstracted symbolic gesture referencing the ‘Star of David’), semi-transparent (and not too high) fencing, way-finding signage and landscaped areas (including sculptures and areas for rest and play).

Round skylights help to imbue the internal spaces with natural daylight, whilst colourful glazed bricks internally break up the neutral brick palette and provides a sense of delight to the spatial experience.

Colours used internally in the glazed bricks are then echoed cleverly to the outdoor play-scapes - with colourful turf sporting mounds, patterns and play equipment for the younger inhabitants of the centre.

“Jewish Care Victoria welcomed and encouraged an architectural approach that re-imagined the care-facility typology, and they sought a domesticity that was seen as an extension of a guest’s home,” says JCBA Project Architect Rob Majcen.

It is an approach that is taken by many EC architectural typologies and could be said should be applied to many others....

Via InDesign.

An urban situated centre provides a miniature city for its children

Nestled within urban Sydney, Australia - Darlinghurst is a highly considered and quality centre for early childhood: East Sydney Early Learning Centre.

Designed by Andrew Burges Architects, the project called for adapting an existing 1920s brick warehouse into a 4-storey EC centre and top-floor community space. 

The bridge + outdoor play

Due to a laneway running adjacent to the building - the architects have created a "tree-house" bridge to connect the internal spaces with the outdoor playspaces.

Above: Models showing options for how this connecting bridge might take shape and incorporating the existing trees on site.

The light lattice-type bridge structure appears to float - still allowing plenty of light into the public lane. New sandstone steps were provided leading down from the street.

Once across the connecting bridge you arrive at a deck which delicately preserves the existing trees with powder-coated green and white fencing to stop children falling through.

Below this deck are concrete ramps, turf-surfaces, a sandspit, a 'stage' with windows (or holes through the floor) to the deck above and a gazebo offering shelter and a place to sit.

The 'mini-city' concept

Commonly used by architects when designing EC centres - is the concept of the miniature town or village (see here and here). Varying sized 'houses' are placed within the building framework and thus are able to divide space into varying zones for different functions. The 'left-over' space is used as public squares, streets and pathways for random social interactions and uses.

The concept model above shows the various house shapes that are used to organise the centres' space.

The diagram above showing the 'random' placement of houses and the connection of with the adjacent 'tree-house' bridge and outdoor play space.

Above: the diagram shows the top-floor being kept open to the sky with house forms connecting multiple floors.

An aerial image showing the site's location within Sydney. The early childhood centre could be seen as a metaphorical reflection of its greater context.

Different surface materials further help to break down the space into zones - for walking, sitting, playing....

The top-most storey is partly left open to the sky - with the sandpit envisaged as a central plaza - or meeting space.

The 'houses' providing windows connecting to the outside. Seen above left - a window to the sandspit, and right to the laneway from off the street.

A rich palette of mostly natural materials have been used - stained timbers, pale birch ply, grooved linings, concrete, steel and brick (to name a few).


Another (very cool) feature is the custom-designed signage - designed by Toko inspired by children's building blocks.

The signage works to reflect the language of both modern modular architecture which is broken down into purist forms; as well as reflecting the seeds of early childhood - the Froebel system of play objects or 'gifts' to aid in a child's development through creative play - read more on this here and here.

The plan and wall elevations above investigate how the various spaces will be used and moved through - considering materiality and scale.

A big congratulations must be made to East Sydney Learning and Andrew Burges Architects for a highly considered approach to designing for EC in what is a tricky existing site.

Via ArchDaily, Dezeen and BPO.


site by Ana Degenaar