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From drawing to a unique fluffy toy

What a great idea! Send you child's artwork to Child's Own Studio and they will transform their creation into a custom made soft toy.

Much more fun than your traditional cuddly toy - and better than a beeping flashing thing... It's a piece of art! You could even attempt making your own...

Via Lovely Morning.

What are your earliest memories?

I was looking through old photos the other day, and oh the memories...

Of my little sister and I having picnics with our teddy bears, making tents in the garden to sleep out in, and here, one of my favourites, this old tree in the park down the road that had a ladder reaching up onto a platform that was wedged into an old pine tree.

Here is my sister (in the green t-shirt) and I (in the pink) - sporting matching outfits made by our clever mum.

I remember this moment exactly - the view of the surrounding park (with the cows grazing), the view over towards Auckland city, and the fear I felt of not wanting to go too close to the edge!

A centre in Israel that sits atop public space - fostering community

This Educational Campus was built as part of a winning entry community hub - which included an auditorium, a sports centre, a residential tower and an educational wing, around a public space - serving as a vital communal connection space.

The architects Mayslits Kassif Architects designed the two kindergartens on the top floor of a two storey long horizontal building.

The woven ground floor timber structure is the public space and separates from the upper floor kindergartens. It creates a light filter and playful articulation of horizontality and linerarity, and is inspired by traditional handcrafted Tel-Avivian brise-soleil architecture, providing solar protecting whilst enabling an air flow through the facade.

Internal courtyards provide semi-sheltered space for play...

And the winner of the Sustainable Schools Future Proofing Schools Competition is....

CMA+U and team. The competition asked for ideas for the next generation of relocatable 21st century learning spaces. 

CMA+U's design entry was based on an idea of 'click-learning' modules - enabling extended learning.

A CNC fabricated timber system allows for the enture structure to be flat-packed nad easily assembled on the chosen site. The design also integrates functional storage and partitions, display and learning 'pods' holistically into the design. Whilst powder-coated metal/timber panels add fun and choice to the scheme.

The flexibility of the structures construction allows for changes to be made depending on climate - and blurs the lines between inside and outside.

Via ArchDaily.

A special school in Japan that uses a metaphor of a small town

Inariyama Special Education School in Chikuma, Nagano, Japan is designed by Japanese practice Atsushi Kitagawara Architects.

Containing a number of units, the architecture is conceived of as a small town - combining outdoor courtyards, open spaces, small vegetable fields to stimulate activities for both the children and the local community.

Utilising traditional Japanese wood construction techniques, the school is almost entirely made of lumber form the Nagano prefecture.

A useful spatial design guide from community playthings

Community Playthings, a company that manufactures wooden products (such as tables, chairs and storage units) have collaborated with child care experts in America to create this design guide (2009). Whilst it works to "show off" and advertise their products to early childhood practitioners and may not be exactly architecturally inspiring, it does offer some good practical advice for when considering space in an early learning centre (I've bolded the keywords):

The importance of space

"Our designs shape children's beliefs about themselves and life. In a well designed area, children are engaged and feel secure. A well designed area can facilitate predictable, consistent and intimate care for each child" (Olds, 2001).

Too often spaces for early childhood are in society's cast-off spaces: church  basements, converted warehouses...and even "purpose-built" centres are often designed more to the adult's needs rather than the children's.

A good early learning space is predictable, has clear boundaries and pathways, enables movement and exploration, privacy, variety, is challenging, flexible, stimulating, inviting, welcoming and homely.

A kindergarten module of containers + cool magnetic interactive facades

A kindergarten that cleverly combines a modular approach reusing old industrial shipping containers with an innovative approach of colourful magnets - offering a fun way to brighten up a boring and cold facade and encouraging fun and play all at once!

Kindergarten Ajda's new modular extension in Ravne na KoroŇ°kem, Slovenia, designed by Architektura Jure Kotnik - was built to replace the small temporary container solution that the architects designed previously to provide immediate relief for lack of kindergarten space (see below).

Like a parasite the container structure attaches itself to the existing building.

The architects collaborated with sticker artists Kitsch-Nitsch to come up with a way to transform the cold steel facade into something more child-friendly.

Projects in Argentina and France transform the cities cracked pavements into art

Like Aldo's playgrounds, that saw vacant lots of space in Amsterdam being transformed into playful spaces for children...

The child as an acting citizen in the world

I was reading this article today and came across this quote, which is talking about the adult 'kidification' of spaces which has been and still is a reflection of the interior 'decorations' of many schools, that patronises children, and treats children as passive innocents needing to be "filled with information" (Tarr, 2001).

"He or she is not an innocent, apart from the world, to be sheltered in some nostalgic representation of the past reproduced by adults. Rather the young child is in the world as it is today, embodies the world, is acted upon by the world - but also acts on it and makes meaning from it" (Dahlberg, Moss & Pence, 1999: 50-51).

Photograph via The Glow.

flatout frankie

Inspiring creative and active play and 100% recyclable are both things that I like to hear.

That is why I love this range of 'toys' designed by clever kiwis flatout frankie based on the oh so simple cardboard box.

Rooms within rooms or a mini suburb?

I love the work of Japanese architects Suppose Design. Scouring through their website I found these concept images. Unfortunately I can't find any information on them.

A miniature suburb? A scattering of playhouses? Or rooms within a room?

An article in Monocle that talks of "a new breed of kindergarten architecture in Japan" made to feel more like a home

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:

Wada Kindergarten

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.

A centre in France based on a metaphor of a cell

Taking the design metaphor of a cell, this centre situated in Sarreguemines, France designed by Michel Grasso and Paul Le Quernec is interesting in a number of ways.

The idea of the early learning centre as a cell...a reference to nurture and growth perhaps? The architects have placed (accordingly) the nursery at the centre representing the nucleus ('the control centre of the cell'), the surrounding gardens for play as the cytoplasm, and the enclosing curvilinear boundary wall as the cell membrane.

A garden city of children

"The school of tomorrow will be a garden city of children; that is to say a place of many shelters - a township, if you will, of small schools built as one community but with every shelter organised as a separate unit... It is also a self-contained unit or school home; it has its own Head; it also has its own bathroom, its own equipment, and its own day, adapted to the needs of children at a specific stage of development (Margaret McMillan, 1928).

Margaret's vision for early childcare that was to liberate children from the cramped slum-conditions of industrial London.

Here, her first nursery in Deptford, London,1928 - a simple rudimentary building with a garden where the children could move and play freely and appreciate the beauty of nature. A building not so dissimilar to the ones used for childcare in New Zealand today...

Via Kindergarten Architecture by Mark Dudek.

To be or be?


A very true mantra - that we must always remind ourselves of.

Via Repurposed Playground.

Stickers that transform your wall from drab to fab

And once you're over one set, peel off and replace with another!

Blik offers a wide range of wall stickers designed by a selection of artists and designers and pretty reasonably priced too! A great (quick and easy) way to brighten up any wall - and making for a much more playful environment.

Imaginary Castle by Patrick Hruby.

Playful learning


Check out Playful Learning for loads of inspiration and resources for meaningful learning for both children and adults to experience together.

A fantastic 'reading' space


"Children need spaces where the imagination can flourish; 'Imagination Retreats', like play-corners..."  Christopher Day, 'Environment for Children'

Photo taken by Stephanie Rausser via Repurposed Playground.

outdoors indoors?

Again, Japanese architects inject a little play into their small-scale housing designs...

'Outdoors indoors' is a fun house designed by Be-fun architects - sporting an indoor climbing wall and a ladder that leads to a roof terrace.

Showing that a house doesn't just have to be floors, walls and a roof - but can offfer a multitude of experiences.

Via DesignBoom.

Traditional and beautiful children's structures in Asia sharing a common material

Three designs in Asia that utilise local bamboo and weaving construction methods - creating magnificent eco-friendly structures for children.

1. The ecological children activity and education centre located in Koh Kood Island, Thailand - designed by 24H architecture is part of a series of ecological projects for the Six Senses Resort on the island.

The children's centre design teaches and makes the children aware of ecological principles as well as being a space for children to hang out and play in - housing a cinema area, library and reading zone, and art room and music room.

Winding paths


"Children need paths to explore, to take bearings on the earth in which they live, as a navigator takes bearings on familiar landmarks. If we excavate the memories of childhood, we remember the paths first, things and people second - paths down the garden, the way to school, the way around the house, corridors through the bracken or long grass." Bruce Chatwin, 1991, 'Winding Paths': 19

Photo via Flickr.

A centre in France which makes good use of the ceiling and floor planes


Designed by Atelier 9.81 is the Digue Dondaines Nursery fitting out the ground floor of an apartment complex in Lille, Northern France.

Making use of the space available to them, the architects have concentrated on creating stimulation for the child inhabitants through creating both interesting ceiling and floor planes.

They also designed a nice wee graphic - which is exhibited on the surrounding walls and glass windows - allowing for design continuity, a unique edge and a bit of privacy from passers by.

The use of (a minimal) colour palette emphasises the sculptural quality of the spaces, whilst the ceiling projects white circle (cloud-like?) disks - set at different angles and heights.

Here you can see the sloping topographical floor terrain - challenging children's physical motor skills and co-ordination - whilst also encouraging play.

Via ArchDaily.

Children's own worlds


"Ideally a child's play space should never be finished, it should be in a constant state of change...Children, you know, have a way of creating their own worlds." Susan Goltsman, California, MIG. 'Kids Don't Need Equipment, They Need Opportunity' by Ellen Ruppert Shell (1994).

Quote via Project for Public Spaces (PPS), photo via Stephanie Rausser Photography.

A cool modular furniture system inspired by a children's toy

Chidori furniture designed by Japanese architects Kengo Kuma Associates is a system of wooden sticks and square planks, which slot together without glue to form tables or shelves and is inspired by the traditional Japanese toy, Chidori.

The design is a part of the East Japan Project, a collaboration which aims to facilitate a "new lifestyle" - creating highly flexible products that can evolve into many forms, using time-honored materials and techniques, and utilising natural, local and sustainable materials.

All values that I feel are in tune with the type of thinking that can be applied to early learning environments - flexible, modular systems utilising local knowledge and materials.

Such a system could perhaps work quite well in the EC centre... (Apart from perhaps those sticky-outy ends, which may cause a few sore head bumps!)

Via Dezeen.

Child Forum offers a comparative analysis of party policies as it relates to NZ's upcoming election

The Child Forum is a website which offers "fresh thinking, advice, research, analysis and information" on childcare and early childhood education.

It is also providing a (continually updated) summary comparing New Zealand's political parties' policies as they relate to early childhood education - including topics of funding, management, as well as family, community and cultural issues.

The parties appear to not yet comment on improving quality as it relates to the architectural environments of early childhood. However, Labour and National are yet to formally release their policies...

National has stated however, that it will be implementing new web-based tools for "rating" ECE services - and helping parents choose an ECE centre.

Education Minister Anne Tolley says "parents told us they want to know their children are being educated and cared for in a high-quality environment".

Perhaps such a tool providing both an outline of centres' philosophies surrounding their learning environment and photos describing it - will encourage New Zealand centres to improve the architectural quality of their environments?

See article on Stuff.

It's movember time

I just had to post, as this was too cute...

Via summer-ize.

A new patio transforms an existing nursery into a "living landscape"


'Puzzle Piece', a designed canopy, situated in Spain and designed by Romera y Ruiz Arquitectos has won the ‘World’s Best New and Old Building’ award at the World Architecture Festival (WAF) Awards 2011.

The design has been described by one judge, Trillo de Leyva, as "a new organic landscape that grows against the rigid typology of the original building...the bright colours and soft shadows turning it into a living landscape".

The brief was to design a cover for the original building's patio to provide a naturally ventilated area giving the young children protection from the sun and rain whilst engaging in play.

The canopy structure is suspended from the existing roof structure (as seen above) - whilst the minimal pillars assisting support are coloured different shades of green - like a forest - they enable the kids to swing on and interact with them, whilst blending in with the surrounding vertical striped coloured walls.

Here are the architects concept diagrams, which takes into account people's circulation, rain and sunlight.

An example again of how an addition (like Baupiloten's) can transform an existing centre - to one that is a more living experience for the children.

Via DesignBoom.

And the overall winner, winning 'World Building of the Year' is this office building in Barcelona, Spain designed by Cloud 9

Picked for its ambitious, imaginative and bold approach of tackling issues of sustainability (it is almost a net zero building), the head architect Ruiz-Geli on accepting the award said he hopes the building will act as a 'seed for an environmental revolution' - and with his children (top left) he added, 'these are our clients' (his son Lago helped with choosing the green colour that dominates the building).

Yes, Ruiz-Geli, nicely said - children should ALL be our clients - they are in fact our future...

Via WAF News.

Not playgrounds but PLAYSCAPES

I've been following playscapes for a while now and thought I'd share some of my favourite posts with you.

I love Paige's description for 'why playscapes'?:

"Because it's difficult to find non-commercial playground information. And I find that frustrating.
Because a playground doesn't have to cost a million bucks and come in a box. In fact, it's better if it doesn't.
Because playgrounds are under-recognized as an artistic medium.
Because everybody loves a playground."

I agree. 

Snug playgrounds is a set of play components (such as the loop, cone, bump, wave, wall, mound) which can be arranged (indoors or outdoors) into multiple combinations - allowing flexibility and a bit of creativity!

Designed for the KOBE Biennale 2011 by 24°Studio is the Crater Lake - a temporary structure located in Japan, which incorporates space for climbing, sliding, hiding, performing, space for quiet relaxation and flexible (moving) seats! Many ideas here for incorporating such qualities into the architecture for young children.

Here (left), is a sculptural, playful installation in the Netherlands by AnneMarie van Splunter, which offers a wonderful multitude of ways to interact with it - sitting, lying on your tummies, sliding, reading a well as the modules enabling a number of ways for configuring shapes. (Right) is a play structure that is part of a traveling exhibition called the Geometry Playground that again uses parts that fit together to create a changing, curving, intertwining climbing structure.

These playgrounds in Singapore I thought were beautiful with their use of colourful mosaic tiles creating a piece of public art. Designed by Mr. Khor Ean Ghee in the 1970s, he said: "We wanted to create something that was distinctive. My boss said to me that all the buildings along Orchard Road were not designed locally. So at least, our playgrounds should be."

The above shows that with a little imagination and creative thought we can go a long way to creating some unique and inspiring public spaces, with the added benefit of providing enjoyment for our youngest of citizens.

Via playscapes.


site by Ana Degenaar