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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.

Cape Town named World Design Capital 2014/Matchbox turn old containers into early learning modules

The World Design Capital title is awarded bi-annually by the International Council for Societies of Industrial Design recognising cities that use design for their social, economic and cultural development.

Cape Town's bid, "Live Design, Transform Life" focuses on dealing with the imbalances existing in their society through socially responsive design - to rebuild through community cohesion, reconnect through infrastructural enhancement and reposition the city for the knowledge economy.

Design Indaba ran a competition called Your Street Challenge, which was launched during the World Design Capital 2014 inviting creative proposals for how Cape Town's street life could be enhanced through design.

One of the seven shortlisted entries, was matchbox's proposal that proposes re-purposing shipping containers into early learning centres for disadvantaged communities.

Currently 80% of children in South Africa's townships do not have access to early childhood services - resulting in many children being neglected and unsupervised during the day. Existing centres are also often unsafe structures that are poorly insulated and unhygienic. A lack of access to early childhood education means children are falling behind in school and many are displaying anti-social behaviour and a high drop-out rate.

Matchbox hope to alleviate this problem by upgrading existing early learning facilities and creating new facilities with old shipping containers.

Using re-purposed shipping containers enables them to be modified in workshops (as colourful play modules, or sleeping, cooking and sleeping modules) and transported and arranged onto the selected sites as required.

Another of the proposals that takes children into account is this 'Kidz-Up City':

Which rethinks the traditional playground components - aiming to make them more inclusive with forms better suited to learning while playing.

Via CapeTown2014.


After researching (and blogging) about the architecture of early childhood for the past 8 months I would love the opportunity to now test my thinking, knowledge and design expertise by working with any interested early childhood centres.

If you (or someone you know) owns, manages or teaches at an early learning centre and would be interested in working with me to see how your early learning environment might be improved through design (to be more functional, playful, beautiful and unique to your centre's goals and philosophies) I would love to hear from you

Whilst this would be easier in Auckland, New Zealand, I would also be happy to try my hand engaging with (through skype, email, videos, photos) anyone from overseas.

Alternatively, if you have an interest in or are passionate about early learning and the environments this takes place in and wouldn't mind sharing your ideas with me, please do get in touch.

I look forward to hearing from you!


Auckland's (new) Wynyard Quarter a big hit with the kids

I popped along to the new Wynyard Quarter at Auckland's waterfront over the weekend and was impressed to find the development so far not only respected the areas existing waterfront character but provided recreation space for both adults and children alike.

The playground (or 'playspace') was packed with kids - enjoying both natural elements (such as sand, shells and rocks), sculptures and some more traditional play equipment - all of which embodied an overall theme of an 'old seafloor'.

Reused and salvaged materials had been used - with even the court space utilising an old building foundation slab!

I love the choice of sand as a natural ground material instead of the artificial rubber matting frequenting most new playgrounds - which has the added benefit of providing extra play opportunity!

Even the colour scheme has been sensitively (and sparingly) selected to tie in beautifully with the surrounding area.

The most popular area for play appeared to be the artificial grass mound, which had kids climbing up and sliding down over and over.

And here, a rusted sea-shell provides a dark space for hiding.

Sculptures like these old buoys, provide not only visual pleasure, but can be used for climbing on!

Face painting was provided by the pop-up Winter Garden cafe...

And then there is the old tram which was brought over from Melbourne - but makes for a fun wee trip for the kids.

How nice it is to see kids enjoying a public space - laughing and playing nicely - making for a more enjoyable space for all!

A NZ designed toy for all ages to enjoy (and learn from!)

New Zealand company the Think Farm has designed Cuboro - beautifully crafted blocks which once arranged becomes a marble track where you can watch your creation in action!

Designed originally as a simple three-dimensional puzzle game for special schools - the "toy" was developed for its ability to teach kids thinking strategies and to improve concentration and cooperation.

And this is not just for the kids! The blocks have also been designed for corporates to alleviate stress.

From Werner Jundt, 2005: "According to the modern neurobiological research the human brain keeps up its ability for modification for life. Thinking strategies can therefore be improved and trained until old age. With its seemingly endless possibilities for combination cuboro offers limitless challenges. The player can improve cognitive abilities such as three-dimensional and combinatorial thinking and operational planning while at the same time improving concentration and memory. This "toy", originally designed for children, has proved a "mind-challenger“ which not only entertains but leaves a lasting effect in players of all ages."

Whilst fairly pricey - the toy looks sure to last, to be passed down from generation to generation - meaning countless hours of engaging (and challenging) fun!

Watch a video of the "toy" in action here.

Via Urbis Magazine.

The OECD's resources promote quality learning environments


The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) is a forum where the governments of 30 democracies, including New Zealand work together to address the economic, social and environmental challenges of globalisation.

The OECD also has a strong focus on education, including early learning - working to assist governments to develop policies that deliver quality learning programmes and quality learning environments in today's rapidly-evolving knowledge society - offering useful statistics and resources on emerging issues and topics, such as:

This annual publication: 'Designing for Education: Compendium of Exemplary Educational Facilities 2011', which showcases over 60 recently built or refurbished educational facilities from 28 countries, each of which demonstrate "state-of-the-art" educational design.

This BBC Slideshow - Knowledge economy: Global best school buildings, which gives a glimpse into some of the educational buildings featured in the (above) book, Designing for Education:

From top-left clockwise: the interior of Tuomarilan kindergarten, Espoo, Finland, and (right) it's multicoloured exterior. Bottom-left is the Aadharshila Vatika in Delhi, India, which is praised for its "bold use of colours, variety of non-regular spaces and customised furniture and fittings, creating a playful ambience". And finally, the much-celebrated Fuji Kindergarten, with no fixed walls between classrooms, and which incorporates living trees and a landscaped roof for play.

There is the database of Best Practices in Educational Facilities including a facility of the week, such as this example located in Glascow, Scotland, UK: Hazelwood School. Recognised for its multi-sensory design - creating a challenging and stimulating environment for all, the outdoor spaces, safety needs and special needs provision.

Varied wall and floor surface textures and built-in navigational aids - such as trail rails, varied ceiling heights, and the print, Braille, moon and graphical signage - help children to navigate around the building independently. The design is both imaginative and sympathetic to the school’s parkland context, with its use of natural materials such as wood, slate and cork.

And there is the multimedia page, which includes videos and powerpoint presentations, such as this one of the Fuji Kindergarten designed by Tezuka Architects, which embodies the idea of "a kindergarten as a huge playground for children's growth, a tool for fostering children".

I love how they give the camera to a child at the end of the video, where we get a glimpse of the playground from the child's view.

One of OECD's latest videos, 'architecture for learning' talks of how learning spaces can work to inspire students, explaining that schools that are successful inhabit the following attributes: "walls become windows, spaces are fluid, nature is respected, the outdoors is as important as the indoors", and is where "the building becomes a teacher, and a resource for learning".

A new Maori school in NZ that is to be a wonderful resource for teaching students of the areas unique biodiversity

A new Maori immersion school Te Kura Kaupapa Maori O Te Kotuku designed by Brewer Davidson Architects and constructed by Naylor Love is a project that employed an approach of intensive collaboration with local iwi and whanau and which sits close to the magnificent Waitakere Ranges.

The school (or kura) has been awarded a NZIA Local New Zealand Architecture Award and is a Green Building Council School Tool pilot scoring 7 points out of 10, with plans to further enhance the site's biodiversity by: transforming the steep gully by eradicating the gorse and weeds and planting self-maintaining native bush of eco-sourced plants that belong to the Waitakere area and will attract native wildlife; to use the bush for teaching students about the plants, how they grow, what berries they produce, and what birds and other animals come to feed on the berries and live in the bush; and to have a school-wide project in which each new pupil provides a koha (donation) of a tree to plant in the gully.

The kura is designed as a clear flow of interconnected spaces enhancing the sense of inclusiveness and community - values that are central to the learning environment envisaged by the Whanau. Whilst the spaces are multifunctional, there is a clear delineation between the formal and informal. In this type of learning space, older children can help younger ones, and teachers can share knowledge and resources, whilst the space can also be used as a community centre for the whole whanau.

The NZIA describes the building as "a delight to be in", where "carefully considered cultural and teaching needs have been accommodated in a building that reinforces proudly the ambitions of the whanau and which provides an engaging and welcoming environment for the community... a unique, distinctive, community school that is rich in materiality and form."

Via NZIA Awards, Brewer Davidson Architecture and Naylor Love Construction.

A day-care winning proposal in Copenhagen that creates a dynamic and changing landscape

Here is the winning design proposal for a day care centre - 'marthagården' by Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter + Leth & Gori Architects to be located in Frederiksberg, Copenhagen, Denmark amidst two existing villas and a garden.

The design works to create a protected and diverse environment for children to play, learn and relax - supporting and encouraging the pedagogical aims for children's successful development.

A rich diversity of spaces - the design includes a sunken courtyard, a rooftop playground of varying levels and a series of underground passages.

The design integrates architecture, design, nature and technology into a cohesive structure that grows out of the site.


A section.

An axo showing the organisation of spaces and connections to the existing structures on the site.

Here is a design that proves a building can in fact be a playground - creating a rich and diverse variety of experiences for children - like that of nature.

I look forward to seeing the finished building.

Here is a book that provides a wonderful array of inspiring new early learning architecture from Europe and Japan

Kindergartens: Educational Spaces by Michelle Galindo showcases 60 contemporary architecturally designed early learning centres from around the world - celebrating fun, learning and creativity.

The book whilst does not delve deeply into the architectural decisions and repercussions offers a selection of beautiful images - providing inspiration and the variety of approaches according to the site and pedagogical context.

Here is a selection of just some of the book's examples (the book arranges the centres by their size, yet I am going to arrange them by their locality):


Kindergarten in Murcia
Cercadelcielo - Studio Architecture

Location: Murcia, Spain
Year completed: 2007
Size: 160 m sq., 24 children

Arreletes Day Care Centre
XV Studio

Location: Lleida, Spain
Year completed: 2008
Size: 254 m sq., 16 children

Corita Kindergarten
Galvez + Wieczorek

Location: Voldemoro (Madrid), Spain
Year completed: 2005
Size: 1,397 m sq., 8 children per group

This design was inspired by watching children and the time they spent on the ground - lying, well as the time they spent looking up. Therefore, the architects deduced the importance of both planes - using different colours to differentiate the different spaces, and shafts of coloured light in the roof giving different moving light experiences throughout the day.

Las Vinas Infant Educational Centre
Solinas Verd Arquitectos

Location: Granada, Spain
Year completed: 2009
Size: 1,675 m sq., 20 children

This project takes the idea of permeability between the exterior and interior. Configured as two crossing axes, one with public activities and administration and the other, the teaching activities and 'home' rooms. All spaces receive natural light and ventilation.

Kindergarten in Rosales
Magen Arquitectos

Location: Saragosa, Spain
Year completed: 2009
Size: 1,720 m sq., 25 children

Located in an area of residential growth the kindergarten is the first phase of an education facility - kindergarten, dining hall/gymnasium and primary - are arranged in a u-shape. The design is based on children's perceptions - taking into consideration children's scale as well as the idea of different spatial experiences - through the use of space, light, materiality and colour.

Kinderland Westside

Location: Bern, Switzerland
Year completed: 2008
Size: 350 m sq., 100 children

Situated within a shopping mall - this centre is based on the theme of "animals in the savanna" - like monkeys, the children have to interact with the centre's landscape where they can cross a ball pool, climb a climbing wall, cross a crocodile pit by a rope bridge to a climbing net and finally get to the safe gallery...and a children's theatre, puppet shop, doll's house and reading area set among a 'nest in the treetops'.

Company Nursery
Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel and Partners

Location: Verona, Italy
Year completed: 2005
Size: 690 m sq.

The nursery is part of the GlaxoSmithKline company campus - offering day care for the 1500 workers' children. The centre was to create a domestic space amidst a semi-urban area characterised by industrial buildings and warehouses. The building is arranged around a elongated courtyard, creating a protected playground space. The various components were produced in the factory, preassembled and mounted on site. The project is similar to that of the early modernists' functional kindergarten and school designs.

Day Care Centre for Benetton
Alberto Campo Baeza

Location: Treviso, Italy
Year completed: 2008
Size: 1,868 m sq., 100 children

This building is arranged as a square within a larger, circular enclosure made up of double circular walls. Open to the sky, four courtyards are created suggesting the four elements: air, earth, fire and water. The space between the perimeter walls serves as a "secret" place for the children.

Kindergarten Barbapapà

Location: Vignoloa (Modena), Italy
Year completed: 2009
Size: 1,158 m sq., 60 children

The design of this centre was driven by again the contextual surroundings - it was to fit snug within the site and provide comfortable and protected spaces for the children - with a constant connection to the outdoors.

Kindergarten Dandelion Clock
Ecker Architekten

Location: Buchen (Odenwald), Germany
Year completed: 2007
Size: 630 m sq., 6-8 children (5 groups)

Educating children with physical or developmental handicaps, the kindergarten uses four simple modules of territories defined by colours, radiating out from a shared atrium. Repetitive framing allowed for factory production of large modular panels.

Kindergarten Bizau
Bernado Bader

Location: Bizau, Austria
Year completed: 2009
Size: 720 m sq., 20 children (2 groups)

'A house for children' - this modest centre integrates itself with the region's context and provides a relaxing space for the children with the interior made entirely from natural wood - pine and ash. The furniture was also made by local carpenters.

Kindergarten Neumarkt
Schneider & Lengauer

Location: Neumarkt im Mühlkreis, Austria
Year completed: 2006
Size: 1,065 m sq., 90 children (4 groups)

Daycare Centre Skanderborggade
Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter

Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Year completed: 2005
Size: 1,045 m sq., 12 children (3 groups)

The design for this centre works to create a connection with the surrounding context - building character and environmental. The building's orientation utilises the best possible sun exposure and penetration, whilst the roof space extends the opportunity for outdoor play.

Ajurinmaki Daycare Centre
AFKS Architects

Location: Espoo, Finland
Year completed: 2009
Size: 1,065 m sq., 22 children (3 groups)

With three 'home areas' the building is shaped like a an organic, living entity poised in a sheltered embrace - with windows placed haphazardly - yet with the light tunnels allows light to fill the interior spaces.

Location: Krk Island, Croatia
Year completed: 2009
Size: 1,725 m sq., 72 children (4 groups)

Children's Nursery and Pre-school Hamm
Witry & Witry Architecture Urbanisme

Location: Luxembourg
Year completed: 2008
Size: 2,014 m sq.

This new early learning centre was built using low-energy principles - wood construction, insulated components, south orientation, a controlled heat and ventilation system and photovoltaic panels - where the current supply of energy is displayed to the children on an information board - making the children aware of the issue of renewable energy.


Location: Shiga Prefecture, Japan
Year completed: 2003
Size: 1,243 m sq.

Location: Tokyo, Japan
Year completed: 2008
Size: 1,351 m sq., 30 children (9 groups)


site by Ana Degenaar