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Innovative educational concepts must be coupled with designs that are inviting, stimulating and versatile. They should offer places to learn, play, or escape the fray

An excellent introduction (above) to Detail's latest issue DETAIL Concept 3/2013 which focuses on the architecture for children. Exploring pedagogy, architectural typologies and contemporary exemplary case studies – the projects range from small facilities located in garden settings to large school buildings in a dense urban fabric.

I MUST get my hands on a copy - in the mean time here is a snippet view of what's inside....

The cover (left) illustrates an array of school spatial arrangement - ranging from sporadic or town-like compositions, dynamic or regular linear arrangements or with classrooms surrounding a central core.


The introduction (right) describes traditional school design which follows a strict standardized approach (of functional zones, circulation, safety and fire regulations etc) rather than exploring spatial and aesthetic qualities or the influence of colour and light on children's learning experiences; an approach which leads to rather dull and monotonous environments.

Today, education pedagogy is moving away from frontal forms of tuition and focusing on more autonomous, interactive and collaborative learning processes, a characteristic of the revolutionary and radical early childhood pedagogies. Today, schools are beginning to take a leaf out of the early childhood facilities - providing spaces that inspire physical, imaginative and collaborative learning activities.

Kindergarten and Primary School in Saint-Denis, designed by AAVP Architects.

Materiality and colour

Above is a Kindergarten and Primary School in Saint-Denis, which is situated on a former factory site in the north of Paris. In contrast to this somewhat neglected district, the school, with its golden outer face of perforated sheet aluminum and a cladding of larch strips and turned wooden members, resembles a precious jewellery box. The architects wished to stress the social significance of the structure through a striking, carefully designed facade that would recall oriental-Arabian mashrabiyas.

Left: Kindergarten and Primary School in Saint-Denis, designed by AAVP Architects; top-right: El Chaparral Nursery in Albolote, designed by Alejandro Munoz Miranda; and bottom-right: Plaza Ecopolis in Madrid, designed by Ecosistema Urbano.

Right is a feature on the contemporary trend of adding colour into children's play and learning areas. Using two examples in Spain, which both use Armstrong DLW linoleum said to offer qualities that are advantageous to children. One, the Plaza Ecopolis features sunny yellow interiors and exteriors and an artificial oasis with a pond than purifies the building's waste water, as well as large sandboxes and ramps and slides. In contrast, the El Chaparral nursery (top right) is designed to blend in with the surrounding buildings, however its coloured windows and contrasting coloured flooring creates a vibrant atmosphere and gives a unique character to each room.

Childcare Centre in Sienne, designed by Giorla & Trautmann Architectes.

Urban Context (the centre as a miniature town)

This child care centre in Switzerland catering to 200 children bravely negotiates the existing urban fabric placing it centrally in the town in an existing carpark and in immediate proximity to the schools and the children's library. An existing pedestrian bridge now links the new structure with the playground of the of a nearby school.The architects with the educationalists created a bespoke programme in which openness and flexibility play a central role. The centre includes a kindergarten on the ground floor for two to four year olds, a creche on the first floor for children three to eighteen months. Larger spatial units are housed on the second floor: a gym and a multi-purpose space, while two internal patios give light to the interiors and provide a goldfish pond, a garden with rabbits. The "heart" and distribution zone of the centre is the atrium that extends the full height of the centre, while three cubes as "structures within structures" contain a children's kitchen, a theatre or reading room and workshop. Circulation areas flow around these like the streets and open areas of a small town.

Two early childhood centre case studies:

Creche and kindergarten in Berlin, designed by Winkens Architects.

Day Nursery near Prince Alfred's Hamlet in South Africa, designed by students of the Department for Building Design of the RWTH Aachen Project architects.

This edition of Detail I think nicely encapsulates this exciting new movement which focuses on architecture that is derived from children's unique perspectives and experiences. It is architecture that is also beginning to take children seriously and emphasises the important role they play now and will play one day.

Via Detail.


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