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A sensitive and clever contextual approach is employed by these kindergarten architects

In a built-up area of Kobe, Japanese practice Tadashi Suga Architects have completed the Takeno Nursery School. 

Positioned on a prominent corner plot surrounded by busy roads, the design team positioned the playground at the center of the plan, with the building constructed along the site’s boundaries.

At the upper level, a green roof overlooks the internal courtyard. Careful scaling to the street has been paid with the levels not exceeding single storey - thus softening the junction with the neighbouring street.

The internal courtyard play area remains open to fresh sunlight and air, yet provides an enveloping enclosure for health and safety.

Predominantly natural materials, large sliding doors on the ground level and upper clerestory mechanically controlled windows continue the theme of the courtyard theme and in providing a healthy environment for the young children.

Above, the entrance is "cut" into the center's mass and is further marked with a yellow fence and signage appended to the buildings cedar-clad curving exterior.

Some parking is provided for on the ground floor with space being maximised with the top storey being cantilevered over "piloti". A glass balustrade on the rooftop minimises the frontage of the building to the street.

I particularly like the architect's treatment of the structural columns, the stained timber symbolising a trunk with a branch to hold the level above. A rounded edge is provided also at the child's height to minimise risk of injury and also allows the child to sit / stand on or jump off.

A tree in the centre further grounds the concept of the central outdoor courtyard and its prominence in the kindergarten.

A simple purple steel framed, glass panelled railing (combined with the yellow entrance version) adds subtle pops of colour into an otherwise pared back material palette.

Ground Floor Plan - showing the playground structure, a sand pit, a water play area and garden. The playroom is double height with a mezzanine level overlooking it from above (see below).

Level 1 Plan - showing the green space, a deck and even a vegetable garden. The Level 1 "L" plan allows a mezzanine type connection to the floor's activities below.

Via DesignBoom.

A school and nursery in France gets a makeover with facilities being shared with the wider village

French designer Matali Crasset has given this early learning and primary school a makeover, with what has been termed as “tiny architectures” or (“micro-architectures”) or as Matali Crasset puts it "extensions of generosity". Physical structures inserted into the existing school fabric to transform users' spatial experiences.

In the small village of Trébedan (with approx. 400 inhabitants) the past eight years have seen the school teachers run educational projects that closely involve pupils' parents, town councillors and elderly members of the town. Their initiatives have breathed new life into this rural area and led to the creation of a group of patrons united around envisioning a project for the school Blé en Herbe.

Their aim has been to set new standards and improve the functionality of educational spaces, as well as to strengthen the social and cultural role of the school within the village. The brief included the need to refurbish the existing school buildings, extend the existing school with a new kindergarten and canteen, and to create a physical link with the village square. 

The school has since undergone a major refurbishment of its current classrooms, playground and communal spaces to provide a more cohesive and playful environment for physical, social and creative (curious or adventurous) learning.

The school buildings are treated as platforms for many types of activity. Weather vanes, miniature windmills. nessts, watch points for birds, a vegetable patch and turrets are being created above the classrooms.

Several curving and dynamic small glulam structures are placed around the external areas – the slatted “skeletal” looking frames providing dynamic shadows and ledges for sitting or climbing on.

Each of these "extensions" are given a name in accordance to how they are intended to be used. For example "Les Sources" (the sources), open to all, hosts a library and cyberspace, while "La Rencontre" takes the form of street furniture to host public events in the village. 

Meanwhile the existing dreary “prefab” classrooms have been replaced with buildings containing deep silled floor to ceiling windows with natural pine frames, a selected (and bright) colour floor, wall and furniture material palette and ample storage and flexible space for various types of (individual and group) learning. 

All of which face onto the playground and outside areas which are shared with the village.

Along the lines of sharing – not only are the exterior spaces shared with the community, but the library, computer facilities and canteen are also able to be used outside of school hours.

Not only has Crassat designed the architectural environment, but also the modular furniture aimed to allow the children to move and work themselves – promoting individual autonomy as well as flexibility to cater for a number of activities at one time.

As Crasset says: “a school is not a closed cocoon so let’s give children the desire to move, go outside, interact with their environment. To learn how to look around and remain curious is essential. Especially as schools are where [children]  spend most of their day at.”

Based in Paris, Crasset has worked for Philippe Starck and now owns her own business focusing on the function of objects and relations between these objects, humans and human activities. I.e. focusing on domestic rites and the social and cultural codes governing our daily lives in order to experiment with new typologies and ways of appropriating them. She proposes spaces open to all, objects suited to users which facilitate interaction and sharing; inviting users to react to the world around them.


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