Zhongshan Kaiyin Nursery School is located in Kai Yin Hao Yuan, Zhongshan, occupying the southeast corner of the public club area. This school is set up for children aged 0-3. Around 5 classrooms, it is equipped with game room, reception room, kitchen, medical room, teacher's lounge, multimedia room and other supporting facilities. Although the residential area built in early 2000 is still bathed in an intimate environment with sunshine and flowing water, the public club area in the core location has already shown a state of decay and urgently need to be updated. The introduction of the nursery school is a starting attempt.
The site was previously a beauty salon, occupying an area ca. 1,200 square meters across the first floor, mezzanine floor and second floor. The rooms on south side of the first floor and the second floor are very well lit. It is difficult to conceal the mottled light and shadow on the faded wallpaper, even though there is a 1.5-meter-wide shielding corridor at the front. But this also means the problem of over sun-exposure needs to be considered.
The rooms on the north side of the first floor and the mezzanine floor were formerly reception area and staff dormitory. The lighting conditions were poor. The retreating of them behind the shielding corridor with a width of about 4 meters to the north makes the situation even worse. Even during the day, it was dark. Therefore, it will be a great challenge for setting up nursery school classrooms here. On the other hand, the mezzanine is cut into two parts, which can only be connected through the second floor due to the separation of the entrance space of the residential building, which hinders the integrity of the space.
The greater challenge comes from the floor height and intricate secondary beams as well as the existing pipelines. In the two-story space with a total height of 10.23 meters, the structural height of the north side of the first floor is suddenly reduced from 5.73 meters to 3.95 meters to support the mezzanine with a total height of 3.73 meters above. In this way, there are only 2.35 meters left for the traffic stairs between the second floor and the mezzanine, which is already close to the minimum floor height requirement in the design regulation. In addition, due to the small size of residential units in the upper levels, there are a large number of secondary beams in the ceiling of the second floor for conversion. In addition, various fire-fighting lines and water pipes lack of planning have been added during the past 20 years ever since the building was built, which makes the problem worse.
The design starts from organizing space, trying to use a complete form concept to unite the broken conditions and meet diverse functional requirements so as to create a simple environment with rich perceptual interfaces. The entire school is presented as a "small city in a big house”. Roaming walkways, stairs, and corridors are like city streets that string together previously poorly-connected spaces, while functional rooms such as classrooms, game rooms, reception rooms, kitchens, medical rooms, teacher lounges, etc. like buildings on both sides of the street, bathed in the silver ceiling slanting from above.
The implementation of the form concept is divided into two parts: the organization of the flow and the design of the section. The focus of the former lies in the spatial connection and the division of movement rhythms. The two protruding hexagonal towers of the original building define the main entrance of the school on the first floor. The flat shape of the foyer forces the movement in multiple directions. On the west side, behind the blackboard wall is the barrier-free access, stroller storage and police room, and on the east side, next to the lamp post is the reception room. Directly in front, the entrance of this "small city” is articulated by the iconic lamp post, blackboard wall, wide steps in the foreground, the rest seats and light tubes in the lobby in the near, and the 0-year-old classroom receding back.
Going up to the hall, the direction of movement is deflected 90 degrees counterclockwise towards the kitchen with bright windows, passing by the small house called the "0-year-old classroom", and glimpsing the lush courtyard behind it. Turning 90 degrees clockwise, a flight of stairs comes into view. The space begins to shrink. Upon reaching the mezzanine, one meets a full wall of cabinets connected to the two sides by a small house called the "1-year-old classroom” with the back opened by a small window revealing light from the top. This closed and narrow box drives the body either to get into the classroom, or to continue up to the second floor.
Once reaching the second floor, a semicircular waiting area illuminated by the huge light tube immediately catches attention. This space with a sense of ritual becomes the second stopping point after the lobby on the first floor. From here to the left or right one can enter two 2-year-old classrooms. No matter where it leads, the large and small openings on this “street” are portraying a city-like interface. The storage cabinets, seats, and door buckets wrapped in a window-like frame with of same form and material obtain a certain order, which also shows changes due to different recesses and protrusions. In particular, the "hive windows" embedded in the upper part of the mezzanine level open up the classrooms on both sides, presenting the porous nature of a "small city".
The ends of the "street" are occupied by the game room and the utility room. The game room leads to the outdoor staircase, which is an enlarged opening. When looking back, it becomes the starting point of the "street". The utility room at the other end is another turning point of the movement. It leaves the nursery area by interrupting the “street", turns to the teacher's rest area, and connects to the activity room on the other side of the mezzanine through the secondary staircase.
The starting point of the section design is the integrity of the space experience. Upon this, it also makes the hiding of the technical pipeline and indoor light guidance possible. The current space is distributed on three levels and broken by the entrance space of the residential building, which is more interesting but not overall. Therefore, apart from uniting the space by movement, implanting a continuous ceiling pouring down from the second floor has become an important means of unifying the space.
Especially for the classrooms on the second floor and the mezzanine floor, through the hive window, the ceiling connects them as a whole, forming an interaction among children of different ages. At the same time, the complex secondary beams, new and old pipelines, and fresh air system of the building itself are all hidden behind the ceiling, forming a clear enclosure interface with the wall and the ground.
On the other hand, the ceiling uses mineral wool board with silver spray paint, which can reflect ambient light and form soft lighting conditions, greatly improving the lighting of the mezzanine on the north side. In order to better outline the situation of the overall roof under different indoor conditions, three different 300mm*600mm mineral wool boards are used. The smooth surface boards are used in the middle of each room to maximize the absorption and reflection of light, 35mm serrated board is used at the junction of ceiling and wall to prevent reflecting too much color of the wall and ground. Between the two, 13.6mm serrated board is arranged as a reconciliation.
The pale-yellow wall evokes the imagination of the exterior of the house, meanwhile, it further strengthens the reflection of the ceiling and forms a warm atmosphere. In important nodes such as the entrance hall on the first floor, the waiting area on the second floor, and the game room, and in every classroom, the horseshoe-shaped light tube embedded in the ceiling is like a finishing touch, imitating natural light, creating a sense of outdoor, and illuminating the play under the silver sky.