The project is a kindergarten situated at Yorkville North, a residential compound developed by Hongkong Land in Liangjiang New District, Chongqing, China. It was built on a smooth and level site, near an urban road and built residential high rises to the south, a green park to the west, and residential blocks under construction to the north and east.
The project is a 9-class kindergarten, with a site area of 3330 square meters and a total construction area of 2701 square meters. The site area of the project is relatively small in relation to the size of the classes, and it is necessary for the kindergarten to have a space and place which is of safety, health, care and full of fun.
It's a public kindergarten that welcomes private sponsorship. Therefore, it's very important to keep close communication with the property developer as well as the kindergarten team at the early design phase. The architects wanted to listen to the requests of the kindergarten and work on the design based on its teaching concept.
The kindergarten adheres to an open teaching concept of "love and fun" which emphasizes embrace of nature, personality development and cultivation of exploration spirit, and hopes that children will feel and touch nature rather than grow up in a "greenhouse" . Combining this with site conditions, the architects proposed to create an "urban-village" where kids can explore freely.
The "village" features a vertical layout, allowing kids to enjoy distinctive views at different elevations. The superposition of architectural blocks and activity spaces perfectly overcame the site restrictions, realized the separation of unit blocks, and formed a "neighborly relationship". In order to take advantage of the surrounding landscape resources, the overall building was given a U-shaped courtyard-style layout, facing a park to the west. Each classroom is an independent volume, which overlaps another one while leaving gaps in between to ensure natural ventilation.
The architects wished to make every unique and abstract classroom a "home" for children in which they can build a sense of belonging. Independent of each other in shapes, the classrooms also differ in material palettes, so that each one is more personalized and identifiable.
With a view to inspiring children's imagination and creativity, the kindergarten developed diversified curricula, which set more requirements to space arrangement. Apart from the spaces meeting basic teaching needs, such as children's living unit, music & sports room, infirmary, and mixed-class teaching room, the architects also designed a variety of open spaces for educational activities. For instance, they created an open floor space on 2F, and designed a small stage, making it a "visual focus" when viewing from the front and back yards. Around the central courtyard, there is a large staircase-shaped bleacher and activity areas where the kids can enjoy playing including a room with a tree, a slide and a sloped climbing area, etc. Besides, the architects fully utilized the roofs of 1F and 2F and turned them into outdoor activity areas. Moreover, the gaps between classrooms also offer spaces for kids to play after class. Various multi-functional open areas are helpful to stimulate children's spontaneous activities and carry out situational teaching.
To maximize the use of the music & sports room and based on site conditions, the architects opened up its interfaces on the south and north sides, making it an open and transparent multifunctional space. If closed, it can be an independent teaching room, while it becomes a larger versatile area when opened, well blending with the yards.
In order to dissipate the influence of the stepped activity platform above the music & sports room, the architects have followed its trend by using a softly curved ceiling to create the intention of "clouds" in the profile, which, combined with the dotted lighting, creates a unique sense of childlike play in the space. At the same time, the observation cavity set into the side of the ceiling creates a visual relationship between the weather-free corridor and the sound and body room on the first floor, thus creating more possibilities for interaction.
After full communication with the kindergarten team, the architects decided the layout for each basic teaching unit, which integrates the activity room and bedroom. The washroom, cloakroom and bed storage area beside the gable wall together constitute the "service space system".
Fixed furniture and storage area were only set in those service spaces, which guarantees a more free activity area and also enables teachers to arrange furniture according to the needs of different activity scenarios flexibly. "We hope to gradually cultivate the kids' living habits and guide them to learn to tidy up their living and learning tools through participating in the process of furniture arrangement", the principal said.
In each basic teaching unit, a 0.9m-high reading desk was placed adjacent to the gable wall, with the empty area under it used for storing beds. Combined with bay windows carved out on the architectural facade, the architects created many windows of various heights in the interior space based on kids' body size, so as to encourage them to observe the outside courtyard at different angles.
Within the classroom unit, the interface between the activity room and the children's toilet is transparent, to allow the teacher to observe the children from the activity room through the entire surface of the transparent glass, which helps to ensure the children's safety. To stimulate children's activity and imagination, there is also a mezzanine space at the end of the classroom with a child-scale entrance, where children can read, learn, play and explore freely after teaching, and observe the activities below through viewing holes of varying shapes and scales. In this way, it gives children a richer spatial experience.
Every classroom is a "home" which has its own characteristics. IDO intended to let the kids to build a sense of belonging in their respective classrooms, which were built with distinctive materials such as wood and bricks. Each volume features a unique material palette. The architects applied various materials to the exteriors, including terracotta panels, red and gray bricks, faux wood, cement fiber boards, and polycarbonate sheets, etc. By utilizing polycarbonate sheets, they worked to explore the possibility of creating spatial ambience via translucent materials, which present colorful rhythm under the sunshine. The roofs were finished with Al-Mg-Mn alloy in a unified way, which not only coordinates with the colorful facade but also creates an illusionary "snow-covered" landscape.