45 kilometers from the city center of Guangzhou lies a paradise on the Tropic of Cancer. With lake scenery and canvas-like artistic farmland, the Tao Sence Art Resort is surrounded by indigenous landscape and poetic nature. A tourist station made of rammed earth brick rises at the foot of a hill, closely connected to it is the childcare center, which can temporarily house children aged 3-6 to meet the child-care needs of visiting parents.
Our brief is to design an annex building that can bears the function of childcare and connect with the tourist station from its interior. And the first challenge we are facing is how to fit multiple programs including reception, amusement, dinning, reading, and learning into a volume of 100 ㎡ foot print by 9 meters high.
▲ 项目介绍视频 ©本态建筑
In the eyes of infants under one year old, the concept of "object permanence" has not yet been formed. For example, an apple hidden behind our back can make infants ecstatic every time we bring the apple to the front and show it to them. The concept of this project is inspired by the psychological characteristics of infants: Com-pared with the limited space in the eyes of adults, the idea of "infinite space" full of imagi-nation and dynamic changes can better match the user mindset of the childcare center.
However, the laws of physical space cannot be violated, how can an "infinite space" be rep-resented and be experienced? MC Escher's works inspire us to design the spatial prototype: through the integration of basic spatial elements, such as split-level platforms, stairs, arches and low walls, the conceptual space is formed.
The conceptual sketches of space make the idea of "infinite space" become convincing: The staggered floors and stairs leading to different places, passing through the arches of different levels, forming varies function areas. These spaces seem to expand in different directions, creating a space of infinite exploration.
The facade of the childcare center also provides many contrasts with the appearance of the main building. This new-built volume is attached to the main building, forming a relationship of juxtaposi-tion with the tourist station. This dramatic power, derived from the spatial concept, extends out to influence the design of the entire childcare center.
In order to include a variety of amusement experience, not only each split-level was designed with different play spaces, but also many vertical spaces have transformed into rec-reation facility, such as big slide, climbing slope, and vertical crawling net.
Based on the consideration of looped circulation, the space is connected in an orderly man-ner, and each function area has designed more than two access, so that isolated one-way access space can be minimized.
Imaginative space encourages children to explore, but for operators it also means manage-ment and safety risks. The looped circulation strategy strikes a good balance between the needs of children and operational safety.
Many spaces for child are designed with rich colors and materials to attract children. From another point of view, space with abundant materials can easily weaken the importance of children's activities in the space.
In order to make children's activities can truly become the narrative of space, the materials of ceiling, wall, and ground are deliberately weakened, and white paint is adopted as the main material. Under the color tone dominated by white, the flooring or soft packaging materials with different light colors such as white oak, orange and blue are locally used. As the natural day light changes, a variety of colors slowly appear and change in the white space.
The mirror ceiling further gives the sensory of mirrored image: the space scale is extended, and the perspective illusion appears unexpectedly. Over the central atrium, there is a circular skylight, which may look like a round lamp or a cropped of blue sky depends on varying view angles. It may be impossible to see from the appearance that it is an "infinite space" full of imagination within a very limited building volume.
The number of windows is very restrained in the childcare center, and the size and location are completely different. There are two round windows, one large and one small. At first glance, they seem to be randomly placed on the elevation. In fact, opposite to the childcare center is a newly planted kapok tree. Further away, there is an airship art installation made of mirror steel on the grass slope, and our windows just happen to look out on those two beautiful views.
On the ground floor, a door opens to an outside playground. Climbing nets and a children's slide combining the arches become a recreation facility, growing out of the door as continued elements from interior. In order to facilitate management of the childcare center, the outdoor playground is fenced with glass bricks.
Restrained numbers of window openings are not to split the connection with the surround-ing environment, but to create a more immersive experience of the “infinite space”. At the same time, while introducing specific scenery to the interior, they can also demonstrate the imaginative interior as part of the elevation. Through the special window design, the inter-action between children, architecture and environment becomes a unique exploration experience.
Under limited site conditions, creating a sensory experience of “infinite space” is not only a design concept, but also a challenge, a manifesto. Compared with the neighboring building, the childcare center does not quietly blend into the surrounding natural landscape, instead, it chose to become a foreign object in this harmonious environment. Perhaps this mysterious white box solves no problem at all, and just raise a new question: what is nature?