Kindergarten at Jiading New Village

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Kindergarten at Jiading New Village
"The Xiayu Kindergarten features the concept of stacking," Yifeng explains, "with areas downstairs for communal activities and classrooms upstairs. In Jiading we started from the idea of separation. We designed two kinds of spaces: one strip for communal activities and another for classrooms."

In what still looks like a deserted suburban landscape, the kindergarten is a powerful and colourful structure built for 450 children from the ages of three to six. The building has a total floor area of 6500 m² and comprises two main spaces that are parallel to each other. To enter the kindergarten, we cross a bridge that leads to the centre of what the architects call the ‘artificial mountain’, a gently sweeping set of ramps that connects the entrance with the school’s 30 classrooms. The ‘artificial mountain’ has been painted bright yellow. ‘It is a vivid colour for children and adults,’ says Yifeng, ‘and a colour that everybody likes, even if they’re from a Western country. At either end of the slope we’ve put a tree in a courtyard setting for people to walk around and view from all sides. In spring the children can see it blossom and in autumn watch as it turns red.’

The dynamic layout of the kindergarten is characterized by sets of contrasting spatial experiences: the emptiness and spaciousness of the entrance versus the density and verticality of the classrooms. In the former light comes flooding from above and in the latter from the side. From the outside one understands the different classrooms – each with an outdoor balcony – as a series of vertically organized courtyards. The varying levels at which they have been placed, and the use of different colours, create an instant dynamic in this large volume.

Inside, each classroom has an abundance of windows. ‘We take into utmost consideration the experience of the children,’ says Yifeng, ‘because they are the final clients and users of the building.’ All classrooms face south, but by placing a thin metal screen on the outside, the architects have managed to strike a double-design deal. Yifeng explains: ‘The main function of the screen is protection from the sun. But at the same time, if you view it from the outside, where the playground is located, it gives the building a gentler, softer look.’ While visiting the building, we notice construction workers, and the architect says the client has asked for unexpected last-minute changes with regard to railings and the fence in front of the kindergarten. He also mentions a manufacturer who’s been unable to supply the flooring that Dehaus ordered, forcing the architects to opt for a different material instead.

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