‘Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness’ – Architect Frank Gehry.
Architecture, being a reflection of cultural fabric of the societies, need to be designed to meet test of time with structurally strong planning that would last for generations. Designing structures for children is no child’s play. Factors like accessibility, inclusivity, etc. are crucial while designing for young ones. While fostering a sense of belonging for impact on their overall physical and emotional well-being. children with different physical and cognitive abilities in one space, architecture must have positive impact on overall physical and emotional well-being of young ones.
Throughout history, architects have researched and developed typologies specific to children’s architecture, notably Alma Siedhoff-Buscher of the Bauhaus and Dutch Architect Aldo Van Eyck. In past times, war & destructive events were at its peak, architecture was mostly based on need of the hour.
In post-war scenario, many recuperations of infrastructure as evidenced by Aldo Van Eyck’s rejuvenation of urban areas with playgrounds, the “Amsterdam Orphanage” are few examples. In today’s ever-racing world of technological advancement, the architectural need lies in stimulating children’s senses ensuring their overall well-being limiting their dependence on technology which could potentially stagnate their cognitive skills.
Building infrastructure for children typically involves varied design approaches ranging from usage of vibrant hues or quaint forms evolving a kid’s playful nature, engaging features stimulating senses to encourage more interaction between children & surroundings, utilizing elements of natural lighting and ventilation to liven the spaces. This article briefly dwells into few examples of children’s infrastructure in function today across India, Netherlands, Belgium and Tanzania. They are designed to stimulate a sense of curiosity within children enhancing their imaginative skills and to create kinships between different families and communities who are all navigating through parenthood together.
School of the Dancing Arches by Samira Rathod – Gujarat, India
Architect Samira Rathod designed School of the Dancing Arches – extension to the Bhadran English Medium School under MI Patel Knowledge Academy keeping four factors in mind: contextual design, embracing culture, spatial movement and connecting memories. Architect wanted the space to depict values crucial to learning: the hunger for knowledge through exploration, freedom and questioning. Inspired by a child’s nature to scribble, the asymmetrical arches in building are erected in patterns that are magnetizing to children. Materials utilized are locally abundant brick and dynamic play of light takes center stage in the overall design. As per the architect’s aim, children studying in School of Dancing Arches will create timeless memories revolving around ‘dancing arches’ and ‘choreographed natural light’.
Kai Early Years by Education Design International – Bengaluru, India
Designed to specialize in early learning for children aged between two to six, the architectural design of this institution instills a sense of inquisitiveness for its users through exploration via five senses. Ample movement and dynamic relationship of interior & exterior spaces facilitating holistic educational development of the children is the essence of its planning. Embodying neurology and enhanced social development through architecture, this project features the Learning Centre consisting of free-flowing learning pods, activity spaces & administrative offices and the Community Centre having daycare facilities & a research center specializing in early education.
The usage of natural shapes and curvatures subtly establishes visual connections and movements to guide children’s wayfinding on this campus. Presence of greenery while enhancing aesthetic appeal also serves as a valuable educational aid like the sound & sensory garden, the herb & kitchen garden and the climbing structures stimulate children’s brain development and keeps them active through this experiential design.
Play Landscape be-MINE by Carve & OMGEVING – Beringen, Belgium
Constructed in Beringen, this project while being a part of be-MINE, a recreational place that renewed the largest coal mining site in Flanders, enhanced functionality of the 60-meter-high rubble mountain, redeveloping bygone structures to enable future generations to comprehend history in an enjoyable manner. The design interventions implemented have varying scales in terms of height metaphorically illustrating a child’s innocent playful nature.
While fostering a sense of unity with past and natural landscapes of the mountain, overall design consists of three components: a pole forest, a prismatic play structure & a coal square at the very top.
Econef Children’s Center by Asante Architecture & Design and Lönnqvist & Vanamo Architects – Kingori, Tanzania.
Home to 25 children, this self-sustaining children’s center was designed in collaboration with local workers to improve lifestyles of orphans. Located in rural Tanzania, the facility consists of classrooms, bedrooms, kitchen constructed using brick around two courtyards. Designed to be self-sufficient and reduce dependency on private donations, the architects designed these buildings to be sustainable, not just environmentally but economically, reducing excessive requirements for maintenance. This goal has been achieved through implementation of solar panels for electricity, bio gas plant for cooking, rainwater harvesting systems for water, space for plantations to supply ingredients for food and areas for livestock.
Inspired by Tanzania’s vernacular architecture, the walls are constructed with traditional burnt bricks while to roof has been built using corrugated steel supported on wooden frames. Sisal poles are erected between roof and ceilings to prevent birds from entering and laying nests. The materials and skills of designers and local workers together successfully created a beautiful sustainable space adaptable to Tanzania’s rural fabric, while enhancing lifestyle of orphaned children through lively interior environment and engaging spaces
It is very important to empower children through building infrastructure where they spend more time in their formative years could subsequently impact their psychological & physical growth, knowledge, cognitive and socialization skills. As it positively aid kids in fulfilling their responsibilities to their maximum potential in years to come. Elements such as play of natural lighting, color and material palettes, albeit sounding simple to laymen, are incredibly complex in terms of planning & execution layer by layer. One could make Architecture to influence generations by creating spaces catering to current requirements and enhancing experiences of young ones, thus bringing positive changes to influence society.
Castro, F. (2021) Learn as they play: 18 examples of Architecture for Kids, ArchDaily. ArchDaily. Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/869081/18-cool-examples-of-architecture-for-kids#:~:text=Whilst%20the%20design%20process%20is%20undertaken%20by%20adults%2C,in%20physical%20space%2C%20even%20in%20a%20digital%20age. (Accessed: April 2, 2023).
Staff, A.D. (2020) 6 schools in India that teach a lesson with their design and architecture, Architectural Digest India. Architectural Digest India. Available at: https://www.architecturaldigest.in/content/schools-india-design-architecture-pune-delhi-bangalore-rajasthan/#:~:text=The%20School%20of%20the%20Dancing%20Arches%20is%20housed,an%20unconventional%20design%20inspired%20by%20a%20child%27s%20scribbling. (Accessed: April 2, 2023).
Tom Ravenscroft |30 September 2019 Leave a comment (2019) Swedish architects create self-sustaining children’s centre in Tanzania, Dezeen. Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2019/09/30/econef-childrens-center-kingori-tanzania-asante-lonnqvist-vanamo/ (Accessed: April 2, 2023).
Villa, V. (2016) Play landscape be-mine / carve + OMGEVING, ArchDaily. ArchDaily. Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/796396/play-landscape-be-mine-carve-plus-omgeving?utm_medium=email&utm_source=ArchDaily%2BList (Accessed: April 2, 2023).
Shankar, A. (2019) Gujarat: Samira Rathod Crafts memories through design of the School of Dancing Arches, Architectural Digest India. Architectural Digest India. Available at: https://www.architecturaldigest.in/magazine-story/gujarat-school-dancing-arches-samira-rathod/#s-cust0 (Accessed: April 2, 2023).