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One of the easiest ways to make a boring space more vibrant is to use colour. However, as so many of us can remember, obvious opportunities to do this have been missed for decades in schools, universities and hundreds of other places where young people are more or less stuck for long periods. Luckily, today’s kids have better luck – at least in the schools where Amsterdam’s i29 has had its say.
i29 Interior Architects consists of two interior designers – Jaspar Jansen and Jeroen Dellensen – and is known for clear, bold solutions. A good example of this is their custom furniture project for a Het Veer. It is a public school in Almere, a city located 25 kilometers east of Amsterdam and often referred to as the most modern city in Europe. Het Veer is a school for children with learning and concentration difficulties and the objective of i29’s work was to express and entice concentration, playfulness and movement. Their eight different white and red tube furniture pieces can be mixed and matched creating various formations. They play off the Buzz Wire science game that teaches about electric circuits and is based on concentration and hand coordination.
At the Caland Lyseum in Amsterdam, 1,500 students work in a sport-centric environment where they receive coaching for their specific sport and in academic topics. i29 was asked to envision the public spaces – including the main hall, staff room, library and computer/media room – for the new Bos & Partners architects-designed building with its gray brick, glass walls and unusual floor plans. They used large images of the school’s famous sports hero alumni and then custom-created multi-functional tables, benches and signage, plus a color scheme for the common areas. The award-winning solution matches the dynamic and multicultural life of the school yet lets the buildings features dominate. - Tuija Seipell
Supermachine Studio in Bangkok, Thailand, is a group of four multitasking architects that team member Pitupong “ Jack” Chaowakul describes as “small office – big projects.” “We work like guerrilla designers, everyone does everything, constantly shifting,” he told TCH.
Supermachine’s latest achievement is the interior design of two floors of one of Bangkok University’s new four-storey buildings that form the new, spectacular Landmark complex, designed by Bangkok-based 49 Group.
Supermachine’s work in the Bangkok University Creative Centre (BUCC) - about 600 square meters in total – includes a workshop, library, exhibition space, viewing room and office.
According to Chaowakul, BUCC was set up as part of the government’s goal to transform the country’s economy from agricultural and industrial into the creative economy. To encourage creativity, communication and experimentation, the BUCC facility needed to be open, playful, expressive and flexible.
One of Supermachine’s solutions was the “Lo-Fi pixel wall” at the entrance. They covered a 180 square-meter wall surface with 10,000 custom-made rotating four-sided plastic pieces. Each piece has a pink, blue, green and yellow side. Students can rotate each unite and create colour patterns, write messages or just experiment with the tactile wall.
In the student workshop, Supermachine enclosed the internet centre in a space-ship like green pod that students can move around in the open space.
Construction at BUCC is coming to a close and the facility will open shortly for students. Supermachine is currently working on the interiors for the university's student lounge facility. - Tuija Seipell
Perhaps out of necessity or just for a sad lack of creativity, architects and designers of kids spaces - kindergartens, schools, playgrounds — have been obsessed with durability, cost-savings and maximization of space.
For so long, a tiny nod to fun and play has sufficed. A few splashes of colour and some clunky plastic structures have made a depressingly boring space supposedly suitable for children. Yes, money is often the main barrier, but it certainly cannot be the only one. We have needed a change in how we design for kids and we think this change is happening.
Kids’ environments are slowly getting more serious consideration in terms of design, innovation, creativity and groundbreaking solutions. We have also noticed, that adult work spaces have started to resemble kiddy play rooms with flexible and crazy-creative work areas, lots of colour, fun details. The result of all this? We now see kids’ play spaces that look sophisticated yet fun, AND we see adult work spaces that fit the exact same bill. Soon you won’t even notice when kindergarten ends and work life begins!
A recent example of a sophisticated and creative private kindergarten comes from Israel. The cool, Bauhaus-inspired building is located in Tel Aviv metropolitan district’s upscale, mainly residential neighborhood of Ramat Hasharon that is also known for the Israeli Tennis Centre and the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music.
Tel Aviv-based Lev-Gargir Architects designed this space with Bauhaus principles in mind in both floor plans and elevations. The usual requirements — safety, flexibility, good light — are all well met, but what we like is the sense of light and airy freedom.
The slightly Scandinavian sensibility is a beautiful change to the visually busy sensory overload that is often offered at the other end of the spectrum of new children’s spaces. This makes the lovely statement that a stimulating, creative environment for children does not need to scream. Children themselves provide the colour, movement, sounds and action, and the quieter, calmer surroundings leave room for the kids’ own creativity.
For this project, Lev-Gargir Architects worked with the well-known local children’s interior, furniture and toy designer, Sarit Shani Hay, whose details and playful touches in furniture, materials, colours and accessories express an understated respect for children. Nothing is in your face, aggressively demanding attention. Shani Hay is a graduate of London’s Chelsea College of Art and Design. She opened her Tel Aviv studio in 1995.
Lillach Lev and Elan Gargir, both graduates of Haifa’s Technion (Israel Institute of Technology), established their practice in 1999. Lev-Gargir Architects works in a variety of projects from private residences to commercial buildings and retail environments. - Tuija Seipell
There are no alligators outside this cool kindergarten, located in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv, Israel. But inside, there definitely are alligators and they are white.
White alligators may not be the first things that would come to mind if you were asked to design a kindergarten environment. But Tel-Aviv-based designer Sarit Shani Hay, creator of fun kindergarten spaces, doesn’t think like the rest of us.
She took her inspiration from the surroundings of the kindergarten — an agricultural training farm with lush vegetable gardens and purposeful functionality.
In her projects, Hay combines sleek functionality with unexpected whimsy, typified here by the white crocs that function as lounge chairs for the little ones.
Other focal points include a large mushroom that serves as a house, a hiding place and a play station; and a wooden house with windows and a red roof; and shelving units in the shape of trees. All of these have a functional purpose and look inviting and cool, but the main benefit is their inspiration for play and interaction. Rather than just sitting there like any furniture, these pieces are also playthings that invite the children to discover and experiment.
The space has two rooms for two age groups: one for 1.5-2.5 year-olds, and the other for 2.5-3.5 year-olds. A large block of white closets divides the two spaces and hides the kids mattresses and contains each kid’s own drawer.
And, if you are like us and would like one of those gators, you will need to be in touch with Hay, because she both designed and made them by hand. Apparently, they are available in three sizes – we imagine them to be tiny-ish, plain scary and horrendous. - Tuija Seipell
It doesn’t take much imagination to understand that toys and childhood play were the guiding inspirations for the recently completed children’s sports and recreation center in Saint-Cloud, a wealthy community located in the metropolitan area of Paris, about six miles from the city center.
Designed by Paris-based KOZ Architects, and coexisting with several older educational buildings and a residential development, the 1,600 square-meter facility is unexpected and bold in its riotous use of colours both inside and out. A more typical an approach for this type of neighbourhood would have been a structure that vanishes into its surroundings.
The funhouse by KOZ has turned into a favorite of kids, parents and teachers, as the facility was planned and its wild colours used in specific ways that fosters the intended functions -- play and sports – and not just to shock or delight.
Joining cube-shaped, basic concrete structures with an overlay and creating a sports court on top of the building have not only increased the building’s usability and maximized the use of the site, but also accommodated the complex’s surprisingly easy fit into the site. A monolithic, monotonic approach would have created a mass much more imposing and seemingly unfriendly than the varying-height structure with its pixelated glass facade that now draws children in through colour and an abundance of natural light.
KOZ was established in 1999 Christophe Ouhayoun and Nicholas Ziesel, graduates of the Paris-Belleville School of Architecture who both spent part of their childhoods in the USA. With three other architectural firms, KOZ established a collaborative collective, Plan01 in 2001. - Tuija Seipell
West Hollywood, California-based Clive Wilkinson Architects has completed many projects for California’s Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. The private college offers two-year fashion, graphics, interior design and entertainment education at four campuses Los Angeles, San Francisco, Orange County and San Diego.
Clive Wilkinson’s latest undertaking with the Institute was the 31,000-square-foot Sand Diego facility located on the third floor of a new, unremarkable office tower overlooking the Petco baseball park. Bold use of colour defines the various functional areas of the campus, and makes dividing walls unnecessary. Glass walls are present in almost every space, which allows light to flow freely. These are all effective ways of creating openness and visual interest while avoiding the claustrophobic, square-box feel that could result, especially in the areas located farthest from the perimeter walls with windows.
Sand-tone flooring and hard, angular lines link everything together, and establish an edgy, free-flowing sense of vibrancy. Visually light-weight furniture paired with heavier blocks of seating and desks bring variety without looking pretentious. Everything seems a bit temporary, in the positive sense of the word. Softer, rounded treatments in the lounge area invite relaxation and rest.
The Cape Town and London-educated architect, Clive Wilkinson, established his office in Los Angeles in 1991. The company has since reaped awards in both interior design and architecture, completing commercial, residential and hospitality projects. One of the firm’s current assignments is the renovation of the 370,000-square-foot Nokia House in Helsinki, the headquarters of Nokia, due to be completed in 2010. - Tuija Seipell
We love the way Bangkok University has been branding itself as a Creative University during the past few years. One method they have chosen to do this is to re-imagine and re-allocate the space so that the students will want to spend time on the campus, not just studying but enjoying themselves.
As before the university retained Bangkok’s Supermachine Studio, led by Pitupong (Jack) Chaowakul, to create the Student Lounge (formerly allocated for teachers) at the Rangsit Campus, located north of Bangkok.
The new configuration for the lounge was completed in March and includes about 1,000 square meters (about 10,764 square feet) combined on the ground floor and mezzanine.
The ground floor area is designed as a flexible hang-out space that can be reconfigured for studying alone or in groups, resting, meetings and so on, using the porous, mobile “ribs” as walls.
The mezzanine level is a fun and games zone. It includes a pink polka-dotted Karaoke hut, teetering off the “cliff” and about to fall off onto the reading cave below. Students sitting on the massive modular sofa in the reading cave can clearly see their fellow students performing in the Karaoke hut.
The game zone includes a huge pool table with mobile holes, a giant dart board where no-one can miss the bulls-eye, a music rehearsal room that is like a little house with one wall hinging open, plus a gossip corner and a Kungfu zone.
Many of the components in the space are meant for the students to change and reconfigure, including the 400- bottle chandelier and the gigantic panda that could be painted in the future to resemble other characters, animals or creatures.
Inside the 6,5-meter high panda is the spiral staircase connecting the ground floor and mezzanine. Students enter the staircase from the backside and exit from the back of the head. The mouth of the panda is a window.
The columns dotting the ground floor are currently white, but the students are expected to paint or decorate them as well. In addition to Pitupong Chaowakul, the design team included Suchart Ouypornchaisakul, Nuntawat Tassanasangsoon, Wattikon Kosolkit, Santi Sarasuphab and Supanna Chanpensri.
- Tuija Seipell
Fitzroy High School has a long history in Melbourne. The government school closed in 1992 but it re-opened in 2004, after an 11-year campaign by parents and residents. In 2009, its senior students gained an exciting new building, designed by Melbourne-based McBride Charles Ryan who we have featured previously.
The school’s philosophy of innovation in education is reflected in the striking new building that connects with a cluster of older school buildings, some more than 100 years old. The new building’s exterior walls are deliciously wavy and painted in stripes of secondary colours, all of which helps the building both blend in and stand out.
Inside, the studio spaces had to remain extremely flexible and their configurations had to be easy to change by staff. The solution is deceptively simple: Bright-colored drapes and splashes of color that define a space. The school brought McBride Charles Ryan the 2010 Grand Prix at the Dulux Color Awards while the interior won in the Commercial Interior category. - Tuija Seipell
For a comprehensive visual presentation of schools/universities with thousands of visuals to excite you, contact TCH Platinum. Schools wanting to see ideas and concepts in how to design super cool educational environments effectively, contact our marketing agency, ACCESS AGENCY.
We would not have dreaded back-to-school if our school had looked like this! In fact, most of us would be happy if our office looked like this! Interestingly, more and more schools are starting to look like appealing places of work, while creative offices often look like play rooms. Is there some strange psychological explanation to this, or is it just that we are willing to break the perceived rules a bit and rethink what a school or place of work should look like? Design thinking in action?
This cool school is located in Cheseaux, north of Lausanne, Switzerland. The project by Lausanne-based Graeme Mann & Patricia Capua Mann has appeared in the media since its completion two years ago, but it deserves to be viewed again. We love the incredibly clean lines, minimalist use of materials and especially the light. The old thinking probably suspected that if classrooms had large windows and views to anything even slightly pleasing, kids would not pay attention to the teacher. They were right of course, but that had more to do with boring teaching methods than views. - Tuija Seipell
Wasn’t it Andy Warhol who said something like “if we are going to be living much longer, we’d better learn to remain children much longer”? We are becoming more and more attached to this wise sentiment as we are seeing an increasing number of cool developments for kids’ spaces.
This gym certainly does not look like anything we can remember from our school days.This is an extension by the Swiss L3P Architects of the multifunctional double sports halls of Eichi Centre, located in the small town of Niederglatt in northern Switzerland. The original centre was built in 1985 by architect Walter Schindler. In 2007, a school house, also by L3P, was added.
Continuing the original centre’s theme of a basic square box or cube, and extending further the use of vivid colours and simple materials adopted in 2007, L3P has created a vibrant-looking addition that fits perfectly within the existing environment.
The 2007 colours were warm tones, oranges and reds. The colours used in this latest addition that started operation in August 2010, are equally striking but come from the cooler family of hues and include lime green and intense blue that are used in floors, ceilings and walls in surprising and unconventional ways.
Simple plywood paneling and the creative use of the circle are also used throughout this sports hall. Round holes perforate one wall of a long corridor to create interest and to insert both whimsy and much-needed light to what could seem like a boring tunnel. Circles are also imprinted on ceilings and walls in many areas to break up monotony and to depict a happy, bouncing ball. Tuija Seipell.
Ecole Maternelle Pajol, a four-classroom kindergarten on Rue Pajol in Paris’s 18th arrondissement, combines so many of the things we love.
Parisian architecture office Palatre & Leclère has restored and reimagined the 1940s building , yet they have left the basic feel of the structure unchanged. We believe in repurposing and saving older buildings, but letting them tell their previous stories, even in their new guises.
We love colour, especially when it is used to brighten up an otherwise drab or monotonous environment. This kindergarten clearly speaks the language of joyful colour.
We love it when public art and public buildings and spaces are used to express joy and be playful, too, not just to parade impressive and “acceptable” art and architecture. Of all places, shouldn’t a kindergarten resonate deeply with children, not just adults?
And of course we love any project that invest the same time, effort and resources into spaces and places for kids than we are used to investing into adults’ play.
In Ecole Maternelle Pajol, Palatre & Leclère used colour boldly both inside and out. They also provided a variety of shapes and forms in the furniture, furnishings and on the walls, in the play areas, rest areas and even in the bathrooms. In addition, they provided a variety of textures from tile and glass to rubber and wood.
The building has kept its 1940s brick-wall feel, yet it radiates exuberance and has an up-to-date energy. Most likely its current users feel it was built just for them.
Palatre & Leclère is an architecture agency founded in 2006 by Tiphaine Leclère and Olivier Palatre. - Tuija Seipell.