As we continue to wonder why so much more time, energy and attention is lavished on adults' play and entertainment spaces than on kids' play and entertainment spaces, we sometimes find a cool spot worth mentioning.
The "sculptural playground" Schulberg located in a formerly neglected area overlooking the historic centre of the city of Wiesbaden in Germany, is one of such great kid-friendly environments. It is both kid- and adult-friendly and big enough to hold even the most active kid's attention for several visits.
Designed by Berlin-based ANNABAU Architektur und Landschaft, the pentagon-shaped play area mirrors the city's historic shape. The playground consists of three elements: A suspended net walkway loop supported by two undulating lengths of stainless-steel pipe; an artificial landscape created inside the loop; and a wide boulevard with benches outside the loop. - 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
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.
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
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.
Kids have boundless imaginations. No matter how poor, colourless and toyless their environment, they’ll find a way to play. They will play with stones, twigs, grass and water, and they will play with each other. They’ll think up ways of turning mundane items into creations that have all the life of the latest computer game.
But only if they are lucky enough to have the free time to play, are not too hungry to move about, or have water to play with.
In this light, what our urban kids have available to them, is excessively abundant. They have daycare and play spaces, parks, playgrounds, even yards. Yet, when we look at the basic play environments in our communities, there’s no denying that they are sadly short of what they could be. With some colour, imagination, labour and resources, they could all be so much better.
There are wonderful examples of this, such as the recent “accidental” kids’ park at Madison Square Park in New York. It is an art installation by artist Jessica Stockholder, commissioned by the Madison Square Park Conservancy.
The installation includes a multicoloured triangular platform, a sandbox of bright-blue rubber mulch, multicoloured bleachers and painted pavement. It was not intended originally as a children’s play space, but kids have taken to it like crazy, surprising both the artist and the Conservancy. The lesson we can learn from this is that if we point our resources in the right direction, the result can be infinitely fun and rewarding for everyone involved.
We spend millions annually on "adult playgrounds" — stadiums, concert halls, bars, restaurants. We spend billions advertising and promoting them. Why is it that we do not seem to want to dedicate the necessary resources to give our children the best we can offer?
Every dedicated kids’ arts organization will be able to point you to reams of research reports that show that early access to arts and arts education aids children in all aspects of their lives later on.
They will build self-confidence; discover their abilities, skills and talents; and in the best of circumstances, they will grow to be fantastic contributors in their communities. Yet another reason to make sure our kids live and play in environments that are rich in creativity, arts and inspiration.
If this generation of children is going to be responsible for solving the problems of a world where children are still too hungry to play at all, then we should be paying closer attention. We should be giving our kids — regardless of their resources — all the support and inspiration we can.
Anyone with creative ideas, energy, staff and money, can give to kids in his or her neighborhood. Who knows what could happen, if we as individuals, companies and cities paid as much attention to our kids’ play environments as we do to our own? - Tuija Seipell
Developers, city councils wanting to see ideas and concepts in how to design super cool educational environments and playgrounds effectively, contact our marketing agency, ACCESS AGENCY.
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
Just over a year ago, the former municipal mortuary at 104 de la rue d’Aubervilliers in the 19th arrondissement of Paris was transformed by Atelier Novembre into Centquatre, one of Europe’s largest artists-in-residence complexes.
There are no traces of what went on in the red-brick buildings before — coffin making, hearse repair and other such grim undertakings — it is now a place that exudes joy and play. Prolific and always fun Parisian designer Matali Crasset has now created a special 1,500-square-foot space for tiny artists as well. Maison des Petits (House of Little Ones) is an activity center for kids under six, where creativity and discovery are the only goals. Centquatre’s resident artists are encouraged to create toys and activities, but there is no set program.
Crasset’s colourful, surrealistic garden has a cozy and soft “navel” at the centre for the littlest ones to crawl in and for older kids, whimsical “activity mushrooms” and fun seats that look like gas cans or curling stones. - Tuija Seipell
Learning to ride a bike is one of the most valuable skills a child can learn, helping them master the art of balance, a skill crucial to so many other physical activities and sports. UK based Kiddimoto has created a range of cute-looking wooden bikes which are designed to teach young children precisely that - balance. The slimline, lightweight birch plywood bikes are easy steer and manoeuvre and feature proper rubber tyres, providing a smooth ride for little bottoms by gliding across outdoor surfaces.
The Kiddimoto range comes in four styles, each based on a motorbike classic. From the 'Scooter', inspired by the mod scooter of the 60s, and the 'Chopper', a nod to future Easy Riders, to the Super Bike, based on real race bikes and the Srambler, a more traditional bike shape - the range has something for every dad, we mean, kid to get into. Now there's a thought. Do they make them in adult sizes? - Lisa Evans