Vinci Chan, founder of VMDPE Design reckons that when children learn in a classroom, they greatly benefit from rich educational content. However, their day-to-day living spaces often remain repetitive and jaded.
While designing this early childhood education space in Shenzhen on Lanjiang Hills of the Futian District, Chan and his team wanted to avoid the use of static connotations such as “this is a big tree”, “this is a small house”, “this is a small castle”, and rather make use of basic geometric relationships that create chaotic, irregular, non-straightforward visuals, prompting children to think about the environment where they live every day and understand it according to their own imagination.
Covering an area of 2,000m², it is a kindergarten institution that aims to provide comprehensive quality education. VMDPE Design’s approach was to explore the relation between art, space and the natural curiosity of children.
In addition to general classrooms, the BeneBaby International Academy houses a drama classroom, an art and music classroom, as well as several indoor and outdoor activity spaces, designed to help the children to foster lifelong learning.
Classrooms are designed to provide a comfortable and appropriately scaled environment for children, equipped with facilities easily operable by them such as clothes hangers, school bags storage cabinets, assignment cabinets and large whiteboard walls.
The customised lighting systems emit light upward and downward, diffusing soft and sufficient light to every corner of the space. The lighting system doubles as ceiling hangers that can be used by teachers to create educational atmospheres in the classrooms. The specially designed hand basin ensures that the children don’t splash water on their clothes or over the floor. Altogether, these functional details respect and improve the growth and natural development of children.
Free time activity areas are always popular among children. Each floor in the project presents large areas reserved for this purpose, a rare view in children’s educational spaces in big cities where space is at a premium.
Indoor activity centres are creatively designed, the “disordered ring space” and the fun-filled “wheat crop circles”. The outdoor presents vibrant, colourful sports venues and other activity areas that combine natural elements such as sand, stone, and grass. The variety of activity venues provides different solutions to develop class content. The firm attempted to create different learning and life experiences for children in multiple environments through a comprehensive design approach.
The design aims to provide children with opportunities to explore and create a better understanding of the world for them through behavioral and cognitive experiences.
Inspired by Plato’s philosophy, VMDPE Design implements new visual techniques that avoid concrete content but focus on inspiring “undetermined” content. Only the most basic shapes and colours have been used to stimulate children’s imagination, creating a perceptual experience for them.
The interiors are imbued with an understated feeling of randomness, caused by the sphere floating in the air, or the organically-shaped cave at the corner. Intersecting straight and curved lines construct a spatial relationship that is invisible at plain sight.
Regarding the design approach used to maximise the efficiency of the inherently long-layout of the project, several methods were applied to enhance the main aisle, visually expanding common areas and to avoid traditional corridor-like form and to provide dynamic circulation paths. The approach further develops spatial hierarchy within areas and corners of different scales, forming a versatile atmosphere that encourages exploration through intriguing elements. Here, children can choose different locations to play and enjoy social activities, or engage their natural curiosity.
Photos: Zhang Chao, Leno Huang
Lead designer: Vinci Chan
Design team: Dio Chang, Lucy Lu
Design refinement: Sean Ve, Edith Deng, Zilong Chen
Project scope: Façade renovation and interior design, lighting design, prop design
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