It is rare to get early childhood architecture that considers so many of the characteristics that embody early childhood pedagogy as does this kindergarten designed by OA Lab in South Korea's capital city Seoul.
Situated in a dense urban environment, OA Lab's director Jungmin Nam believed the building could be a "breath of fresh air" to the neighbourhood, stating that "most kindergartens in the city [are] poorly designed [often] reflecting economic values, regulations and small lot sizes."
The building does seem to achieve a rather perfect balancing act of simultaneously "fitting in" to its surroundings and offering Nam's said "breath of fresh air" - here it stands proud with its colourful and varying sized square windows and transparent winding internal stairs penetrating an otherwise apparently plain white 7-storeyed skin.
In fact the building's form has been derived from a considered approach in maintaining as much useable space whilst considering things like access from the street, sun angle and exposure to the sky, and creating as much access to the natural outdoors as possible (as shown in the diagram above).
This form was then broken down into ground level service spaces (such as staff facilities and parking), three levels containing three "classrooms" or group areas and a "yellow" multipurpose hall which rotates at each level creating a dynamic vertical shared promenade.
Consideration to the natural environment has been given with the designs' ground floor indoor garden, natural daylighting and ventilation, rainwater collection tank situated with photovoltaic cells on the building's landscaped rooftop.
Further enhancing this idea of "dynamic space" are the classroom's curvilinear walls - the outward planes encouraging movement, whilst inside the classroom's wall creating a "loving" embrace.
Central to the design are the stairs with a winding and continuous external window following and a SLIDE for children to travel downwards, whilst under - wee padded play dens.
Above, not only is colour used for wayfinding through the building, but large numbers are painted on the walls to communicate their level.
A language of circles and squares is used throughout the design, with round penetrations in the ceiling matching round soft "stools" or "poufs". Whilst square windows penetrate surfaces both to the exterior and inside walls creating visual connections and spaces to sit.
Colour has also been very well considered. Instead of bright (often clashing) colour on every surface, the architects have opted for a subtlely changing colour scheme according to the type of space and its use.
Each level is expressed by a different colour and tones of said colour, giving each its unique identity and experience expressed by natural daylight.
Bold colour is used to accentuate windows (to been seen from the street) and to accentuate internal cubbies or shelving among others.
Colour to the ceiling (instead of walls) casts a soft glow to the room's walls.
Overall, the kindergarten is like a flower in that it grows delicately in response to the complex requirements that is early childhood architecture and its context within a densely urban fabric.
Click "read below" for the full set of plans.
Lower Basement Plan
1 - Multipurpose, 4 - Break room, 5 - Chief director's room, 13, Sunken garden, 8 - Teacher's room, 17 - Car lift, 10 - Storage, 18 - Kitchen, 7 - Nutritionalist's room.
Basement Floor Plan
9 - Parking Lot, 10 - Storage, 22 - Stormwater reservoir, 21 - Collecting well, 17 - Car lift.
Ground Floor Plan
13 - Sunken garden, 19 - Playground, 1 - Multipurpose, 2 - Classroom, 17 - Car lift, 20 - Reception.
First Floor Plan
1 - Multipurpose and 2 - Classroom.
Second Floor Plan
1 - Multipurpose and 2 - Classroom.
Third Floor Plan
1 - Multipurpose and 3 - Special activity.
12 - Roof garden and 14 - Solar panels.