When asked to design a kindergarten next to a senior citizens’ apartment in an old part of Beijing, MAD Architects envisioned a floating roof that twists its way around existing buildings, trees and an original 18th century Siheyuan courtyard, to connect them together all the while shaping a surreal dreamlike roofscape for children play freely.
The client holds a "intergenerational integration" ethos that blends the mutually beneficial combination of elder care with pre-school education. Completed at the end of 2019, the kindergarten has a place for 390 kids that range from 1½ to 6.
Three courtyards were carefully placed around old trees to avoid cutting them. Slides and stairs inside the courtyards connect the upper world with the interiors below.
“Reflecting further on the project, old Beijing has many 'cracks' - tunnels, roofs, courtyards, etc. The courtyards, in particular, reflect an oriental view of nature. Here, nature becomes the main subject, and the architecture instead revolves around it. In the courtyard there is nature, the world, and human life, acting together to form the core of the architecture."
Ma Yansong, Founder & Principal Partner of MAD Architects
The flowing new building that envelopes the old courtyard contrasts intentionally with the strict order of the historic courtyard layout. The tension that emerges from this contrast gives the place a renewed life. MAD Architects aimed to strike a balance where the new does not overshadow the old, and the past does not overtake the present.
The interior atmosphere is warm and bright with a single suspended aluminium grille ceiling and floor-to-ceiling wood framed glass walls, all in a brownish hue. The glass floods the spaces with natural light and creates a visual connection with the old courtyard.
The learning spaces are not separated by closed walls but flow into each other with curved walls that partly separate them. The borderless space together with a ubiquitous reading environment, and curriculum intend to evoke exploratory play, interaction and an optimal teaching environment.