Completed in June 2019, this unobtrusive modular timber structure is the first of three new buildings planned for the Wagerenhof Foundation in Uster. It accommodates the Beluga crèche, where inclusivity, tolerance and instilling self-confidence are paramount. The building forms an ensemble with the magnificent trees existing on the site. The differentiated interior and outdoor spaces create a reassuring and stimulating atmosphere for children with or without impairments from the age of three months until they start nursery school.
PART OF THE WAGERENHOF
The foundation offers people with cognitive impairments – often multiple ones – a place to live in, which can be adapted to many different needs. The establishment, which has grown and developed over the decades, now has the character of a village. As well as offering the residents security and a degree of freedom, this creates a sense of identity and makes the Wagerenhof into a real home.
The crèche stands on the southern part of the site, fitting seamlessly into the overall layout. It is open to children with or without impairments.
In order to integrate with the scale and grain of the surroundings, the building volume was differentiated into subordinate masses, which were expressed in the facade and the roof in a way that conferred an identity of its own.
WOOD MEETS WOOD
Even at an early stage in the design process, it was clear that the crèche - given its proximity to the existing trees and the wooden facades of the neighbouring buildings - should be constructed of wood. The single-storey structure forms an ensemble with the magnificent mature trees. Ramps and terraces form a gentle transition between the courtyard and the building, which appears to float above the ground.
A ramp at the main entrance provides disabled access to the crèche, while the two partly covered terraces lead directly to the Fairy Garden and the playground, which are defined as separate spaces from the communal outdoor area of the Wagerenhof. The deep slats of the facade continue the dialogue between aperture and enclosure, as well as between indoor and outdoor space.
A MINI-VILLAGE IN THE VILLAGE
The crèche’s interior is organised like a miniature echo of the Wagerenhof’s village-style layout. Spaces with similar uses are combined to form independent volumes, which are positioned in a dynamic relationship to each other. The volumes define a multifunctional space between them, which is more than just a circulation area.
It offers a variety of routes and opportunities to play. In addition, there are a kitchen and dining area, a workshop for painting, and cloakrooms. This clear spatial configuration opens up a variety of views within and out of the building, which can help the children to orientate themselves and provides the interior with plenty of natural light throughout the day. Spruce-lined skylights bring additional daylight into the core zone and make it possible to experience the changing sky.
SPACES FOR PLAY AND DISCOVERY
The interior is laid out as three separate zones of enclosed rooms (for play, sleep, and office work) around a circular communal space with flexible use. This makes it possible to respond individually to the changing needs of different children in the course of the day. The playrooms can be closed off from one another or merged for joint activities, as required. The differently recessed facades form fully glazed indoor alcoves suitable for seating, which the children can play in and make their own.
The different surfaces of the OSB panels, the finely grained spruce wood and the uniform blue floor enliven the interior with a stimulating juxtaposition of visual and tactile properties. Orientation indoors is made easier by colour-coding in selected positions to signify particular uses.
The crèche gives the children space and time for individual, holistic development and for many different ways of expressing themselves. In an environment characterised by mutual respect, they can explore their creative potential and get to know themselves better.
The crèche is used regularly by the residents of the Wagerenhof. The interiors are designed in such a way that the children can pursue quiet activities as well as lively ones. The Fairy Garden and the playground not only satisfy the children's urge to move about but also promote the development of motor skills.
The new Minergie-Eco building has a minimal net use of land resources, with the roof surfaces serving as a fifth facade for rainwater retention and vegetation, in the sense of a compensatory area. Materials with a low grey energy value and formaldehyde-free OSB boards are used for the interiors.
The three main units of the building are designed as self-supporting boxes that also support the roof.
The full separation of structural systems allows the volumes to be divided up as needed, while the room layout ensures good orientation and efficient operation. The prefabricated floor elements rest directly on a steel girder frame, which bears on screw pile foundations. The wall panels were prefabricated and delivered ready for installation on site, making it possible to erect the timber structure within a week.
The use of wooden panel construction with prefabricated standard units was highly cost effective and kept the construction phase very short.
The compact building envelope, the ventilation system with heat recovery, and the optimal use of daylight all help to reduce energy consumption and create a comfortable interior climate.