This early learning center design questions the traditional definition of the “classroom,” commonly interpreted from early education code as a room bounded by four walls with an area of 35 square feet of space per child. Instead, the classroom is re-imagined as distinct zones of activity with specific spatial characteristics that better match the quality and level of activity within them.
The bounded “dwelling” objects act as islands within the open floor plan to host focused, quiet learning and small group exploration for 90-100 children. The open “yard” space between the dwellings engages children in active gross motor play, seed-to-table lunchtime curriculum, and larger group activities. This oscillation between focused learning and free play territory reflects the innovative curriculum, creating space that is sensitive to the needs of children as they transition through growth stages and times of the day. The bold forms of the dwelling objects encase calm and quiet interiors with indirect lighting tailored to their shape. Outside the dwellings, a high ceiling filled with sky-lit openings dapples natural light through a screen of acoustic baffles into the yard areas, ensuring that the diurnal cycles are felt and observed.
The radical redistribution of the space of the classroom has impact within the local neighborhood context as well. The gross motor area, commercial kitchen, and contiguous yard-like play spaces are occupied by the extended community for music lessons, winter weekend play, and continuing education during the evenings and weekends when the center’s early learning curriculum is not in session.