Modern preschool design

by SUZANNE MIAO on Aug 17, 2012 in Architecture , Interiors
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Schools not only teach the four Rs, but their very structure can play a critical part in helping students begin to understand, appreciate and learn from their environment

Tucked away in a quiet enclave on the southwest of Hong Kong Island, the Morningstar is — it can be safely said — a marked departure from what parents have come to expect from a preschool in terms of its design. Nowhere to be seen are the traditional primary colours, cartoon motifs on the walls or bright plastic toys and furniture. In their place is a muted palette of soft hues and warm natural materials… and a dramatic wooden wainscoting which flows through the interiors like a wave.

“The wainscoating, strung through the hallways and into the classrooms, integrates built-in furniture, loose furniture and upholstered reading pads, among other things, giving teachers the flexibility to treat the entire property as one classroom or many,” explains David Erdman, co-director of Davidclovers, the design practice behind the radically different Morningstar preschool.

Much of the inspiration for the space came from Rudolph Steiner, an Austrian philosopher, social reformer, architect, and esotericist. His architecture is characterised by a liberation from traditional architectural constraints, especially through the departure from the right-angle as a basis for the building plan. For the first Goetheanum, which was destroyed by fire in 1923, he achieved this in wood by employing boat builders to construct its rounded forms; for the second Goetheanum, by using concrete to achieve sculptural shapes on an architectural scale. “It was understood as a means of encouraging students to understand how spaces interlock and relate to one another; to get them to understand complex and advanced spatial arrangements,” says Erdman.

The volumes of the spaces at Morningstar are incredibly complex three-dimensionally, but are, however, derived from fairly simple geometries, he explains. “This is one of the keys to Steiner’s ideas about architecture. Clover (co-director of Davidclovers) and I own some toys The Goetheaneum that we collected on our trip to Switzerland. One in particular is the oloid, a surface generated from two intersecting circles… This simplicity generating complex relationships underpins a number of design moves in the project.” 

Read the full story, ‘Architecture to educate’, in the September 2012 issue of Perspective magazine! 

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