MAD Transforms Two-Story Home into a Playful Kindergarten
MAD architects have completed their first project in Japan, the Clover House kindergarten. Located in the small town of Okazaki, the school’s setting boasts views of the paddy fields and mountains, characteristic of the Aichi Prefecture. The kindergarten was originally operated out of the old family home of siblings Kentaro and Tamaki Nara, which soon became too small and unfit for expanding their educational goals. The siblings desired to create a modern educational institution where children could feel as comfortable as they do in their own homes, allowing them to grow and learn in a nurturing setting.
“It was important to create a kindergarten that felt like a home, and give the kids the best possible house to grow up in, one that promotes their learning and creativity,” stated Ma Yansong, founder and principal partner of MAD Architects.
During the on-sight visit to Clover House we discovered that all spaces have visual connection, floor separation feels blurred, and there are no separation walls. While most kindergarten have enclosed classrooms to ensure the child’s attention focus and minimized interference between children of different ages. What considerations are put in when it comes to a Kindergarten’s “freedom” and “transparency”?
The owner of the kindergarten wanted to tear down his own house to build the kindergarten. Therefore, the idea of “under one roof” has lingered in my mind from the beginning. Different from the traditional kindergarten that separated classroom by classroom, the feeling of living under one roof, the feeling that one big family cannot be separated is what’s important. The old frame is kept, while the structure of the new building is slightly disengaged with the structure of the old building, wrapping a wall on the outside, providing the possibility to use the voids in between. For example, the roof has room for steps, as well as back stairs, also voids between the structure and new walls can act as corridors. Juxtaposition between the old and new, just like being wrapped by a large tent.
▽ 概念 concept
▽ 模型 model
▽ 外立面，幼儿园看上去像一个白色帐篷。 kindergarten is similar to a tent
▽ 室内。房屋新结构包裹住老结构，又稍微脱开。The old frame is kept, while the structure of the new building is slightly disengaged with the structure of the old building, wrapping a wall on the outside, providing the possibility to use the voids in between.
▽ 室内。幼儿园内视线通透，空间自由。同时通过玻璃有效隔绝声音上的相互干扰。The fluid interior space brings visual connections while the glass walls keep each space out from distractions
▽ 室内。屋顶空隙的地方做了一个小的有台阶的藏书阅读空间，还有楼梯。The roof has room for steps, as well as back stairs, also voids between the structure and new walls can act as corridors.
The new white shell which wraps around the old building is one of the main features of the project. However, this “package” is bound to cause some difficulties in the process of designing, for instance it will create some irregular and confined spaces, change the feeling of the old building and breaking the relationship between its surroundings. What reasons made you chose to create a “package” and how did you treat the irregular spaces that were formed?
The shape of the building has been carefully planned out, the height of the eave is in harmony with its surrounding buildings. The height rises naturally from the street and onwards. From a distance, the roof may look a bit taller than its surroundings, however when walking by it won’t feel obtrusive at all. Although the color and material differs from its neighboring context, I don’t think it matters, because I believe a kindergarten should be a place that excites a child. If it’s an interesting place, the child will look forward to school every day. Viewing it from the front it is a big open space, the left is old residential houses, the right a large body of new apartment buildings. The kindergarten acts as a bridge that connects both sides, its context and surroundings were put into consideration and planning. The cave-like entrance that goes straight from the third floor down to the first floor is also a consideration regarding the scale of the streets, allowing more user comfortability.
▽ 建筑与周边建筑关系和谐。The height rises naturally from the street and onwards.
▽ 幼儿园的山洞式入口从三层一下降到了一层，形成宜人的临街体量。The cave-like entrance that goes straight from the third floor down to the first floor is also a consideration regarding the scale of the streets, allowing more user comfortability.
Children are attracted to the outdoors. Under the limitation of a small site, how did you consider the relationship and balance of the indoor and outdoor for the children?
The site is very small, therefore we could only designed a small garden in the limited front area. Inside the garden there will be a tree, plus the slide goes from the 2nd floor to tree shade of the ground.
▽ MAD团队最近将到幼儿园在室外小花园种树 MAD will recently go to the site to plant a tree in the small garden
Why did you chose plain white and wood as the main color for the kindergarten, and white asphalt as the main material?
Asphalt shingle is a soft material, generally used for roof waterproofing. The kindergarten is an organic curvy shape, therefore a soft material like asphalt shingle is very suitable. The budget was quite tight, thus by using part of the old structure, we cut down the cost of construction and the need to buy more wood. Asphalt itself is not expensive, but they usually come in black or dark colors, rarely in white. White is more airy and light. I didn’t want to build a big bread, or for it to have a heavy sculptural feeling. I think a kindergarten is similar to a tent, therefore it should be light and bright. Moreover, the asphalt shingle are like pieces of paper scales stuck to each other, when the children graduate, each of them they can draw something they like on it. Slowly over time, it will become a building with many patterns, it will become a memory.
▽ 柔软的，白色的，能成为画板的沥青材料 Asphalt shingle is a soft material, therefore it should be light and bright.
The wooden structure and asphalt exterior creates an organic skin for the kindergarten, in an earlier interview with Yosuke he mentioned “Anyone who understands wooden structure that’s seen the final result, will definitely ask how this effect was achieved.” Now this highly challenging wooden structure has been completed, could you please share the secrets in achieving this?
Some people may look at a photo and say there aren’t many pieces of old wood left and that it has limited possibilities and details, but to me it’s not about construction value, it is the emotional value. For instance something my grandfather left behind, I cherish it not because of how expensive it is, or how great it is, but rather it’s about an emotional symbolic attachment. The old building is not a temple-like structure, it is a residence, and most of its wooden structure is not high end nor expensive, but I think keeping it can firstly reduce the construction cost, but also have the old and new coexist with each other. I do not think this structure is too complicated, the outer layer is a bit more complex due to its three dimensional entrance, all the curved wooden beams were laser cut at a factory and prefabricated, and every curved beam from big to small consists of different dimensions. The beams are laser cut in the factory according to our drawings then shipped to the site to construct its organic façade. Most importantly choosing the appropriate material allowed for waterproofing and a solution for the complex structure. Other materials are hard to achieve such results or they are too expensive.
▽ 具有情感价值的老木头 emotional value wood
▽ 外层三维木结构，上面的木头曲梁全是工厂激光切割预制的，每一个曲梁从小到大，尺寸都不相同 the outer layer is a bit more complex due to its three dimensional entrance, all the curved wooden beams were laser cut at a factory and prefabricated, and every curved beam from big to small consists of different dimensions.
Kindergarten being a more everyday-life project, in comparison to MAD’s usual projects such as museums, theatres, hotels and other large scale projects, this can be described as different. Is this considered as a special project for MAD? What sorts of new experiences and insights were there when designing the kindergarten?
I feel there should be no distinction between levels of love toward different types of projects. For this kindergarten, we didn’t pretend to be naïve or cute, instead we just looked at it from a normal adult point of view. We currently are doing other large-scale projects, and I think it’s very difficult to realize the value of humanity, as well as harmony between each other within community in those projects. This is a challenge. Take Harbin Opera House for example, the entire structure is very close with the ground, almost like leaning on the ground, creating a very intimate and cordial relationship with the ground. It is not just a freestanding façade, but a form that melts into and becomes one with the ground. It allows people to walk and climb this “mountain”, this type of design is relatively rare in China’s landmark buildings. In our perspective, for architecture to possess a humanistic sense of space is very important.
Kindergartens are a very unique typology, I felt it should have a full sense of curiosity and exploration. I think it is like a soft tent, even if it’s a little rough and irregular that’s ok, because to a growing child, they need to have a unique place that allows them to form memories. Allows them to rely on space rather than material goods to create memories, and an understanding on the importance of community. For instance when I was growing up, my fondest memory was of Hutongs, climbing rooftops and trees. When designing this, I thought of using the original old structure. Whether the wooden beam quality is good or not, if it’s too old or not, or what era the house is from, none of that is important. A kindergarten’s sense of emotion and feeling is crucial, whether it’s designing a private school or a school full of hopes, it’s all the same. An architect should utilize the child’s memory, his or her relationship to their surroundings and his or her relationship to nature to design a safe, comfortable, friendly and open environment. When designing other types of architecture, I always begin my thinking from this perspective. You can’t say just because I am designing a Hope primary school, then it becomes good architecture automatically as it’s highly ethical. What’s the difference between kids from a Hope Primary school and kids from a noble primary school? Kids should not have labels from adults’ world. School is all about the kids. Good architecture has its own standard, which has nothing much to do with material conditions.
▽ 我们的观念里一直觉得，建筑能成为有人文感觉的空间很重要 In our perspective, for architecture to possess a humanistic sense of space is very important.
Clover House is MAD’s first completed project in Japan, Japanese architecture thrive with creativity, architectural development and skills are highly refined, which differs from China’s large environmental span. Please share your most significant memory while designing there.
Although Japan is quite a matured market, it still has its limitations. These limitations will restrict some architects with overpowering creative ideas. We encounter these problems as well, however it’s not the same in China. In China, once a bold idea gets approved, we all know, the challenges follow after. However in Japan, this is probably one of the greatest difficulties, they need clarity and assurance in all aspects and stages, especially in remote cities. But we had architects on site keeping constant communication with the constructors during the entire phase, the owners were also very supportive, therefore allowing the final product to take place.
What do you think is the most significant aspect China can learn from Japan on small-scale architecture?
I think they typically begin with personal experience and familiarity. An architect’s sense of space, detail and their sensitivity to everything they create, all relates to their everyday life and experience. This is what Chinese cities, those going through high-speed and huge volume of construction, should learn.
MORE INFORMATION FROM THE ARCHITECT:
MAD was commissioned by the family to transform their old two-story family house into a fully developed educational institution. The transformation started with an investigation of the existing 105 sqm house. Like the surrounding houses, this wooden building was first constructed as a standard prefabricated house. To keep the construction costs to a minimum, MAD decided to recycle the existing wood structure, incorporating it into the new building’s design. The original wooden structure is present throughout the main learning area as a symbolic memory of Clover House’s history. Its translucent and enclosed spaces easily adapt to different teaching activities. The windows, shaped in various geometries recognizable to a child’s eye, allow sunlight to sift through and create ever-changing shadows that play with the students’ curiosity and encourage imagination.
“We have designed the building from a child’s point of view, and the layout focusses on creating intimate and diverse spaces.” said Ma Yansong.
The new house’s skin and structure wrap the old wooden structure like a piece of cloth covering the building’s skeleton, creating a blurry space between the new and the old. The starting point of The Clover House is the signature pitched roof. This repurposed element creates dynamic interior spaces, and recalls the owners’ memories of the building as their home. The form of the house brings to mind a magical cave or a pop-up fort. Compared to the original assembly-line residence, the new three-dimensional wooden structure presents a much more organic and dynamic form to host the kindergarten. The facade and roof utilize common soft roofing materials, such as asphalt shingles, to provide waterproofing, while wrapping up the whole structure in a sheath of paper-like pieces.
“We wanted to create a playful piece of architecture that would stay in the memory of the kinds when they have grown up.” – Ma Yansong
Adding to the sense of playfulness, there is a slide that descends from the second floor of the building to an outdoor play area and an open courtyard in front of the building.
设计团队：米津孝祐，李悠焕，藤野大树，Julian Sattler, Davide Signorato
建造商：Kira Construction INC
摄影：Fuji Koji, Dan Honda
Okazaki, Aichi, Japan
Typology: Kindergarten, Residence
Site Area: 283 sq m
Building Area: 134 sq m
Total Floor Area: 300 sq m
Directors: Ma Yansong, Yosuke Hayano, Dang Qun
Design Team: Takahiro Yonezu, Yukan Yanagawa, Hiroki Fujino, Julian Sattler, Davide Signorato
Client: Kentaro Nara / Tamaki Nara
Constructor: Kira Construction Inc.
Structural Engineer: Takuo Nagai
Photography: Fuji Koji, Dan Honda