▼独立、勇敢、自由，成为幼儿园的最新标签，there are three big key words on the gable wall in the kindergarten, which are “independent”, “brave” and “free” ©日野摄影
There are three big key words on the gable wall in the kindergarten, which are “independent”, “brave” and “free”. These words are so familiar to us but are so unfamiliar at the same time, which make people lost in deep thought. In our childhood memory, the collectivism, safety protection and compliance with rules, these “correct” instructions have been along with a generation’s childhood, but in a way, they also limit the growth of creativity. Therefore, this transformation has a hidden purpose, which is to wake up the children’s nature that is buried in the subconscious, to discover themselves, to have the spirit of adventure and to be unfettered. The turnaround of children education in the 21st century is told quietly in this space.
In the autumn of 2019, ZAN Studio, which is good at inserting infinite originality into the renewal of cities and villages, has finished a renewal practice quietly. They changed an abandoned tea house and a courtyard in Yiwu into a brand new early childhood facility, which can satisfy the children’s use from zero to 6 years old, and make up the lack of learning facilities for children in urban area. It is a difficult working process. The low cost, the narrow space, the closed area, the lack of supporting facilities and those existing shortages all imply that it is a great challenge to make this project into a work which has typical demonstration significance. ZAN Studio didn’t choose a simple and economical implementation strategy conservatively but use an innovative way to finish the task. Only in this way, we could see this interesting space now.
▼激发原本埋藏在孩童们潜意识里的天性：自我发现、冒险精神、无拘无束，wake up the children’s nature that is buried in the subconscious, to discover themselves, to have the spirit of adventure and to be unfettered ©日野摄影
▼改造前的室外庭院，the courtyard before renovation ©Antao
The original place is formed by two dangerous buildings and some pieces of areas. It was used as the tea house many years ago. Between two buildings, there is a narrow and small atrium with scattered stones and sand. The mud in the corner is wet with the moss. The atrium between two old buildings is not big and the outside space and atrium space are separated by the buildings. There isn’t a place with enough space for children to play, even with all available outside space. The tea house means a static space for relaxing when you are retired, but the kindergarten implies a dynamic environment for growing continually. Basing on the premise of this contradiction, the architects in ZAN Studio comb the space paths again and put the perception and experience of children’s body into full consideration. They design an open stair in the atrium to connect the open green space of the first floor and the circular platform of the second floor. What’s more, there is a rainbow door between atrium space and outside open space, to open up the activity space of inside and outside.
▼二层平台创造出不同标高的活力室外场地，the circular platform of the second floor ©日野摄影
▼延展的格栅保障了儿童的安全性，也增加了空间的秩序感，the handrail increases the sense of order ©日野摄影
▼环廊之间的空间形成一条具有序列感的中心轴线，an open stair in the atrium to connect the open green space of the first floor and the circular platform of the second floor ©日野摄影
▼二层平台促生了内外渗透的游戏空间，the platform open up the activity space of inside and outside ©日野摄影
▼彩虹步道，a rainbow track ©日野摄影
▼柔软的空间细节，seating details ©日野摄影
It is a profound design strategy. It directly faces the contradiction of limited open space and the nature of children to play. Just like in the city, “high density” is the only choice for most residents to be relaxed and have enough space. The design of this kindergarten also creates two play areas with different elevations. It forms a complex pattern in the extremely limited space. It is “the inside and outside courtyard on the first floor” and “an open loop on the second floor”. The space with multiple levels and multiple loops creates more exploring experience based on the behavioral characteristics of children. Children play, explore and enjoy the great fun in the childhood. They perfect their social personality during the play. These behaviors themselves are not games but also learning. We cannot deal it with simple and rules-oriented space curtly.
In our current architectural system, the kindergarten is one of the strictest types. However, when it gives out quantitative indexes about functions, sunlight and fire-fighting and so on, it doesn’t take a full consideration on releasing children’s nature, which could really influence the childhood. The homogeneous education pattern brings monotonous space operation. It makes the childhood in China in the last few decades early enter into a system of efficiency and standardization. However, such kind of “universality” restricts the development of creative culture in a way. Now, we go back to the origin and rethink about this question. The existence of the architects represents another force with vitality, who try to keep walking on the border of rules and freedom. Just like what the main architect, Xiaofei Zhu, says: “lost cost, narrow space and closed area and so on are all become the difficulties of the transformation. However, the tree shade in the kindergarten and the change of the opinion on the children facilities make us accept this project firmly.”
▼室外庭院被改造成为游戏场地，the outdoor courtyard as the new playground ©日野摄影
▼建筑的外部庭院，the backyard ©日野摄影
▼孩子们嬉戏追逐、欢乐探险，children play, explore and enjoy the great fun ©日野摄影
▼游戏场地鸟瞰，the aerial view of the playground ©日野摄影
The wall’s façade after the transformation breaks the closure of the tea house and increases the sense of permeability and connectivity between the inside and outside, which also indicates the openness of modern children education. The white architectural skin encloses the whole courtyard and the colorful window decorations are dotted about in order. The building becomes a free and warm “home” to let children to run and play in it. On the outside surface, the white walls and black tiles are reserved and restored carefully. These and those blue arc color lump used in the play surfaces form a kind of metaphor about the history and the future. From the early site inspection to the later project implementation, everyone in ZAN Studio is very hard-working and devotes themselves to this project. Now, the old tea house in the last century has changed into an active early childhood center towards the 21st century, which is a place to accommodate the childishness and child interest. When we see children keeping running, walking and playing in the “rainbow”, the new explanation about Chinese future’s vitality and imagination appears.
▼从内部庭院看室内空间，view from the inner courtyard to the classroom ©日野摄影
▼改造后的围墙立面打破了原来茶室的封闭，the wall’s façade after the transformation breaks the closure of the tea house ©日野摄影
▼一层平面图，1F plan ©Antao
▼二层平面图，2F plan ©Antao
Project name：Montessori Early Childhood Education Center in Yiwu
Design year & Completion Year：2019
Leader designer & Team：Xiaofei Zhu/Qing Ma/Guangdong Liu/Yixun Sun
Project location：369 Xicheng Road, Yiwu City, Zhejiang Province, China
Gross Built Area：Architecture：1539㎡ Landscape：893㎡
Photo：RIYE (Provided by Antao)