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Monday, January 09, 2012

Kindergarten (KIGA)

Kindergarten (KIGA) in Neufeld an der Leitha, Austria by SOLID architecture, 2010

Photographs are by Kurt Kuball, courtesy SOLID architecture.

The influence of the Crow Island School in Winnetka, Illinois, designed by Perkins + Will (then Perkins, Wheeler, and Will) with Eliel and Eero Saarinen in 1940, is undeniable. Its floor plan ingeniously utilized L-shaped classrooms to create small outdoor spaces adjacent to each classroom. (The classroom itself is rectangular, appended by a workroom to form the L.) Additionally the corridors are open and light, punctuated by circular skylights, but it is the way the classrooms are linked to outdoor spaces scaled to the students, especially kindergarteners, that has been passed down across time and space.

Crow Island School may not be a direct precedent for SOLID architecture's design of a kindergarten (KIGA) in the small Austrian town of Neufeld an der Leitha, but the articulation of the plan to help define outdoor zones, as well as the use of skylights to bring natural light into the network of corridors and other spaces, is clear. A primarily solid entry elevation (photos right and left) faces north, but the southern side of the rectangular building (top photo), away from traffic, is glassy and open, shaded by a large louvered overhang over the shared outdoor spaces.
Glass walls, roof lights and the way the garden interlocks with the kindergarten create spaces flooded with daylight, lively lighting conditions and different moods of color. -SOLID architecture

The fourth photo shows one of the access points to these southern spaces. The double-doors are a subtle shift from the Crow Island plan, which provides direct access from classroom to outside; KIGA, on the other hand, uses the circulation to separate the classrooms so they are distinct and as a means of moving the children along particular paths, important for five-year-olds. These corridors also mean that the whole classroom is available as a surface for play; an area in front of a doorway at the exterior wall is therefore not required to be kept free for access. Additionally, light wood finishes for the casework in these and other rooms, as well as white walls and ceilings and off-white flooring, create a very bright interior that is a background for the kids' creations and they toys they play with.

Ultimately what makes KIGA distinctive is the louvered roof that caps the play area on the southern side of the building (photo at right). This generous overhang is down-turned at the end with the same wood louvers, which helps to further shade the glass-walled classrooms. These louvers also help tie together the various small outdoor spaces that are created by jogging the classrooms in plan. This knitting of the spaces also happens via the wood planks below, but the strong overhead expression fittingly provides a sense of enclosure for the kids. Kudos to SOLID architecture for a design that responds to their small "clients" in all aspects of the building.

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