Children deserve much more attention in urban planning than what they are getting currently. As small children and toddlers are not likely to raise their voices to demand the attention, it is up to us adults to do something about it.
We need to support, demand and finance more initiatives that help children – and their parents – enjoy the outdoors, even in urban settings.
French urban planning and architecture firm Espace Libre, has created a delightful multi-functional play area for toddlers in the commune of Alfortville, located 7.6 kilometres (4.7 miles) from the centre of Paris.
Completed this fall, the 2500 square-metre (26910 square foot) play area includes features that encourage exploration, interaction and experimentation through all the senses.
It includes multiple elevations, many kinds of surface textures, many varieties of vegetation and shrubs, and multiple colors. Several kinds of lighting, interactive structures for swinging and bouncing, and interesting surfaces – such as the strip of “street” meant for chalk art – all add variety to the enjoyment of this space. - Tuija Seipell.
We love children’s spaces that celebrate the creativity and freedom of body and mind. This Educational Centre, located in the Kfar Shemaryahu area of Tel Aviv, Israel, surely does that.
The 2,400 square metre (25,833 square-foot) Centre includes six kindergartens for children aged three to six years, a common play area and an empowerment centre, a social services and wellness centre that also provides psychological services for children. Three of the six kindergartens are for the children of foreign residents and diplomats.
Hay’s task was to create a friendly and informal integrated environment where each of the spaces functions as an independent unit.
She created individual color and design themes for each kindergarten space based on the agricultural history of the Kfar Shemaryahu area.
The kindergartens are named Olive (Zayit), Palm (Tamar) , Pomegranate (Rimon), Wheat (Hita), Fig (Te’ena) and Vine (Gefen).
The large, central lobby area connects the kindergartens and the empowerment centre and functions as a play area with equipment that encourages physical activity and interaction. Wooden tractors, lakes, trees and other equipment refer to the life of an agricultural village.
Our favorite area is the Palm kindergarten with its orange coloring derived from ripe dates, and its motifs referring to palm trees, oasis and camels. The little play huts provide nice cozy privacy and home-like details that encourage creative play. - Tuija Seipell.
Images by Amit Geron
Once again, we find ourselves featuring the work of Masquespacio, the Valencia, Spain, based studio with an eye for crisp, fresh interiors.
Masquespacio’s principal, Ana Milena Hernández Palacios, has been hard at work completing the graphic design and interior design for a just-opened language school with a minimal budget.
The 183 square meter (1,969 sq.ft.) language school called 2Day Languages is located in a heritage building in central Valencia. Its target audience is a 20 to 30 year-old international student for whom the school offers flexible learning options, cool surroundings and even a cooking class!
The space is divided into three class rooms, a staff room and a lounge. The colors and components of each space stem from the speech bubble/flag logo of the school. The three brand colors – blue, yellow and pink – represent the three levels established by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
Additional influence comes from the neoclassical architecture of the building, new and old architecture of Valencia, and parts of the Spanish language.
We love the use of pine wood and crude-looking stackable and light-weight furniture. We love the semi-domestic feel created by this furniture, the casual cushions, lighting and plants.
The entire space looks inviting and friendly, yet the lovely skeleton of the grand building is visible in the plaster moldings, the height of the rooms and the gorgeous windows.
Particularly intriguing are the 10 frames of crafty nails-and-wool-thread artwork, created by Masquespacio and involving 6400 nails and 2500 meters of wool. Tuija Seipell.
Photography: David Rodríguez from Cualiti
JMD Design of Redfern, Sydney has created a cool kids’ outdoor space that makes us all want to run free and wild, with our hair blowing happily in the wind and our bodies full of positive energy.
The 20,500 square meter park, opened this summer, is located at Jamieson and Homebush Streets, in Sydney, Australia, and operates under the Sydney Olympic Park Authority.
JMD Design wanted to avoid the fenced-in, overly structure-based approach of many kids’ outdoor parks. They worked with, rather than against the earth forms of cones, cuts and terraces, established earlier at this site, and created a free-flowing, open play area with surprises and distinctive activity points.
The tree house is manufactured from galvanised steel, fibrous cement sheeting floors and walls, hardwood timber batten walls and ceilings, stainless steel mesh walls and ceilings with rope floors in some areas.
Tonkin Zulaikha Greer (TZG) designed the kiosk and petal roof canopy that overlook the water and sand play area. - Tuija Seipell
Ecole Maternelle Pajol, a four-classroom kindergarten on Rue Pajol in Paris’s 18th arrondissement, combines so many of the things we love.
Parisian architecture office Palatre & Leclère has restored and reimagined the 1940s building, yet they have left the basic feel of the structure unchanged. We believe in repurposing and saving older buildings, but letting them tell their previous stories, even in their new guises.
We love color, especially when it is used to brighten up an otherwise drab or monotonous environment. This kindergarten clearly speaks the language of joyful color.
We love it when public art and public buildings and spaces are used to express joy and be playful, too, not just to parade impressive and “acceptable” art and architecture. Of all places, shouldn’t a kindergarten resonate deeply with children, not just adults?
And of course we love any project that invest the same time, effort and resources into spaces and places for kids than we are used to investing into adults’ play.
In Ecole Maternelle Pajol, Palatre & Leclère used color boldly both inside and out. They also provided a variety of shapes and forms in the furniture, furnishings and on the walls, in the play areas, rest areas and even in the bathrooms. In addition, they provided a variety of textures from tile and glass to rubber and wood.
The building has kept its 1940s brick-wall feel, yet it radiates exuberance and has an up-to-date energy. Most likely its current users feel it was built just for them.
Palatre & Leclère is an architecture agency founded in 2006 by Tiphaine Leclère and Olivier Palatre. - Tuija Seipell.
Youth Factory, Factoría Joven, in Mérida, Spain, is an example of what can be done if a regional government works with the community and local designers to meet the needs of youth that may otherwise be heading down the slippery path of street life.
The structure may not be a permanent monument to architecture, but it is definitely a better place than the back streets of Spanish cities. We are all for any attempt at all to provide children and youth a place to be kids, to be creative and just have some fun.
Factoría Joven was designed by Madrid-based Selgascano Architects, a partnership between husband and wife, José Selgas and Lucía Cano.
Using recycled furniture, inexpensive building materials and temporary solutions, the designers were definitely not looking to build a monument to architecture; they were much more interested in affordable ordinariness and practical possibilities.
Factoría Joven helps attract the restless, unemployed street youth off the streets and provides them with a place to skateboard, hip-hop dance, climb rocks, create graffiti — whatever they would otherwise do in much more sinister surroundings. There are also a computer lab and a dance studio, both 800-square-meters in size. Meeting rooms and spaces for theatre, video and music are all included.
This is one of several such “youth factories” in the area; recreational centers and places that are inclusive, open and safe. - Tuija Seipell
Photography by Roland Halbe.
Most hotels are decidedly kid-unfriendly, and even more so are hotels such as Jerusalem’s David Citadel Hotel, known as the home-away-from-home for the world’s celebrities and political leaders.
Hay is responsible for the interior and furniture design of the 100 square-meter (1076 square-foot) space that has activity areas for little kids and computer desks for bigger ones.
We love the inclusivity of the room that is divided by clear blocks of primary colors. It has both angular and rounded forms, open and intimate spaces, soft and hard surfaces, items to interest both boys and girls, activities to draw little and older kids, and low-tech items such as wooden toys mixed with higher-tech elements such as computer stations and flat screens.
In this decidedly modern playroom, Hay has incorporated also some traditional Jerusalem themes, including the lion – the emblem of Jerusalem – and a windmill, cave and the Mahane Yehuda.
The horseshoe-shaped, 384-room David Citadel Hotel, located within walking distance from the Old City, was built in the mid-1990s by local real-estate and hotel magnate Alfred Akirov. The building architect is Moshe Safdie and the hotel designers Chhada Siembieda & Associates. - Tuija Seipell.
As we continue to wonder why so much more time, energy and attention is lavished on adults' play and entertainment spaces than on kids' play and entertainment spaces, we sometimes find a cool spot worth mentioning.
The "sculptural playground" Schulberg located in a formerly neglected area overlooking the historic centre of the city of Wiesbaden in Germany, is one of such great kid-friendly environments. It is both kid- and adult-friendly and big enough to hold even the most active kid's attention for several visits.
Designed by Berlin-based ANNABAU Architektur und Landschaft http://www.annabau.com/index.php?site=projects&subsite=project&id=6, the pentagon-shaped play area mirrors the city's historic shape. The playground consists of three elements: A suspended net walkway loop supported by two undulating lengths of stainless-steel pipe; an artificial landscape created inside the loop; and a wide boulevard with benches outside the loop. - Tuija Seipell
There are no alligators outside this cool kindergarten, located in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv, Israel. But inside, there definitely are alligators and they are white.
White alligators may not be the first things that would come to mind if you were asked to design a kindergarten environment. But Tel-Aviv-based designer Sarit Shani Hay, creator of fun kindergarten spaces, doesn’t think like the rest of us.
She took her inspiration from the surroundings of the kindergarten — an agricultural training farm with lush vegetable gardens and purposeful functionality.
In her projects, Hay combines sleek functionality with unexpected whimsy, typified here by the white crocs that function as lounge chairs for the little ones.
Other focal points include a large mushroom that serves as a house, a hiding place and a play station; and a wooden house with windows and a red roof; and shelving units in the shape of trees. All of these have a functional purpose and look inviting and cool, but the main benefit is their inspiration for play and interaction. Rather than just sitting there like any furniture, these pieces are also playthings that invite the children to discover and experiment.
The space has two rooms for two age groups: one for 1.5-2.5 year-olds, and the other for 2.5-3.5 year-olds. A large block of white closets divides the two spaces and hides the kids mattresses and contains each kid’s own drawer.
And, if you are like us and would like one of those gators, you will need to be in touch with Hay, because she both designed and made them by hand. Apparently, they are available in three sizes – we imagine them to be tiny-ish, plain scary and horrendous. - Tuija Seipell
Wasn’t it Andy Warhol who said something like “if we are going to be living much longer, we’d better learn to remain children much longer”? We are becoming more and more attached to this wise sentiment as we are seeing an increasing number of cool developments for kids’ spaces.
This gym certainly does not look like anything we can remember from our school days.This is an extension by the Swiss L3P Architects of the multifunctional double sports halls of Eichi Centre, located in the small town of Niederglatt in northern Switzerland. The original centre was built in 1985 by architect Walter Schindler. In 2007, a school house, also by L3P, was added.
Continuing the original centre’s theme of a basic square box or cube, and extending further the use of vivid colors and simple materials adopted in 2007, L3P has created a vibrant-looking addition that fits perfectly within the existing environment.
The 2007 colors were warm tones, oranges and reds. The colours used in this latest addition that started operation in August 2010, are equally striking but come from the cooler family of hues and include lime green and intense blue that are used in floors, ceilings and walls in surprising and unconventional ways.
Simple plywood paneling and the creative use of the circle are also used throughout this sports hall. Round holes perforate one wall of a long corridor to create interest and to insert both whimsy and much-needed light to what could seem like a boring tunnel. Circles are also imprinted on ceilings and walls in many areas to break up monotony and to depict a happy, bouncing ball. Tuija Seipell.