Not all cities can afford generous sites with sprawling outdoor spaces for kindergarten constructions — especially those with dense populations. However, crowded urban sites are not stopping architects from building kindergartens that are functional and aesthetically pleasing at the same time. Many urban kindergartens are hidden gems, carved into their neighborhoods and cut at their best to create a mini wonderlands for the children to explore. Meanwhile, the proximity to residential areas not only brings convenience for parents but also allows intimate connections between children and their community.
The following 8 kindergarten projects each provides a unique solution to building a space for playing and learning on a tight urban site. From rainbow colored façades and outdoor equipment to crisp, modern white lines, some softly glow in the community while others vibrantly stand out from the surroundings.
The Kindergarten of Museum Forest is hidden in a forest of 1980s mid-rise residential blocks. The thin columns and the overall simplistic aesthetic smoothly weave the kindergarten into the surrounding modern context. Four building blocks flow along the inner courtyard to form an organic layout that contrasts the residential grids around the site, making the kindergarten a refreshing breath of fresh air for the community. Each floor partially overlaps the one underneath, casting a dynamic shadow that recreates the sensation of walking beneath a tree-covered canopy.
A townhouse at the heart of Ho Chi Minh City was converted to a private kindergarten by KIENTRUC O. The kindergarten is snuggly nestled inbetween two residential homes, leaving just the front yard available as an outdoor playground. To make the building more playful on this tight site, the originally rectangular building is subdivided into small spaces that stack on each other.
The rather intimate spatial experience is intentionally created to make children feel more comfortable in architecture that is scaled to their size. Each subdivided space maintains a level of interconnection to each other. It allows children to explore different spaces. Orange and yellow light up the architecture in an energetic way while the white color resonances façades of neighboring buildings.
Also designed by KIENTRUC O, Chuon Chuon Kim 2 Kindergarten is sited within a similarly tight, residential context. Inspired by LEGO style, the whole building façade is carefully detailed with bricks that form mesmerizing patterns. By framing the views, the openings on the façade bridge the interior spaces of the kindergarten with the surrounding community. Moving upwards from the garden on the ground floor is a journey for children to explore and for staff to calm and relax, culminating on a roof garden that overlooks the Saigon river.
MK-S Nursery is a kindergarten converted from two residential buildings of the 70s in Yokohama. The old structure is covered with a dark, dotted new façade that embodies the idea of a starry sky. This two-story building contains four spacious classrooms that accommodate both teaching and playing. Each classroom has windows of different sizes that embrace the building’s urban contexts. Children can sit next to the windows and enjoy a street view. Between classrooms, the moveable partition allows the space to adapt to activities of varying requirements.
This nursery hidden in the brick building is highlighted by its new, feather-like extension. The ground floor and first floor of the original brick building are occupied by the 24 children accommodated here, with the basement for private uses and facilities. The upper two floors are connected respectively to the well-lit interior classrooms and the roof garden of the extension. Contrasting the brick building at the back, the white, lightweight structure provides spaces with openness on both of its floors for children to play around.
The Courtyard Kindergarten sits on a 400-year-old siheyuan (a traditional style of residential buildings in northern China, especially Beijing). Designed and completed by MAD, the building is the playground of 400 children during the day. The colorful floating roof functions as an outdoor activity space. Its iconic style differs from both the siheyuan and the modern four-story building at the corner of the site, magically connecting the conflicting two parts of the site together. Under the roof are sheltered spaces including a teaching area, library, small theatre and gymnasium, with floor-to-ceiling glazing offers views to the courtyards.
The Tetris Nursery sitting between high-rise residential towers and a road is featured by its colorful glazing and a playful roof garden. The roof garden is designed with numerous height changes, providing children with intriguing platforms that beckon them to climb up and down. The interior employs the same strategy to create a rather dynamic spatial experience within limited spaces.
Located in a residential area in Fukuoka, the three-story building of Creche Ropponmatsu kindergarten stands out for its use of colors. The “tree branches” of 22 colors act as a soft buffer between the inside and outside, containing the 90 children in the building’s own atmosphere while not isolating them from the neighborhood. The interior is filled with even more colors to stimulate children’s vision and mind.