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Antao Group: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.
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.
▼街道上可以看到独立、勇敢、自由，成为这所幼儿园的最新标签 On the street can be seen the kindergarten’s latest label independent, brave, free, become this school
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.
▼改造前的项目现场 Project site before renovation
▼改造后的活动动线 After the transformation of the landscape line
▼早教中心一层平面图 Floor plan of early education center
▼早教中心二层平面图 Floor plan of early education center
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.
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.
▼连接二层回廊的“彩虹跑道” “Rainbow runway” connecting the second floor cloisters
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.”
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.
▼柔软的空间细节 Soft space details
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.
▼室外庭院被改造成为游戏场地 Outdoor courtyard transformed into a play area
▼改造后的外墙立面，白色包裹着整个建筑，而彩色的窗饰序列性的点缀其间，建筑变成了一个明亮而温暖的“家” The facade of the remodeled exterior is covered with white in the whole building, and the colored window decoration serially embellishes it
项目面积: 室内1539㎡ 景观893㎡
设计团队: 马晴 刘广东 吴涵 孙怡瑄
Project name: Montessori Early Childhood Education Center in Yiwu
Client: Montessori Early Childhood Education Center
Completion year: 2019
Project area: 1539㎡ (interior), 893㎡ (landscape)
Project location: Old Switch Factory, No. 369, Xicheng Road, Yiwu City, Zhejiang Province, China
Landscape/architectural design: ANTAO Design (ZAN studio)
Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lead designer: Xiaofei Zhu
Design team: Qing Ma, Guangdong Liu, Han Wu, Yixuan Sun
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