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“The nursery school has today risen from the status of a ‘Depository for Children’ to the dignity of a Home for a Large Family.”
“Of the home it has the qualities of playful welcoming, of scrupulous hygiene, of serene spirituality.”
Giuseppe Terragni – Como, Italy, 1935
The kindergarten was the second one we designed for our client, who a few years earlier trusted us with their first location on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and gave us our first community project in the city. The kindergarten occupies the ground floor of an apartment block along West 97th Street. Our challenge was to transform the space, the small front yard, and the rear playground into a welcoming safe space for kids and their families to serve as a kindergarten and a space for community activities during holidays and after hours.
Inspired by the architectural language and principles used by Giuseppe Terragni in his Sant’Elia kindergarten project in Como, Italy, our solution was to create a very large entry space – a communal living room – connected to all five classrooms, administration and library space, while providing a meeting space for the community and eliminating the need for long dark corridors.
To emphasize the function as a space for kids, we created spaces and elements that operated simultaneously on both scales, one for kids and one for adults.
Light was brought into the main interior space through high windows from each of the classrooms. In the classrooms themselves, the windows were part of loft spaces designed to the size and height of kids, allowing for the kids to participate in and be part of the activities of the main space from spaces designed especially for them. Strategically located, the lofts were also connecting elements between the classrooms allowing kids to watch and interact between them.
Additional elements for kids were a 3-foot high miniature classroom door and lower circular windows in every door allowing the kids to see from one space to another. A set of folding doors between the two larger classrooms provided the opportunity for a space for large community gatherings.
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