This Chinese Kindergarten Takes Play Seriously With an Outdoor Climbing Wall
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This Chinese Kindergarten Takes Play Seriously With an Outdoor Climbing Wall

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By Alia Akkam
Formerly a musty warehouse, Lion International Kindergarten in Guangzhou boosts creativity with airy, inviting interiors.

In an old, residential community in Guangzhou, China’s Tianhe District, Shenzhen–based VMDPE Design has unveiled a much-needed kindergarten that balances learning and play in a bright, serene setting. 

Curtains separate the front—where kids dance and partake in carpentry—from the play area in the rear.

Curtains separate the front—where kids dance and partake in carpentry—from the play area in the rear.

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Located on the site of a former granary, Lion International Kindergarten transcends traditional education environments by "building an ordered and interesting interior for exploration," says lead designer Vinci Chan, creative director at VMDPE. 

Custom modular furniture and a slide that conjures indoor playground vibes are among the highlights at the sustainably minded Lion International Kindergarten.

Custom modular furniture and a slide that conjures indoor playground vibes are among the highlights at the sustainably minded Lion International Kindergarten.

With only some 1,600 square feet to work with, VMDPE transformed a 23-foot-high warehouse that had one faulty, narrow, light-deprived side. Sunlight fills the front of the building, so classrooms were intentionally placed there. The back, a flexible area where kids release pent-up energy by zipping down the slide or unwind with books in one of the cozy reading stations, is illuminated by extended windows. 

Whether it's merely picking up toys or performing spontaneous plays, an active imagination is always celebrated here.

Whether it's merely picking up toys or performing spontaneous plays, an active imagination is always celebrated here.

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Embracing the multi-disciplinary STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) curriculum, the school encourages problem solving, communication, and critical thinking, but doesn’t overlook the importance of freedom, physical activity, and experimental play in early childhood development. To ensure a well-rounded experience, the building is divvied up into specific zones of functionality. 

The staircase is a defining feature at the school, connecting the flexible play area with the science and art classrooms.

The staircase is a defining feature at the school, connecting the flexible play area with the science and art classrooms.

"Inspiration comes from the ‘secret base’ of imagination during childhood days, which is like the structure of an ant’s nest underground, connecting small spaces with small paths but is full of fun," explains Chan. 

The teachers' room is tucked below the staircase.

The teachers' room is tucked below the staircase.

A dance studio and carpentry workshop on the lower level, for example, are connected via an eye-catching staircase to the rooms devoted to science and arts studies above. A sandbox and toys, an open cooking facility, and a climbing wall provide entertainment and sharpen coordination skills in between lessons. 

Mint green area rugs add warmth to the reading stations.

Mint green area rugs add warmth to the reading stations.

A cooking classroom contributes to the students' well-rounded education.

A cooking classroom contributes to the students' well-rounded education.

The front entrance to Lion International Kindergarten is heightened by the presence of a climbing wall.

The front entrance to Lion International Kindergarten is heightened by the presence of a climbing wall.

Conscious design permeates the space, including the power outlets and switches appropriately positioned so that little ones can’t reach for them. Modular, eco-friendly furniture produced off-site is custom0built to reflect the varying heights of different age groups. Lion International Kindergarten, then, is also a place to nurture a budding sense of social responsibility.

Related Reading: 11 Innovative and Modern Schools Where Creativity and Good Design Rule

Project Credits:

Builder: Dongguan City FeiFanYu Decoration Engineering Co.

Interior Design: VMDPE Design